Organization looks to cut costs, build up membership
By MATTHEW WEAVER
COLFAX, Wash. -- There wasn't much word coming out of the Pacific Northwest Direct Seed Association last year, but leaders hope to change that.
Association president Rick Jones, a Wilbur, Wash., farmer, said the association has partnered with the Washington State Department of Ecology on a $100,000 grant to develop criteria for direct-seed certification.
The association would certify farmers for direct-seed operations in the state, for use in partnership with Shepherd's Grain or other opportunities, Jones said.
He expects the partnership with Ecology will raise some eyebrows.
"The board felt we were probably better off to be part of it than having them tell us what to do," Jones said.
Part of the grant will include television commercials promoting direct seeding, primarily in Western Washington, Jones said.
Jones told farmers at the Colfax Palouse Direct Seed Breakfast Meeting Oct. 27 that the association had difficulties in the past year, and was not visible enough.
The organization hopes to move forward and attract more members. Jones said he didn't have access to the present number of members, but said there hasn't been a change.
The association is working without an executive director due to financial reasons. The association did not renew its contract with Frank O'Leary, who was hired part time in July 2010. Originally based in Moscow, Idaho, the association moved to Walla Walla, Wash., but now will operate without a headquarters.
The board members will share the workload, Jones said.
"It's going to be interesting, but I think it's a great move and we're moving forward," he said.
Last year the association decided not to hold its annual conference for financial reasons.
"I think it was the wrong decision," Jones told farmers during the breakfast meeting.
Funding remains an issue. Jones said the association will reach out to sponsors. The organization is in the process of redoing its business plan.
The association will hold its annual conference during the Spokane Ag Expo in February, with a banquet and breakfast the following morning, with speakers during both events. Key topics will likely include soil pH, wireworms and glyphosate resistance, Jones said.
Cloverland, Wash., wheat farmer Mark Greene said he is an original member of the association, and he received no information during the past year.
"We need more communication, and it sounds like that's what they're working on," he said. "Getting the word out that your soil health improves under direct seeding, that's fact. I'm seeing that on my farm. Our yields have gone from 50 bushels per acre to 80 bushels per acre."
Genesee, Idaho, custom seeder Dale Kopf feels the association's approach with the department is a good one. He foresees legislation for water and air quality, which will serve direct seed and no-till operations, he said.
"If people don't start trying to do it on their own, eventually they'll be legislated to do something," he said.