Capital Press | Capital Press Thu, 26 Apr 2018 21:31:39 -0400 en Capital Press | Column: Eliminate animal agriculture? No! Thu, 26 Apr 2018 17:31:24 -0400 Doug Warnock Periodically we hear references to the contribution that livestock make in generating Green House Gases (GHG) to the Earth’s atmosphere. It has been suggested that reducing animal agriculture or consumption of animal–derived foods may reduce GHG and enhance food security. While the thought of reducing or eliminating livestock production in this country seems, to many of us who work in the livestock arena, to be ridiculous, the idea should be addressed.

A recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science discussed the impact of eliminating animal agriculture in the U.S., specifically how it would affect the production of food and the emissions of GHG. The authors were Dr. Robin White of Virginia Tech and Dr. Mary Beth Hall, with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service.

White and Hall concluded that eliminating animal agriculture would lead to a 23 percent increase in food production. This was a result of converting land currently used to grow feed grains and legumes for livestock to raising food for human consumption.

This report did not evaluate the impact of having no livestock to harvest grass and other forages from the 35 percent of U.S. land that is not suitable for crop production. My experience is that this non-crop land would become ineffective in terms of food production and evolve into deserts in much of the more arid regions of our country. We would lose the regenerative effect that properly managed grazing animals have on the land.

Animal products currently contribute almost half of the U.S. population’s protein, a majority of our needed essential fatty acids and are important sources of many micronutrients in our diet. The authors projected that elimination of animal agriculture would reduce agriculture’s GHG emission by 28 percent. Currently, animals are responsible for 2.6 percent of the total GHG in the U.S. The reason given as to why elimination of animals didn’t reduce GHG by a larger amount was that animals contribute to agriculture and society in other ways.

Animal agriculture supplies 4 million metric tons of fertilizer used in plant production and replacing this resource with industrial fertilizer offsets some of the benefit of reduced GHG. Also, animals consume over 40 million metric tons of byproducts generated by humans that would need to be disposed of in other ways, which would generate more GHG.

Based on Environmental Protection Agency data, all agriculture is responsible for 9 percent of U.S. GHG. Elimination of animal agriculture is estimated to reduce total emissions by only 2.6 percent.

This study projects the effect of eliminating animal agriculture in the U.S. Animal enthusiasts could use the results of this report to defend the livestock industry.

In summary, the study projects that eliminating animals from U.S. agriculture would result in some increase in human food supply and a small decrease in environmental impact, but would cause many nutritional deficiencies for the human population. Another result is the loss of over 1.5 million jobs and the loss of billions of dollars from the U.S. economy.

It is difficult to estimate the economic effect of losing the positive influences of grazing animals on the grasslands of our country, but in my opinion, it would be very costly in terms of lost ecosystem health.

Doug Warnock, retired from Washington State University Extension, lives on a ranch in the Touchet River Valley where he writes about and teaches grazing management. He can be contacted at

Growers prepare to decide fate of Christmas tree checkoff Thu, 26 Apr 2018 13:23:02 -0400 Mateusz Perkowski Christmas tree farmers across the U.S. will begin voting May 1 on whether to continue funding a research and promotions “checkoff” program for the crop.

The referendum will accept votes until May 31 from roughly 1,500 growers who sell more than 500 trees per year and are thus subject to the 15 cent per tree assessment.

The checkoff program, overseen by the USDA and the Christmas Tree Promotion Board, completed its third annual advertising campaign last year since being launched in 2015.

Roughly $1.8 million a year is collected under the program, with much of that money directed at an online and social media strategy intended to convince Millenial generation consumers to chose real trees over artificial ones.

While growers who support the checkoff say it’s necessary to maintain or grow the crop’s market share, a faction of opponents argues the marketing dollars are inefficiently spent.

Whether there are enough detractors to defeat the program with a majority vote will become evident around mid-June, which is when USDA is expected to finish verifying and tallying the ballots.

The exact date of the referendum result is unknown, since it will depend on how many discrepancies — such as multiple votes from the same entity — the USDA will have to clear up, said Tim O’Connor, the board’s executive director.

“Absent the need to do a lot of that, it shouldn’t take them too long,” he said, noting that growers can send their votes through the mail or electronically.

The board is operating on the assumption the checkoff program will continue and is planning for the 2019 campaign, he said.

If the checkoff is voted down, the board will pay off outstanding obligations and return any remaining money to growers who’ve funded the program, O’Connor said.

“The sense I have is there is a vocal opposition group, but they’re the minority,” he said.

Farmers Against Christmas Tree Taxation, which opposes the checkoff, is “cautiously optimistic” that growers will vote against the program based on a poll on its website,, said Frans Kok, a leader of the group and a Virginia farmer.

“Our response is overwhelmingly against the continuation of the CTPB,” Kok said.

In the three years of the promotions campaign, none of Kok’s customers have mentioned seeing the checkoff advertisements, he said. “No one is aware anything is happening.”

Even if the Christmas tree checkoff had greater resources, such as the “Got Milk” dairy program, generic promotions aren’t effective at influencing demand, Kok said.

“Milk has a big megaphone but milk consumption has gone down over the life of the campaign,” he said.

Keep It Real — Vote Yes, a group of checkoff supporters, has also conducted an online poll showing that farmers strongly favor the program, said Betty Malone, an Oregon farmer and leader of the group. It’s website is

The promotions campaign has focused on the message that real trees are a boon to U.S. farmers as opposed to overseas manufacturers.

The program also highlights the capacity for real trees to absorb carbon and to be recycled, as well as the memorable family tradition of choosing them.

It’s highly concerning that more than half of Millenial consumers feel artificial trees are the better choice, as checkoff research has uncovered, Malone said.

“That’s information we have to work hard to correct,” she said.

Washington farm groups gain limited say in suit Thu, 26 Apr 2018 11:42:00 -0400 Don Jenkins Two Washington farm groups will be allowed to weigh in, in a limited fashion, on a lawsuit filed by an environmental group accusing federal and state regulators of being lax in policing agriculture’s water-protection practices.

U.S. District Court Judge John Coughenour granted a motion Wednesday by the Washington Farm Bureau and Washington Cattlemen’s Association to submit a 15-page brief regarding possible remedies to a lawsuit filed by Northwest Environmental Advocates.

Coughenour’s decision partially reverses a ruling he made in March. The judge denied the Farm Bureau and Cattlemen’s Association intervenor status, ruling the groups’ interests were identical to the state Department of Ecology’s.

The farm groups this month appealed Coughenour’s ruling to the 9th Circuit Court. They also moved to halt any remedy coming from the lawsuit before the circuit court ruled. As agreed to beforehand with the other parties, the farm groups withdrew the motion after Coughenour’s order Wednesday.

The Portland-based environmental group claims that the Environmental Protection Agency and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration should cut off federal clean-water funds until Ecology implements agricultural “best-management practices.” Northwest Environmental alleges that riparian buffers are too small to protect water from agricultural runoff.

The EPA and Ecology have denied the state’s pollution-control plans are inadequate.

Oregon marijuana: Lots of data, few to analyze and check it Thu, 26 Apr 2018 11:40:34 -0400 ANDREW SELSKY SALEM, Ore. (AP) — To the beat of electronic dance music, men and women inside a slate-gray building harvested marijuana plants festooned with radio-frequency identification tags. In another room, an employee entered the tag numbers into a government database.

The cannabis tracking system used by Avitas, a marijuana company with a production facility in Salem, is the backbone of Oregon’s regulatory system to ensure businesses with marijuana licenses obey the rules and don’t divert their product into the black market.

A huge amount of data is entered into the system by Oregon’s 1,800 licensees every day, a reality that means the state has a tremendous amount of information at its fingertips. But the reality also is the state doesn’t have the manpower to monitor all that data.

The marijuana regulatory agency — the Oregon Liquor Control Commission — has only one marijuana data analyst, and not enough inspectors to randomly inspect grow sites and processing facilities to ensure the accuracy of the data they are providing.

A recent state audit concluded the lack of trained inspectors and “reliability issues” with self-reported data hurt the commission’s monitoring of Oregon’s adult-use marijuana program.

“I think this is a fundamentally sound system,” the commission’s executive director, Steve Marks, told The Associated Press. But he conceded: “It’s not being used to its capabilities. We don’t have the workforce there.”

Oregon’s experience is reflective of one of the significant challenges in the expanding legal U.S. marijuana industry: the ability of governments to keep track of their own markets.

Washington, which with Colorado became the first state to broadly legalize marijuana in 2012, recently switched tracking contractors after it outgrew the first system, and quickly ran into major technical problems. Colorado has reported no significant technical issues but has only five people on the data analysis staff to help with investigations and look for potential violators.

Last year, Nevada switched tracking companies after its first system crashed. California became the world’s largest legal marijuana market on Jan. 1 without the promised vast computer system for tracking. It won’t be available for months.

The Oregon tracking system was created by Franwell, a Florida-based technology company that has contracts in a handful of states, including California. Licensees log entries into the system as seeds sprout into plants, the plants are harvested, processed, sent to stores and then sold.

The flood of data is checked by the single full-time marijuana data analyst, with occasional help. Five more will be hired soon, but they’ll have their hands full as an estimated 2,000 medical marijuana growers start entering the tracking system on July 1.

According to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, a recent inventory of adult-use marijuana in the state stood at more than 1 million pounds. That’s roughly 4 ounces for each of the state’s 4.1 million residents.

Avitas general manager Joe Bergen said the pot businesses are inputting a “ridiculous” amount of information to the tracking system. He said 10 percent of Avitas’ staff at the Salem facility is dedicated to rules compliance: tagging plants and finished products, tracking the inventory and filling out official shipping manifests.

“It’s important to do it, but it’s burdensome for a small business,” Bergen said.

The data has been useful in confirming wrongdoing in roughly 50 investigations, though less than half of them were triggered by the data, commission spokesman Rob Pettinger said.

On a recent morning, Cecilia Espinoza sat at a table inside Avitas’ production facility, staring at a desktop computer. A small wheel spun on the screen for a couple of minutes as she waited for the web application to open so she could update information about the hundreds of plants growing in the 12,000-square-foot building.

“We call it the ‘spinning wheel of death,’” Espinoza said with a laugh. “It’s tedious.”

Across the room, Bergen placed marijuana products into a bin for delivery to Mr. Nice Guy, a marijuana shop in Salem. He then walked back the history of one of the cartridges of marijuana oil. The powerful oil was produced from Strawberry Fields, a marijuana strain that the pot review site Leafly says is “tranquilizing.”

Bergen clicked on a column and added filters until he found a date — Nov. 14, 2016. That was when one of the plants whose THC was a component of the oil was cloned, when an Avitas grower snipped a sprig from a mother plant and stuck it into spongy material soaked in nutrients.

“It’s the first batch we ever produced here,” Bergen exclaimed, grinning and pointing at the screen. “That’s the beginning; that’s the origin story!”

Cannabis producers and regulators compare the tracking system to filing income taxes: They operate to a large extent on good faith, but when an auditor or inspector comes there better be evidence to back the numbers.

However, the chances of a “compliance inspector” showing up at a site is low. The Oregon commission only employs 19, with four more to be added soon.

They don’t have time to randomly check grow sites and compare amounts of marijuana they see with the data. Instead, inspectors are largely tied up investigating complaints, for example on someone carrying out a function beyond the scope of a license, or harvesters lacking the required permit, commission officials said.

Companies that have gone the legal route — paying for licenses, security and other systems to meet the requirements — say regulators should focus on those who remain outside the legal system. They note the illegal producers are unfair competition, without the large overhead.

“Really, there is no incentive for us to do anything but stay in the recreational market,” said Bergen, whose company invested millions in the Salem facility. “Why would we have gone to all this trouble, just to lose our license from doing something stupid like selling on the black market?”

Associated Press writers Eugene Johnson in Seattle and Kathleen Foody in Denver contributed to this report.

New Chipotle CEO plans menu ‘tweaks,’ and maybe drive-thrus Thu, 26 Apr 2018 11:31:36 -0400 JOSEPH PISANIAP Retail Writer NEW YORK (AP) — The new CEO at Chipotle plans to make “simple menu tweaks,” redesign its restaurants and expand its delivery service in the coming months.

Another longer-term possibility: drive-thrus, which CEO Brian Niccol said are an “interesting proposition for Chipotle.”

Niccol didn’t offer specifics on his plans, which he discussed for the first time Wednesday after joining the Denver-based company from Taco Bell last month. Wall Street analysts are eager to see how Niccol will put his stamp on Chipotle, which has long positioned itself as a step above fast food. His main job: bring customers back to Chipotle, which has struggled to regain its momentum after a 2015 E. coli outbreak sent sales plunging.

He said changes to the menu wouldn’t divert much from Chipotle’s brand, which promotes its use of “real ingredients” and “responsibly raised” meats.

Niccol spoke on a conference call Wednesday after the company reported better-than-expected earnings and revenue for the first quarter.

Its stock, which closed at $339.52 Wednesday, soared nearly 11 percent in after-hours trading.

The company said sales rose 2.2 percent at existing locations during the period, mainly due to higher menu prices, which gave that figure a 4.9 percent boost.

The Denver-based company said it had net income of $59.4 million, or $2.13 per share, in the three months ending March 31. That’s up from $46.1 million, or $1.60 per share, in the same quarter a year ago.

Revenue rose 7 percent to $1.15 billion in the period.

Niccol said he wants make Chipotle more relevant, but again didn’t provide details. After he joined Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., he hired a new marketing executive who oversaw the launch of Taco Bell’s cheese-dusted Doritos taco.

“I believe the brand has been invisible,” said Niccol. “This brand needs to be leading culture, not reacting to it.”

US House moves to block spill of dam water to aid salmon Thu, 26 Apr 2018 10:26:50 -0400 MATTHEW DALY and NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. House approved a bill Wednesday that would effectively stop the spilling of water from four Pacific Northwest dams to help migrating salmon reach the Pacific Ocean.

The bill, approved 225-189, would prevent any changes in dam operations until 2022. It was sponsored by Republican Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Dan Newhouse, both of Washington state.

They say the four Snake River dams provide hydropower, flood control and other benefits while already allowing record salmon runs.

“We are recognizing the role dams play in the Northwest and that dams and fish can co-exist,” McMorris Rodgers, the fourth-ranking House Republican, said after the vote.

Critics, however, blame the giant dams, built in the 1960s and 1970s, for killing wild salmon, an iconic species in the Northwest. Environmentalists have pushed to remove the dams to aid salmon recovery.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

“I urge my colleagues in the Senate to come forward and support our dams,” Newhouse said.

Once one of the greatest salmon fisheries in the world, the Columbia-Snake river system now has more than a dozen endangered salmon runs.

Democrats have argued that on-going studies of the dams, including whether they should be removed, must go forward.

The four dams — Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite — span the Snake River between the Washington cities of Pasco and Pullman. Together they produce about 4 percent of the region’s electricity.

Proposals to remove the dams have percolated in the Northwest for decades, and have devolved into a largely partisan issue with Democrats generally on the side of fish and Republicans for keeping the dams.

The government has spent some $15 billion over the decades to increase salmon runs, with mixed results.

In March 2017, U.S. District Judge Michael Simon of Portland, Oregon, ordered the dams to increase spillage beginning this spring. Federal agencies estimated that increasing spill from early April to mid-June would cost ratepayers $40 million in lost power revenues this year.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld Simon’s order.

The dams operate under a plan to protect salmon created by a collaboration of federal agencies, states and Indian tribes during the Obama administration.

Simon found the plan does not do enough. He ruled a new environmental study is needed and it must consider the option of removing the dams. He also wrote that wild salmon were in a “precarious” state.

McMorris Rodgers countered that the number of salmon returning from the ocean to spawn is high.

“We have been in court now for 20 years,” McMorris Rodgers said.

The House bill would delay changes to the 2014 plan for dam operations until 2022, she said.

“The experts ... should be the ones deciding how to best manage this system,” Newhouse said. “Not a judge in Portland, Oregon.”

Northwest RiverPartners, which represents a group of river users, hailed the bill as good news for salmon.

Salmon “will continue to benefit from protections that are already working,” director Terry Flores said.

But environmental groups were dismayed by the bill.

“This legislation ensures that we continue on the same costly, ineffective path that has seen continued declines in wild salmon in the Pacific Northwest,” the environmental groups said in a joint press release.

The bill “would push salmon closer to extinction,” they contend.

Geranios reported from Spokane, Washington.

Washington festival increases asparagus awareness Thu, 26 Apr 2018 10:22:11 -0400 Matw Weaver PASCO, Wash. — Asparagus ice cream is one of the items on the menu for the annual asparagus festival.

“Everybody rolls their nose at that, but it actually is really good,” said Gary Larsen, a Pasco, Wash., farmer and chairman of the Washington Asparagus Commission. “

Now in its third year, Asparagus Fest and Brews is 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. May 12 at Middelton’s Six Sons Farms, at 1050 Pasco-Kahlotus Road in Pasco. Cost is $10.

The festival includes two bands, food trucks, alcohol, meet-the-farmer hayride tours, free samples, fried asparagus, grilled asparagus and pickled asparagus.

The festival will give away 50 Washington Asparagus shirts.

“Of course, to earn those shirts, you have competitions you have to go through,” Larsen said.

The festival was created to bring attention to the crop, he said.

“Most people don’t understand when asparagus season is,” he said. “The grocery stores ... they want the buying people to think all of the asparagus comes from the same field year-round, and we all know it’s not true.”

Washington’s asparagus season is typically April 1 to mid-June. Asparagus in stores before and after typically comes from Mexico, Peru and a little from California, Larsen said.

More than 300 people attended the first festival, and 350 the following year. Ten thousand people are showing interest, Larsen said. He hopes 400-500 people will attend this year.


Farm groups hail EPA’s new scientific method Thu, 26 Apr 2018 10:19:54 -0400 Don Jenkins The science behind Environmental Protection Agency regulations should be publicly available and detailed enough for independent verification, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said Tuesday before signing a proposed rule on how the agency makes major decisions.

It’s unclear how the proposed rule would affect agriculture, but Washington State Dairy Federation policy director Jay Gordon said he welcomed grounding EPA decisions in science that’s the best and also available.

“Our experience has been that improvements can be made to improve the process,” he said. “We should at least agree we can make good decisions based on good information, period. That is foundational to a democracy.”

Pruitt signed the proposed rule at EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C., flanked by Sen. Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota, and Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas. The lawmakers are sponsoring legislation similar to Pruitt’s proposal.

The EPA said the rule is intended to make the agency’s major regulations transparent and objective. The rule would bring the agency in line with the policies of scientific journals and respond to concerns that many studies can’t be replicated, the EPA said.

The EPA will take comments on the rule for 30 days. The EPA is also soliciting comments on whether it should extend the same principles to lesser decisions, such as issuing permits for a particular project.

Pruitt linked the rule to last year barring the EPA from making regulations to settle lawsuits and prohibiting scientists who receive EPA grants from advising the agency.

“It’s an agency taking responsibility for how it works and respecting process,” Pruitt said. “So we can do what? Enhance confidence in our decision-making.”

Seven Democratic U.S. senators, including Jeff Merkley of Oregon, indicated in a letter to Pruitt they were becoming less confident in the EPA’s use of science. The senators complained the rule would keep the EPA from considering all the information submitted to it.

“The proposed new policy would require EPA to use only data that are public and reproducible,” the senators wrote, as a criticism.

Washington Farm Bureau director of government relations Tom Davis said that he hoped the rule will diminish the role of politics in EPA regulations.

“It’s going to be a data-driven process, not whose politics are on top,” he said. “Shouldn’t transparency and accountability drive what all agencies do? We applaud what Pruitt is intending.”

The EPA, in a footnote to the proposed rule, cited two EPA rules that withstood court challenges, but would not have passed muster under Pruitt’s plan.

In the first case, the D.C. Circuit Court ruled in 2002, in a lawsuit brought by the American Trucking Associations, that the EPA was not obligated to obtain and publicize the data underlying the studies that the agency relied on to set emission limits for particulate matter and ozone.

In the second case, also involving the D.C. court, judges in 2012 rejected a lawsuit by the Coalition of Battery Recyclers, ruling that the EPA could make inferences from studies on how lead affects the IQ of children.

In its request for comments on the proposed rule, EPA also asked for remarks on whether the terms of EPA grants should “incorporate stronger data.” An EPA grant to the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission and Swinomish Indian tribe funded the What’s Upstream public relations and lobbying campaign for mandatory 100-foot buffers in Washington.

Officials say radioactive sludge barrel ruptures now total 4 Thu, 26 Apr 2018 10:12:44 -0400 KEITH RIDLER BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A total of four barrels containing radioactive sludge at an eastern Idaho nuclear site were found to have ruptured, officials said Wednesday, after initially saying earlier this month that one barrel was leaking.

Officials said there were no injuries and no threat to the public, and workers in protective gear have installed a closed-circuit video camera to monitor the situation.

Erik Simpson, a spokesman for U.S. Department of Energy contractor Fluor Idaho, said it appears all four 55-gallon barrels ruptured the same day they had been packed. An alarm on April 11 alerted officials that one barrel ruptured at the 890-square-mile federal site that includes the Idaho National Laboratory.

Simpson said three Idaho National Laboratory firefighters that entered the earthen-floored structure on April 11 to extinguish a smoldering barrel reported other possible breaches, and crews outside heard some of the barrels rupture.

A three-person crew last week entered the structure and confirmed the additional ruptures, Fluor Idaho said.

Simpson said the ruptured barrels contained material sent in other barrels to Idaho in the 1960s. He said those 1960s barrels likely contained fluids and solvents from nuclear weapons production at the Rocky Flats Plant near Denver. He said it’s possible the barrels might have originated elsewhere and been shipped to Denver before eventually being sent to Idaho.

The barrels were initially buried in unlined pits in Idaho, but were unearthed as part of a cleanup process at the site. Simpson said a high-tech examination of the unopened barrels found they had unopened containers, and were moved to the earthen-floor structure that’s 380 feet long and 165 feet wide.

He said the barrels were emptied, the contents examined, and then repackaged in new barrels on April 11. At least one and possibly all of those newly-packed barrels ruptured later that same day, he said.

He said the facility had successfully processed about 9,500 barrels before the ruptures occurred.

“This had not happened before, and we want to get to the bottom of why this waste was reactive,” he said. “We’re using a very deliberative process to get to the reason of why this happened.”

Whatever was in the barrels reacted in such a way to increase pressure inside the barrels to the point of causing the ruptures. Simpson said there are no immediate theories, but everything from the contents to the process of repackaging will be examined.

The barrels were eventually going to be shipped to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, New Mexico, but hadn’t yet gone through a certification process to allow that to occur, Simpson said.

At the underground repository in 2014, a barrel of radioactive waste ruptured after being inappropriately packed at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The waste had been mixed with organic cat litter to absorb moisture, resulting in a chemical reaction.

The incident resulted in a radiation release that forced the closure of the repository for nearly three years and prompted an expensive recovery effort and a major policy overhaul for handling Cold War-era waste.

Simpson said shipments of waste from Idaho that has gone through the certification process have resumed, with loads of about 16 barrels heading to New Mexico four to six times a week.

The sprawling Idaho site in high-desert sagebrush steppe sits atop the giant Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer that’s used by cities for drinking water and farmers for irrigation.

The site has been used for nuclear waste disposal and storage beginning in the 1950s. The federal government has been cleaning it up following court battles and several agreements with Idaho in the 1990s amid concerns by state officials that Idaho was becoming the nation’s nuclear waste dump.

The Energy Department has already missed several deadlines under those agreements involving moving nuclear waste out of Idaho and has paid about $3.5 million in fines.

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden on Wednesday declined to comment.

E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce grows to 84 cases Thu, 26 Apr 2018 10:03:51 -0400 TERRY TANG PHOENIX (AP) — The E. coli outbreak linked to tainted romaine lettuce has grown and sickened 84 people from 19 states, U.S. health officials said Wednesday.

At least another 31 cases are believed to be tied to romaine lettuce grown in Yuma, Arizona, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control said.

Those infected range in age from 1 to 88 and more than half of are female. Forty-two people have been hospitalized, including nine battling kidney failure. Symptoms of E. coli infection include diarrhea, severe stomach cramps and vomiting, the agency said.

No deaths have been reported.

The illnesses started between March 13 and April 12, according to agency officials. Pennsylvania has had the most, with 18 cases, followed by California with 13 and 10 in Idaho.

The agency last week issued a warning against eating all romaine lettuce. An investigation is being conducted by the agency and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

FDA spokesman Peter Cassell says a recall cannot be issued because no common supplier or grower has been found. Agency workers are in Yuma sifting through paperwork showing how romaine lettuce was handled and shipped.

“We’re on the paper trail, not onto the sampling yet,” Cassell said.

Lettuce samples will be tested after the workers find evidence of a shared farm or supplier, he said.

Restaurants and supermarkets were also instructed to dispose of romaine lettuce if it came from Yuma or its origin was unknown. Sandwich shop Panera Bread, which has more than, 2,000 U.S. locations, said on its website that all romaine from Yuma was removed when the first warning was issued. The chain says its cafes are now using romaine lettuce harvested in California.

Wildflower Bread Company, an Arizona restaurant chain, said all of its romaine lettuce comes from California, which has no connection to the outbreak.

Cassell said the outbreak will be declared over when health officials are sure romaine lettuce from Yuma is no longer on the market.

The Yuma region about 185 miles southwest of Phoenix and close to the California border is referred to as the country’s “winter vegetable capital.” It is known for its agriculture and often revels in it with events like a lettuce festival.

According to the Yuma Fresh Vegetable Association, the outbreak came as the harvest of romaine was about to end. Steve Alameda, the group’s president, said growers haven’t suffered significant economic losses partly because of the timing of the outbreak.

Growers in Yuma typically plant romaine lettuce between September and January. The peak of the harvest season runs from mid-November until the beginning of April.

“At this point, there wasn’t that much romaine left here,” Alameda said.

He said it’s likely more affecting the parent companies of local growers — shippers and processors who make chopped, packaged salads.

For Trump lookalike, crops mean more than social media fame Thu, 26 Apr 2018 09:59:02 -0400 ARITZ PARRA MADRID (AP) — A woman in Spain has found unexpected fame on social media after many found she bore a striking resemblance to U.S. President Donald Trump.

A journalist reporting on farming in northwestern Spain posted on Instagram a picture of Dolores Leis dressed in farm clothing with a hoe over her shoulder, prompting thousands of responses.

The 64-year-old has since been asked to comment on pressing U.S. policy and international issues — though she has shown more concern for a moth plague threatening her potato crops.

“I say that it must be because of the color of the hair,” Leis told the La Voz de Galicia newspaper Tuesday

She is different to Trump on one issue though — she doesn’t use a mobile phone and has little interest in online chatter.

Leis, who appears standing in the middle of her farming plot, her frowning face looking away from the camera and blond hair held by a diadem, has many fans now.

“Can we replace Trump with this hard working lady?” one responder on Instagram asked.

Others, who called Leis “Trump’s Galician sister,” made an online call to research the president’s family roots in the Costa da Morte, or Death Coast, the rocky shore in northwestern Spain with a long history of shipwrecks.

A Galician native who has lived in the same town since she married her husband four decades ago, Leis works at home and at her farm, where the reporter found her last week planting potatoes.

Leis told the newspaper she has not felt overwhelmed by sudden fame because, without a smartphone, the online buzz is easy to ignore.

“I look at everything that my daughters show me, but it never stung my curiosity to have one (phone),” she said.

Washington state cannabis pesticide tests worry small farms Thu, 26 Apr 2018 09:52:04 -0400 BART SCHANEMANMarijuana Business Daily DENVER (AP) — Washington state marijuana business owners are urging regulators to require cultivators to test adult-use crops for pesticides, a move that has triggered alarm bells among smaller growers.

Some cultivators hope such a move — already adopted in other states — would inspire confidence among consumers and bolster recreational marijuana sales.

But smaller growers — already squeezed by falling prices — worry they wouldn’t be able to afford mandatory pesticide testing, which is estimated to cost up to $300 per test.

The move also could force small farmers to cultivate fewer strains to keep costs down, although regulators so far have not signaled they will require the testing.

“Fundamentally, requiring pesticide testing doesn’t bother me,” said Mark Greenshields, a cannabis grower in Seattle, “but technically, increasing the costs, that’s a problem.”

Regulators already conduct random pesticide checks. But a mandatory regimen would force growers to submit cannabis for pesticide testing along with the standard testing criteria the state already requires.

Steve Fuhr, a producer-processor in Seattle, said “numerous industry groups,” including the Washington CannaBusiness Association and the Cannabis Alliance, have met and approached the state’s Liquor and Cannabis Board and provided written suggestions that the agency adopt mandatory pesticide testing that follows other cannabis markets in the United States.

Fuhr said his interest in mandatory pesticide testing arose from hearing that cannabis testing labs in the state have found “troubling reports” of pesticide content when conducting blind tests of flower.

“We feel that it’s a public safety issue and for the image of the industry,” he said.

Washington would join other states, including Oregon, California and Colorado, in requiring cultivators to submit product for pesticide testing for recreational cannabis.

“We shouldn’t have this great reputation of some of the best weed in the world and not back it up with scientific testing,” said Shawn DeNae, CEO of Washington Bud Company in Smokey Point.

However, a Liquor and Cannabis Board spokesman said the state is not pursuing implementing mandatory pesticide testing at this time.

Washington has a little more than 1,000 licensed producer-processors.

Currently, the state requires adult-use cannabis producers to test for:

—Potency, including THC and CBD levels.

—Microbials, which are microorganisms including mold, fungus and bacteria.

—Mycotoxins, which are byproducts of the metabolism of certain species of mold and fungus.

—Water activity, which measures shelf stability to determine how likely the product will develop problems such as mold and fungus.

The business opportunities for testing labs could be on the upswing if state regulators decide to make pesticide testing mandatory for all cannabis.

Molecular Testing Labs in Vancouver, is authorized to conduct the full range of testing for both recreational and medical cannabis. Stuart Bennett, director of sales for the lab, said adding pesticides would add about $250-$300 per test.

“It would certainly increase our overall business if it is mandated,” he added. “For every 50 recreational tests we do, we do one pesticide.”

Counties oppose appeal in $1 billion Oregon timber lawsuit Thu, 26 Apr 2018 09:45:13 -0400 Mateusz Perkowski Oregon counties suing the state over logging revenues will continue pressing their case in circuit court rather than first seeking rulings on legal questions from the court of appeals.

The decision to oppose an “interlocutory appeal” of rulings in the case marks a departure for the 14 counties and more than 100 taxing districts, which initially welcomed the proposition earlier this year.

Appeals are generally reserved until the end of a case, but controversies over “a controlling question of law” can be appealed to “advance the ultimate termination of the litigation.”

In this lawsuit, the counties are seeking more than $1 billion in compensation for reduced logging of Oregon forests due to a decision 20 years ago that prioritized environmental and recreational values over timber harvest.

Counties had turned over the forestland to Oregon’s government in the early 20th Century in return for logging revenues.

A key question in the case is whether “sovereign immunity” prohibits the State of Oregon from being sued by county governments that are its “political subdivisions.”

Linn County Circuit Judge Daniel Murphy has seemed to vacillate on this point — he initially rejected the argument in 2016 that sovereign immunity precludes the counties’ lawsuit, then reversed course last year and found it’s a valid defense against their complaint.

In January, however, Murphy allowed the counties to proceed with the case despite Oregon’s claim it was barred by sovereign immunity.

At that point, plaintiffs’ attorney, John DiLorenzo, said that “from an efficiency perspective, it makes sense to get direction” regarding this issue and others from an appellate court.

In a recent letter to the judge, though, DiLorenzo said several factors had caused the counties to “reassess” the situation and conclude an interlocutory appeal would be “prejudicial” to their interests.

Plaintiffs were initially hoping for a challenge straight to the Oregon Supreme Court, but a legislative action clearing the way for such an appeal was “rejected” by the state government “for reasons unknown to the plaintiff,” he said.

Going first to the Oregon Court of Appeals could add two to three years to the litigation “before any issues are resolved” and may not resolve all the legal questions, DiLorenzo said.

An interlocutory appeal would also go forward “without a developed factual record” from trial and a delay in the litigation may prevent certain experts and witnesses from participating, he said.

Instead, the case should go to trial this calendar year, DiLorenzo said. “The interlocutory appeals would materially delay, rather than advance, the ultimate termination of this litigation, and therefore should not be allowed.

Scott Kaplan, an attorney for Oregon, sent the judge a letter stating the state government would continue seeking the interlocutory appeal that the parties had previously agreed upon.

“The State believes that no circumstances have changed to justify proceeding without such an appeal; an appellate road map to the key issues remains necessary,” Kaplan said.

Editorial: Bitcoin miners may threaten NW’s low-cost power Thu, 26 Apr 2018 09:21:11 -0400 The quest for bitcoins, the cryptocurrency that exists only in cyberspace, probably doesn’t weigh heavily on the minds of most farmers.

But it should.

Bitcoin “miners” are proliferating around the world, but the Pacific Northwest and its low power rates make this region particularly attractive. The miners use racks crammed with power-hungry computer servers to solve cryptographic puzzles and ferret out the cryptocurrency.

At stake for the lucky miners is millions of dollars.

But while more miners are joining the rush for bitcoins they also may threaten the agricultural economy, much of which is based on low-cost hydropower. The same power grid that supplies megawatts of electricity to the bitcoin crowd also supplies it to food processors, packers, irrigators and others in agriculture.

The issue has sparked a debate in the Mid-Columbia Basin of Washington state. There, public utility districts operate five dams that produce massive amounts of electricity that powers the region and, through sales to other utilities, other regions as well. Add in the low-cost power produced by the Bonneville Power Administration you have the foundation of the entire Pacific Northwest economy.

Currently, bitcoin miners have requested 2,000 megawatts of electricity — about two-thirds of the average output of the Mid-Columbia Basin’s five dams.

The problem with bitcoin miners is they are temporary. They need lots of power today, or when the value of a bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies is high, but they don’t need it at all when the value drops. That happens on occasion, as a bitcoin has ranged in value from a few hundred dollars to nearly $20,000. In fact, the value of bitcoin has bounced between $6,630 and $8,366 so far this month. That’s down from $19,216 last December.

That calls into question to value of cryptocurrency. It’s not backed by any government or precious metal; it’s just a digital halogram of money. Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and columnist for the New York Times, called it a Ponzi scheme.

We won’t argue with him.

Because of the volatility of cryptocurrencies the success of miners could be fleeting, and their ability to pay their power bills could be, too.

In dealing with the requests for power, the PUDs have take a prudent course of reconsidering their rate structures and requirements for large power users to pay for added transmission lines and substations. They also are being careful not to commit too much power to temporary users such as bitcoin miners and have enough available for the expansion of real economic operations such as fruit processors.

The fear is that a bitcoin miner might close down, leaving a PUD and its customers holding the bill for the power and expensive equipment they no longer need.

Utilities should exercise great caution in dealing with cryptocurrency miners.

There’s an old adage: If it sounds too to be true, it is.

That would apply to cryptocurrency as well.

Editorial: SNAP a wild card in new farm bill Thu, 26 Apr 2018 09:21:05 -0400 Republicans in the House Agriculture Committee last week passed a draft of the next farm bill on a partisan vote.

As in past years, the issues dividing Republicans and Democrats are the welfare components of the legislation.

Democrats want to take back the House and the Senate in November. To accomplish this “blue wave” they’ll need to turn a lot of districts in farm country — districts that voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. Both Democrats and Republicans want to protect farmers, so you’d think it would be a snap to pass a new farm bill.

It turns out that rather than being a snap, it is wrangling over SNAP — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — that led to the partisan committee vote. SNAP, what used to be known as food stamps, is a $68 billion a year program that accounts for 69 percent of domestic food programs. SNAP and other nutrition programs make up 80 percent of what we think is inaccurately called the farm bill.

Republicans attached language in the new bill that would require most able-bodied SNAP recipients to either work or be enrolled in a work training program to qualify for assistance. That’s a nonstarter for Democrats.

We won’t weigh in on the pros and cons of asking those who are getting assistance to make some effort towards employment, though it doesn’t seem like an entirely bad idea. Once again, we have trouble seeing the benefits of folding social welfare programs into the farm bill.

Decades ago Congress decided to put food stamp and school lunch funding into the farm bill. The thinking goes that urban legislators don’t really care much for commodity subsidies, crop insurance and dairy pricing, but they do care about nutrition programs that impact their constituents. Lumped in with the welfare programs urban legislators do care about, the farm expenditures seem like small potatoes that aren’t worth a fight.

We admit there was probably some logic behind that thinking. But in practice, the thing that was supposed to grease the skids seems to always throw the farm bill off the rails.

The 2008 Farm Bill was set to expire in September 2012. In order to avoid running into election season, Democrats who controlled Congress began working on a new bill in 2011. It wasn’t until 2014 that a bill was passed, mostly because of partisan differences on how much to fund nutrition programs.

It’s too early to tell if the “2018 Farm Bill” will suffer the same fate. But it is another election year and politics are even more divisive than five years ago.

We can’t help but wonder, as we did in 2013, whether farmers and ranchers would be better served by a relatively modest bill that stands on its own than rather than being held hostage by partisan wrangling over welfare spending.

Would three Californias be better for ag? Thu, 26 Apr 2018 09:19:55 -0400 Splitting California into three states probably wouldn’t help agriculture and may even hurt it, say ranchers and farmers who believe they have been under attack for years.

By Dan Wheat

Capital Press

Ranchers and farmers laugh when asked what they think of Cal 3, the proposal to split California into three states.

The laughter is quickly followed by comments like that of Dave Doonan, 54, a Bishop, Calif., hay and cattle rancher: “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of. Then we’d have three screwed-up states.”

California agriculture sees itself as “under attack by the Legislature and the governor” and the Cal 3 idea shows how “fractured” state leadership is and its “lack of vision for what California could be or should be,” says A.G. Kawamura, 61, secretary of agriculture under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. He is co-owner of Orange County Produce in Irvine.

Large agricultural organizations — the California Farm Bureau Federation and Western Growers Association — declined comment. The Farm Bureau will analyze the proposal if it qualifies as an initiative for November general election ballot, Dave Kranz, CFBF spokesman said.

But Doonan, Kawamura and other ranchers and farmers said they see little to no chance of agriculture gaining political clout with Cal 3. Rather, they see liberals, who tend to not be helpful to ag, gaining four new U.S. Senate seats.

“This proposal makes more sense than the State of Jefferson (a previous proposal to combine Southwestern Oregon and Northern California) because it would have a tax base, but if I were a betting man I wouldn’t put any money on it, not even a long shot,” said Jeff Fowle, 48, a fourth-generation cattle, horse and hay rancher near Etna, north of Redding.

“I can’t believe people in the south will support it when they know the majority of their water comes from us up north,” he said.

Farmers are frustrated with urban domination of the state, but that would continue with three states and the people in power running the state won’t want to give up that power, Fowle said.

“We would end up with three states voting like California,” he said. “It’s better to have one evil stepchild than adding two more.

“I think the underlying idea behind it is to gain more left-leaning power in the federal government,” he said. “It doesn’t serve the center-right.”

Kawamura said California has the fifth- or sixth-largest overall and agricultural economies in the world. It could be even more successful, he said, if it had a vision of where it is going. That won’t be attainable if the state splits into three, he said.

Kawamura said he sees no benefit to agriculture from a split and that it would not give more clout to areas that now feel powerless. Certain areas of agriculture could potentially be more isolated than they are now and the three states may end up fighting for resources, revenue and federal assistance, he said.

“Each region is potentially harmed and diminished in ability to align federal and state funding for build-out of a robust 21st century nation and state,” Kawamura said.

California is not immune from political shifts, and while it shifted “tremendously to the left over the better part of two decades” it could swing back to the middle, he said.

Agriculture should not be divided on political lines, he said.

“We need to move beyond politics into a 21st century reassessment of what are we trying to accomplish, and does the two-party system help us accomplish it?” Kawamura said. “California has the potential to be stronger economically and agriculturally than it is if it wants to be so. Successful agriculture sustains civilizations.”

With nearly 40 million people, California is the most populous state in the nation. It’s also first in debt, owing more than $425 billion. With 155,959 square miles, it is smaller than only Alaska and Texas.

The idea of splitting California isn’t new. There have already been more than 200 attempts to divide it into smaller states. The first was the Pico Act in 1859, just nine years after statehood. It was started by Southern Californians who thought tax and land laws were unfair. The proposal attracted pro-slavery southerners and was approved in a Southern California referendum, passed the Legislature and the governor signed it. However, it died in Congress because of the Civil War.

Cal 3 is the second effort by San Francisco Bay area venture capitalist Tim Draper to split the state. He spent $5.2 million on a 2014 attempt to divide it into six states but did not receive enough voter signatures to put it on the election ballot.

A change in law required far fewer signatures this time, and on April 12 Draper announced he has more than 600,000. The state has to verify 365,880 valid signatures to place his so-called “Cal 3” proposal on the Nov. 6 general election ballot. If approved by voters, it would still need the approval of the state Legislature and Congress.

Draper has said smaller states are more efficient and responsive, would improve government services and ensure each region receives resources. Others say it’s policies and spending, not the size of the state, that have led to California’s problems and huge debt.

That debt and the state’s assets would have to be split among the three new states, which would also set taxes. Population would be split at almost 14 million in the south, 13 million in the north and about 12 million on the coast.

Northern California would include the San Francisco Bay area, Merced, Sacramento and everything to the north. Agriculturally, it would include the northern half of the San Joaquin Valley, the Sacramento Valley and delta and Napa wine country.

Coastal California would include Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey and San Benito counties. Agriculturally, it would include the southern half of the San Joaquin and the Imperial valleys. The San Joaquin split would follow the Mariposa-Madera County line and the Merced-Fresno County line.

Southern California would have the nation’s top three counties in agricultural production. Tulare, Fresno and Kern counties have a combined farmgate value of about $19 billion annually.

Southern California would include Fresno and Bakersfield. Its largest populations would be in San Diego, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

Of the three, Southern California appears to be the only one where agricultural and conservative voices may have a chance of winning politically.

In 2016, California voted for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton over Republican nominee Donald Trump by 30.1 percentage points. Dividing the vote by the proposed three new states results in Clinton winning by 37 points in the north, 44.1 points in the coast and 9.7 points in the south, according to an analysis by Fox News.

Doonan, the Bishop rancher, doesn’t see a lot of hope.

“I’d be part of Southern California. I live in the Southern California economy and what they want is not what I want. I’m not sure Orange County (a more conservative area) can turn things around. Our population is so low out here that we don’t have any votes,” Doonan said. He’s in Inyo County, population 19,000.

“It goes back to educating people what agriculture is about. We are under so much scrutiny now. People think we are damaging the state when we are feeding the state,” Doonan said.

Daniel Jackson, 39, co-owner of Family Tree Farms in Reedley, southeast of Fresno, would also be in Southern California. He said he would go for Cal 3 if it would provide even half a chance of gaining political clout. He said he’d like a state with no big cities, and that San Diego has in he past been pro-agriculture but is going the other way.

“Farmers are such a small percentage of the population that we have zero say. Cities have so much more political clout and many people who live there have never set a foot on a farm,” Jackson said.

He views the problem as more pro- versus anti-agriculture than liberal versus conservative. State policies are “against the farmer and resources a farmer needs to make a crop,” he said. The state is run by people who know nothing about agriculture, he said.

Jackson’s family owns about 4,000 acres mostly in stone fruit in the San Joaquin Valley, but has expanded into growing blueberries on “vast acreages” in Mexico and Peru in the last five years.

“We know California has a time line on its agricultural life and to stay alive we have to be more creative in where we farm,” Jackson said. “Right now I’m speaking with you from a taco stand in Mexico. More and more growers are doing this because they know California has a systemic political problem that’s killing agriculture. The world needs to know California is choosing to import its food instead of grow its own.”

Geri Byrne, 61, a cattle and sheep rancher near Alturas and a Modoc County supervisor in the far northeast corner of the state, said she has always thought California is too big and should be split because rural areas have no representation.

“But this isn’t the answer the way the map is drawn,” she said.

The rural north is disenfranchised even more with Sacramento and the Bay Area than if the whole state remains together, she said.

Modoc County is rural, conservative and its economy is agriculture, she said. It was second to support the state of Jefferson and voted more than 70 percent for Donald Trump when he ran for president, she said.

“But it’s not Republican versus Democrat as much as urban versus rural,” Byrne said, “and it’s a complete disconnect between the people who consume the food and those who produce it.”

What about a different split, one lumping Sacramento, San Francisco and Los Angeles together and leaving the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys with San Diego and Orange counties?

There would be greater disparities in population and per-capita income than with the three-state plan.

“We export a tremendous amount of agricultural products overseas. There would be heated discussions over reasonable fees and assessments to get products to port,” Fowle said.

On the upside, you could ease regulations, create a more business-friendly environment and reduce production costs, he said.

“But by the time that happened, the exodus of agribusiness from California may have reached the point that it would not be recoverable,” Fowle said.

Specialty production such as nuts and dairies are under regulatory pressure and looking to leave the state, he said. Dairy has been “unfairly targeted” on air, water, labor and transportation, he said.

Slaughter houses, processors and packers that need upgrades are weighing whether they would be better off shutting down and moving elsewhere, he said.

California needs more water storage but hasn’t built any since the 1960s, he said.

“If we can’t agree to fast-track water storage,” Fowle said, “it tells you the desire isn’t there to allow reasonable upgrades for processing, packing and transportation.”

Ryan Jacobsen, 38, president of the Fresno County Farm Bureau, said he doesn’t know much about Cal 3 because it was “under the radar” until Draper’s announcement. Draper’s motivations aren’t clear and a desire for six U.S. Senate seats instead of two may be the driver as much as anything, Jacobsen said. State legislative and gubernatorial power would be diffused, he said.

“It’s fair to say the state has become more difficult to farm by the year. It’s a continuous move into ignorance as to what agriculture contributes economically and food-wise,” Jacobsen said.

Endangered Species Act issues have strangled the water supply and led to large portions of the San Joaquin Valley being removed from agricultural production, he said.

“This year, the Northern California watershed is most likely well above 80 percent of average and yet farmers in the San Joaquin with federal project contracts will only get 20 percent of normal contracted amounts. It’s very frustrating,” he said.

Marilyn Wright, 56, Tulare County’s agricultural commissioner, agreed that there’s not enough information about Cal 3 to make an informed opinion.

State water resource and air quality boards govern agriculture pretty heavily and what would happen with them would be key, Wright said. Heavy restrictions from those boards have caused some growers to sell out, she said.

“The population centers are so far removed from agriculture that they don’t know where their food comes from or how safely it is grown here in California,” she said.

Rural brewery aims for Oregon land use change Wed, 25 Apr 2018 09:35:45 -0400 Mateusz Perkowski A rural Oregon brewery remains operational despite a major zoning problem but hopes that altering land use rules will offer a long-term fix.

Earlier this year, the tasting room at Agrarian Ales near Eugene, Ore., was temporarily shut down by Lane County officials, partly because its activities aren’t allowed in an “exclusive farm use” zone.

County officials also said the building wasn’t up to code for public occupancy, which Agrarian Ales has provisionally rectified by barring visitors from sitting beneath a roof overhang and instead steering them toward picnic tables on the property.

The zoning predicament also has a makeshift solution — while the brewery applies for a special use permit to run the tasting room, the county isn’t penalizing it for land use violations in the meantime.

“Lane County, on the face of it, says it’s interested in seeing this business continue,” said Stephen Harrell, the company’s farm manager.

To comply with building codes, the company is raising money through an online “Kickstarter” campaign to build a new tasting room equipped with fire suppression sprinklers, lighted exit signs and other elements.

On the land use front, Agrarian Ales wants to carve out an exemption for small breweries in Oregon’s statewide land use law, providing them with similar flexibility as wineries and cideries on farmland.

Under a proposed revision to Oregon statutes, brewpubs could be sited in “exclusive farm use” zones if they annually generate fewer than 50,000 gallons of beer, with at least half the hops or grains grown within 10 miles of the property.

That proposal was floated late during the 2018 legislative session and didn’t gain traction, but Harrell is hopeful a similar idea will prove more successful next year.

Limiting the size of brewpubs on farmland could alleviate concerns about large commercial operations, he said.

“You couldn’t run the Sierra Nevada Brewery on EFU land,” Harrell said, referring to a well-known craft brewery with widespread distribution.

Agrarian Ales already grows all the hops used in its beer and is well under the annual production cap proposed earlier this year.

However, even wineries and cideries still face some ambiguities in land use law, such as the ability to serve food, Harrell said.

“It’s subjective,” he said. “It’s not an objective set of standards,” he said.

Most wineries cannot house full restaurants under land use rules, but the Oregon Liquor Control Commission requires food to be served at drinking establishments, he said.

“You’re looking at two regulatory bodies that ostensibly are conflicting,” Harrell said.

Sen. Lee Beyer, D-Springfield, said he has commitments from agricultural and conservation groups to discuss the issue and believes it’s “realistic” a change can be made in 2019.

“I would assume the biggest objects would be that we keep the size of these relatively small and tied to farm uses onsite,” he said.

Similar agritourism activities on farmland have spurred the growth of Oregon’s wine industry, Beyer said. “You can’t develop a wine industry if you don’t have tasting rooms.”

1,000 Friends of Oregon, a farmland conservation group, is “definitely open to conversations” about an exemption for brewery agritourism “with the appropriate sideboards,” said Meriel Darzen, its staff attorney.

The details will be critical, since a brewpub operating until midnight every night of the week, for example, may create traffic or other problems for neighboring farmers, she said.

“Depending on the scale, you’re talking about something that can have significant impacts on surrounding farm uses,” Darzen said.

Western Innovator: Unique Dorper sheep catching on Wed, 25 Apr 2018 18:11:55 -0400 JULIA HOLLISTER GALT, Calif. — Even though college and work took Catherine Diaz-Khansefid away from ranch life and onto a business career path, her ranching spirit always remained.

“I was born and raised in California,” she said. “My father was a horse trainer, and horses and ranching ran in our family for generations. I grew up in 4-H and FFA, raising all kinds of fair projects.”

For 31 years she has been the chief administrative officer in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of California-Davis Health. She is also a certified research administrator and president of the Northern California Society of Research Administrators.

But when she’s away from her “day-job,” Diaz-Khansefid returns to her ranch roots. She is president of the Western States Dorper Association, founded in 2013; a member of the American Dorper Sheep Breeders’ Society, founded in 1995; and a member of the Dorper Sheep Breeders Society of South Africa, founded in 1950.

“I maintain 10 acres in Galt, California, with my husband and son,” she said. “My flock name is DK Dorpers. We sell fullblood Dorpers throughout the year to other breeders.”

Over the years, Diaz-Khansefid kept up on different breeds of livestock and farming trends. Then, about 15 years ago, the Dorper caught her eye. About eight years ago, she moved to a small ranch in Galt and started with four Katahdin ewes and one Dorper ram.

“I’m not fond of lamb cuisine, but my husband loves it,” she said. “I found it intriguing that many people claimed Dorper meat to be less ‘lamby’ in comparison to other breeds, so I wanted to learn more. I discovered that meat from this cross was very tasty, productive and affordable.”

She continued to expand her line of Dorpers.

“Because I worked in a full-time and demanding job, I could not keep up with my customer base, which grew faster than I could keep up,” she said. “Harvesting and selling in California is more regulated than in other states, so I scaled back on my meat line and focused on the breed-show quality full-blood Dorper. I found this to be significantly more rewarding. It came with a huge bonus of repeat customers and friendships with many wonderful breeders.”

Two years ago, with a few other breeders, she imported semen from a highly reputable Dorper breeder in Australia. Currently there are no protocols allowing the import of semen from South Africa, where Dorpers originated. The current focus is to expand the Australian Dorper bloodline program, and she only harvests Dorper lamb for personal and family consumption.

Dorper meat is popular at farmers’ markets and with upscale “farm to fork” restaurants. Most Dorper lambs reach market weight of 80-100 pounds at about four months of age, which is faster than other breeds. Mature rams range in weight from 240 to 300 pounds, and mature ewes range from 150 to 200 pounds.

“Catherine has worked very hard to bring in South African genetics to improve the breed,” said Harry Owens, treasurer of Western States Dorper Association. “The process is very difficult and expensive.”

Within the U.S., there are a few dozen hair sheep breeds, and several hundred wool breeds. Of the hair sheep, Dorpers are among the most muscular breeds. Originally bred in the 1940s in South Africa, Dorper sheep are a cross from Dorset horned rams and Blackhead Persian ewes, which produced two varieties of Dorpers, the black-headed “Dorper” and the all-white “white Dorper.”

The word “Dorper” originates from coupling the first syllables of the parent breeds Dorset and Persian. The Dorper has superior carcass quality, meat flavor, shedding characteristics (no shearing required), adaptability to weather conditions, great feed conversion, high fertility, maternal instinct, high growth rate and hardiness, according to Diaz-Khansefid.

The Dorper also has a highly prized thick skin that protects the sheep from harsh climatic conditions. The Dorper skin is among the most sought-after sheepskin in the world and is marketed under the name of “Cape Glovers.” The Dorper and white Dorper are among the fastest-growing breeds in many countries, including the U.S. and Canada, she said.

“Dorpers were first brought to the USA in 1995,” Diaz-Khansfeid said. “Embryos were imported to Canada and implanted in ewes. The ewes were then sold to ranchers in the USA. This was a very expensive process, and still is today.”

Catherine Diaz-Khansefid

Residence: Galt, Calif.

Education: Chief administrative officer in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of California-Davis Health.

Occupation: Raises Dorper sheep.

Quote: “The Western States Dorper Association aims to impart on youth that raising sheep isn’t all about winning. It’s also about dedication, responsibility, accountability and becoming a good person and citizen.”

EPA chief signs proposal limiting science used in decisions Wed, 25 Apr 2018 11:42:27 -0400 MICHAEL BIESECKER and SETH BORENSTEIN WASHINGTON (AP) — Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt signed a proposed rule Tuesday that seeks to restrict the types of scientific studies that regulators can use to determine the impact of pesticide and pollution exposure on human health.

Pruitt said the change, long sought by chemical manufacturers and fossil fuel companies, would increase transparency in the agency’s decision-making by requiring all underlying data used in scientific studies to be made publicly available.

“The era of secret science at EPA is coming to an end,” Pruitt said. “The ability to test, authenticate and reproduce scientific findings is vital for the integrity of the rule-making process. Americans deserve to assess the legitimacy of the science underpinning EPA decisions that may impact their lives.”

Facing a swarm of ethical questions about his use of taxpayer money for personal perks, Pruitt signed the proposed order at EPA headquarters in an event livestreamed on the agency’s website but not open to the press.

Critics that include former EPA administrators and scientists said the policy shift is designed to restrict the agency from citing peer-reviewed public-health studies that use patient medical records that must be kept confidential under patient privacy laws.

Such studies include the Harvard School of Public Health’s landmark Six Cities study of 1993, which established links between death rates and dirty air in major U.S. cities. That study was used by EPA to justify tighter air-quality rules opposed by industrial polluters.

“This policy converts transparency from a principle for improving science into a weapon that undermines it,” said Brian Nosek, a psychologist who directs and co-founded the Center for Open Science, which advocates for open data and transparency in research.

If finalized after a 30-day public comment period, the new policy would follow other moves by Pruitt that have included replacing academic scientists on EPA advisory committee with those either directly employed by industry or who accept research funding from corporate interests.

In adopting the “secret science” ban, Pruitt is implementing restrictions that conservative lawmakers have sought for years but been unable to pass, even with Republican majorities in both the House and Senate.

“For too long, the EPA has issued rules and regulations based on data that has been withheld from the American people,” said Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, a Republican who chairs the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. “It’s likely that in the past the data did not justify all regulations. Today, Administrator Pruitt rightfully is changing business as usual and putting a stop to hidden agendas.”

Smith also took the opportunity to lend his support to the embattled EPA chief.

“I know of no other administration official who goes on the offensive, who isn’t intimidated, and who does what he thinks is the right thing regardless,” Smith said.

Top scientists and experts in the environment slammed Pruitt’s new policy, saying it will pit public health research against privacy and the public will lose out.

“I think the underlying motivation here is pernicious,” said Carnegie Mellon University engineering professor M. Granger Morgan, who chaired EPA’s Science Advisory Board under Republican President George W. Bush. He said the policy is an attempt by people who aren’t interested in using science to find the truth “to raise doubts about what at this stage is very clearly established and well-reviewed science.”

Scientists say when they do epidemiological studies — which look at what’s happening in the real world and comparing it to illness and deaths, such as cancer clusters — they have to abide by health privacy rules.

This rule would say research results that don’t post such private data couldn’t be used by EPA “unless subjects have surrendered their right to privacy,” William K. Reilly, who was EPA chief during the George H.W. Bush presidency, said in an email.

Pruitt cited two closed access journals — Science and Nature — as positive examples of transparency. But those journals have strict programs that allow outside experts to review private data, checking it for accuracy yet not making it public.

Tom Burke, EPA science chief during the Barack Obama administration, called the new policy “an invitation to endless delay.”

He said it could “tangle up public health actions” when dealing with people and cancer-causing substances in water and air. “When something has spilled and is coming down the river, you need to set a number for when to shut the water off,” said Burke, an epidemiologist who now heads the Risk Sciences Institute at Johns Hopkins University.

Another judge rules against Trump on ‘Dreamers’ program Wed, 25 Apr 2018 11:30:56 -0400

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge ruled against the Trump administration’s decision to end a program protecting some young immigrants from deportation, calling the Department of Homeland Security’s rationale against the program “arbitrary and capricious.”

U.S. District Judge John D. Bates in Washington wrote Tuesday that the decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, “was unlawful and must be set aside.”

Bates wrote that DHS’ decision “was predicated primarily on its legal judgment that the program was unlawful. That legal judgment was virtually unexplained, however, and so it cannot support the agency’s decision.”

Bates gave DHS 90 days to “better explain its view that DACA is unlawful.” If the department cannot come up with a better explanation, he wrote, it “must accept and process new as well as renewal DACA applications.”

DACA allowed immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children, known as Dreamers, to stay and work legally under renewable permits. President Donald Trump announced last year that he would end the program started by President Barack Obama. It was officially rescinded in March, but DHS is continuing to issue renewals because of previous court orders.

Bates’ ruling came in a pair of cases whose lead plaintiffs are the NAACP and Princeton University. He is the third judge to rule against administration plans to end the program.

100-acre wildfire closes central Utah mine in US forest Wed, 25 Apr 2018 11:23:58 -0400 PROVO, Utah (AP) — Firefighters in central Utah are making progress on a 100-acre wildfire that closed a mine in a national forest about 100 miles southeast of Provo.

Authorities believe a campfire lit by recreationists sparked the blaze reported Friday afternoon about 15 miles northwest of Huntington.

Officials for the Manti-La Sal National Forest say water drops from a helicopter helped crews establish a containment line Tuesday on the northeast flank of the fire that has closed the Crandall Canyon Mine. They hope to have it fully contained by the end of the week.

Meanwhile, crews are mopping up after another fire that burned dozens of acres about 100 miles east of Provo near Myton in Duchesne along U.S. Highway 40. It broke out about 3 p.m. Tuesday.

No injuries have been reported or structures lost in either fire.

China says it welcomes visit by US officials amid trade spat Wed, 25 Apr 2018 11:20:50 -0400 BEIJING (AP) — China’s foreign ministry said Wednesday that it welcomes a planned visit by U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to Beijing next week amid trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies.

Foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Wednesday that China looks forward to the visit for “consultation on trade and economic issues.”

He referred reporters to other unidentified government departments for details on the visit.

The United States and China are entangled in their most consequential trade dispute since World War II. Both countries have proposed tariffs of $50 billion on each other’s products; Trump is looking to impose tariffs of up to $100 billion more on Chinese goods.

Announcing Mnuchin’s visit on Tuesday, Trump said: “We’ve put on very substantial tariffs, and that will continue unless we make a trade deal. I think we’ve got a very good chance of making a deal.”

Mnuchin has expressed optimism that the countries can avoid a trade war. He met last week with finance officials from China, Japan and Europe.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, meanwhile, has vowed to open China’s market wider to foreign companies.

Burger King grows; Tim Hortons to get makeover Wed, 25 Apr 2018 11:19:03 -0400

NEW YORK (AP) — A new burger and a spicy chicken sandwich sold well at Burger King, helping boost profits for its owner Restaurants Brands. But the company’s other chain, Tim Hortons, didn’t do as well, and Restaurant Brands plans to remodel those stores to try to get more people to come in to buy its coffee and doughnuts.

“We’re not happy with our sales growth and overall financial results at Tim Hortons,” said Restaurant Brands CEO Daniel Schwartz, in a call Tuesday.

Tim Hortons, where sales fell 0.3 percent at existing locations, will renovate most of its nearly 4,800 stores in the next four years. Increasing competition from other coffee sellers hurt sales, Schwartz said.

At Burger King, sales rose 3.8 percent at existing restaurants after the launch of the Double Quarter Pound King and the spicy chicken sandwich. Sales at its fried chicken chain Popeyes, which the company bought last year, rose 3.2 percent.

Restaurant Brands, based in Oakville, Ontario, also reported first-quarter earnings and revenue that beat expectations.

The company said it had net income of 59 cents per share during the three months that ended March 31. Adjusted earnings came to 66 cents per share, 10 cents above what analysts expected, according to Zacks Investment Research.

It had revenue of $1.25 billion in the period, beating the $1.13 billion analysts expected.

Shares of Restaurant Brands International Inc. rose 5 percent to close at $56.30 on Tuesday.

Letter: Through the organic looking-glass Wed, 25 Apr 2018 10:18:22 -0400 Lewis Carroll couldn’t have envisioned anything as topsy-turvy as what we are seeing with the USDA’s handling of the Organic Livestock Rules. How often do we hear of an industry sector suing the government for NOT implementing more stringent regulations? If that were not ironic enough, the USDA’s rationale for not moving forward on what both organic farmers/ranchers and consumers have unquestionably indicated that they want is that USDA lacks the statutory authority. How often do we hear of a government agency saying that they lack statutory authority these days? Normally, we are trying to rein agencies back from their stretching of their regulatory mandate and producers are complaining about the hardships of added regulations.

The USDA and the organic movement have always had different visions for the future of the organic industry. In the years leading up to the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, the two groups fought tooth and nail over the development of the National Organic Standards to which the USDA now certifies. In Carol Ryan Dumas’ article “Animal welfare groups join lawsuit over USDA organic rules” in the April 20 edition of the Capital Press, she pointed out that these proposed new standards for livestock and poultry were finalized after over a decade of public input from organic farmers/ranchers and consumers.

When USDA indicated that it wanted to withdraw the proposed new standards from implementation their website received 63,000 comments that opposed withdrawing and only 50 comments supporting the USDA’s withdrawal. By anyone’s math, that is an overwhelming vote by the interested parties to implement those standards. That is 1,250 saying go ahead with the finalized new standards to every 1 vote for withdrawal. It will certainly be interesting to see what the federal judge thinks of all this.

If organic or conventional farmers/ranchers choose to voluntarily follow these new standards — a private certifying agency, in the model of the non-GMO project verified certification, could create a label that allowed consumers to identify these more stringent standards in the market place. As USDA has already admitted, they would have no statutory authority to intervene. The added private label would allow consumers to know that the product had met the more rigorous rules for animal living conditions, animal health care, transportation and slaughter.

Perhaps that will not be necessary if the judge rules in favor of the plaintiffs; however, the large agri-business interests that do not wish to see these regulations put into effect are powerful and will go to great lengths to deny organic farmers/ranchers and the consuming public the more stringent livestock rules that they obviously want. Brian Quigley

Camano Island, Wash.

Wyoming plan to increase grizzly hunt quotas in dispute Wed, 25 Apr 2018 10:15:47 -0400 MATT VOLZ HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Conservation groups alleged Tuesday that Wyoming used part of Montana’s grizzly bear hunting quota to increase its own allocation for a proposed hunt this year, even though Montana wildlife regulators voted not to give away any part of its quota.

A Montana wildlife official denied there was an agreement to give a portion of its grizzly allocation to Wyoming, and a Wyoming official walked back the claim.

Wyoming’s proposal for its first grizzly hunt in decades sets a quota of two female and 10 male grizzlies. That quota rounds up from the state’s actual allocation of 1.45 females and 9.86 males under a formula used by Wyoming, Montana and Idaho to decide hunting quotas.

The formula is part of a new three-state agreement for managing grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park after U.S. officials lifted federal protections last year for the approximately 700 bears living in the region.

Several lawsuits are pending that challenge the decision to turn over management of grizzlies to the states.

The agreement was crafted in an attempt to keep the grizzly population at a healthy level amid criticism that the grizzly population is still too fragile for hunting.

Montana’s Fish and Wildlife Commission voted not to hold a hunt this year but to keep its allocated quota of .9 females and 5.8 males. Idaho is still considering whether to hold a hunt based on its allocation of .1 female and .9 male bears.

Center for Biological Diversity attorney Andrea Santarsiere said Wyoming officials told the audience multiple times in an April 12 public meeting in Pinedale that Montana agreed to reduce its allocation so Wyoming could set its quota using whole numbers.

The Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club and the Humane Society of the United States argue that states shouldn’t be able to borrow from one another to increase their quotas, and that Wyoming should only be allowed one female bear in the proposed hunt.

Dan Thompson, large carnivore section supervisor with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, said he may have misstated at a public meeting that Wyoming was taking Montana’s grizzly bear allocation.

“If I did, I was wrong to do so,” Thompson said.

Santasiere said it wasn’t Thompson who made the comments at the April 12 meeting. The groups also said that more than one Wyoming wildlife official at more than one public meeting claimed that Montana agreed to give Wyoming a portion of its allocation.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Greg Lemon said Tuesday there was no agreement with Wyoming to reduce the Montana allocation, and that the issue of rounding up those fractional numbers is unaddressed in the three-state Memorandum of Agreement.

Representatives from the three states agreed in a January meeting that a hunt using fractional numbers wouldn’t work and they agreed in principle to round those numbers up or down, but no deal was formalized, he said.

“It’s obvious the rounding thing and how those numbers work wasn’t thought all the way through when the MOA was drafted,” Lemon said. “I think what we’re seeing is that we’ve got some things to work on.”

Thompson said the three states continue to discuss the hunt quotas.

Thompson noted that Wyoming’s proposed grizzly bear hunt includes unique protections. For instance, if two female grizzly bears are killed early in the hunt, the hunt will immediately end even if no male bears have been killed, he said.


AP writer Bob Moen contributed to this report from Cheyenne, Wyoming.