Capital Press | Capital Press Mon, 1 Sep 2014 07:33:53 -0400 en Capital Press | Avocados catch on in Japanese marketplace Fri, 29 Aug 2014 13:39:11 -0400 RICHARD SMITH TOKYO — Japan’s imports of California avocados have skyrocketed during the past three years, riding the growing popularity of the fruit among consumers.

U.S. avocados are riding a rising consumption trend here and benefiting from a decrease in Mexican exports, said Yutaka Ota, the Japan Fresh Produce Import and Safety Association’s secretary general.

“The main reason (for the overall import surge) is health” benefits consumers feel they get from eating avocados, Ota said.

Ota said restaurants and the food service industry are now widely using avocados. The fruit is used as a pizza topping and widely appears on menus in family restaurants.

“People remember its taste and buy it at supermarkets,” Ota said.

Overall avocado imports rose 58 percent from 37,173 metric tons in 2011 to 58,555 tons the following year. Imports increased 3 percent to 60,458 tons last year, Japan Ministry of Finance figures show.

Imports from California increased from 1,562 tons in 2011 to 4,744 tons in 2012. They rose almost 26 percent last year, to 5,957 tons.

In value, California avocado imports increased from $7.7 million in 2011 to $17.9 million last year.

Most avocados imported to Japan are from Mexico, with imports from other countries, including the U.S., being complementary to the Mexican product, Ota said.

“So mainly, depending on how much volume will come in from Mexico, product from other countries will come in,” Ota said.

Mexican avocado volumes did follow the rising import trend, from 32,633 tons in 2011 to 52,922 tons last year.

The Mexican product’s market share ranged from 87 to nearly 90 percent.

U.S. avocados’ market share increased from 4.2 percent in 2011 to 9.85 percent last year.

Ota said his organization considers avocados a product with a lot of potential. “We think its import will continue to rise,” he said.

Tours offer up-close look at working forest Fri, 29 Aug 2014 12:15:42 -0400 Mitch Lies PHILOMATH, Ore. — Once a week in the summer, Dick Powell drives a 14-seat bus from Corvallis to just west of the unincorporated town of Blodgett and leads people on an interpretative walk around a working forest.

Powell, public outreach forester for Starker Forests, said the educational tours honor the legacy of T.J. Starker, who started Starker Forests by purchasing second-growth parcels in 1936.

T.J., or Thurman James, worked for 20 years as an Oregon State University forestry professor before he began purchasing timberland, and he never stopped teaching, Powell said.

“T.J. always considered himself first and foremost a teacher,” Powell said.

In addition to the weekly Wednesday tour, which Starker operates from mid-June to mid-September, the company provides special tours for elementary school classes and other interested groups on other days of the week.

“The idea is just get people out there to help them understand what we do, why we do it and how we do it: What is the science behind what we do?” Powell said.

The centerpiece of the Starker Forests tour is a half-mile interpretive trail that the company constructed from an old logging road at the site of T.J. Starker’s first purchase. The idea was to celebrate the 50th anniversary of T.J.’s ownership by formally inviting people out to the site, Powell said.

In the 90-minute walk, Powell explains how working forests provide an ecosystem for wildlife and plants, and how thinning and other forest management practices improve on that ecosystem.

He explains that Douglas-fir trees are shade intolerant and how clear-cutting helps them establish.

“One of the points we are trying to make is clear-cutting is not a harvest method, it is a regeneration method that puts lots of sunlight onto the ground, because most tree seedlings have to have full sunlight,” Powell said.

Powell stops on a bridge over a small creek and explains how Oregon’s Forest Practices Act mandates that a buffer of trees be maintained around streams. An interpretive sign notes the act also mandates that foresters replant within one year of harvest and that at least 200 new trees be planted per acre. Starker exceeds that, according to the sign, planting between 350 and 400 new trees per acre.

Ninety-percent of the time, tour participants are appreciative of the forest company’s management practices, Powell said. “Once in a while we get somebody who takes exception to things we’re doing, but that is really rare.”

One lady complained about the mess caused by clear-cutting, Powell said. “She said it was an ugly mess and wondered why we didn’t clean up the roots and stumps and debris,” Powell said.

“I said we could do that,” he said. “It would make it look better, but you’ve also made it a sterile environment. All that ugly looking trash is great habitat for rodents.”

Powell, a graduate of OSU’s College of Forestry, said his greatest pleasure is hearing people say they are questioning preconceived notions.

“When I hear people say things like, ‘I’m going to have to rethink some of this stuff,’ well that is exactly what we are trying to do,” Powell said.

Then there is reading comments on the form the company asks participants to complete at the end of the tour.

“We get things like, ‘Gosh, I didn’t know foresters had to know all this stuff, because a forest is so much more than just trees. It is waters. It is soils. It is climate. It is the wildlife. It is all kinds of plants.

“‘And a forester, to manage a forest, really needs to know something about all of those things.’ That is when I say, ah- ha,” Powell said. “That is what we are looking for.”

To take the tour

Starker Forest Tours are available Wednesday afternoons from June 18 to Sept. 17. The free bus tours leave the Comfort Suites Hotel, 1730 Ninth St., Corvallis, Ore., at 1 p.m. and return to the hotel by 5 p.m.

To register for the tours, call Visit Corvallis at 541-757-1544.

Yields vary as Calif. stone fruit harvests near end Fri, 29 Aug 2014 11:05:18 -0400 Tim Hearden CORNING, Calif. — As harvests of peaches and other stone fruit nears their end, fruit quality is high but some yields are down because of drought and other factors, growers say.

Observers say the overall stone fruit crop could be as much as 20 percent smaller than last year’s as acreage has dropped slightly and dry conditions may have reduced the crop, the California Farm Bureau Federation reports.

At R and K Orchards here, two of the farm’s four yellow peach varieties — O’Henry and Elberta — were light this season, co-owner Karen Mills said.

“Everything else is good,” she said. “We’re done now.”

This year’s peach, plum and nectarine harvests got started a little earlier than normal this year, so growers expect to mostly wrap up within the next week or so, the Farm Bureau noted.

For clingstone peaches, full bloom occurred slightly earlier than last year, and earlier varieties appeared to set better than later ones, growers told the National Agricultural Statistics Service office in Sacramento.

Harvests of apricots also began early because of warm spring and summer temperatures with variable fruit set but excellent quality, the agency reported.

Among other summer fruit in California:

• Raisin grapes were laid down on trays last week in Tulare and Madera counties as the harvest of all types of grapes continued at a rapid pace, NASS reported. The picking of winegrapes is returning to normal in the Napa Valley after the 6.0-magnitude earthquake there on Aug. 24, and wineries are continuing to assess damage, according to the CFBF.

• The Valencia orange harvest is still ongoing in the San Joaquin Valley, with a majority of the oranges going to the domestic market as citrus greening has been a problem, NASS reported. Europe and other destinations don’t accept oranges that have been sprayed to prevent greening, California Citrus Mutual officials have explained. However, some fruit is being sent to Hong Kong and Mexico, according to NASS.

• Asian, Bartlett and Bosc pears are being harvested and packed for export, industry officials told NASS.

California mushroom production in decline Fri, 29 Aug 2014 11:31:23 -0400 SACRAMENTO — Add Agaricus mushrooms to the long list of California commodities that have seen declines as the state’s historic drought has lingered.

The volume of Agaricus mushrooms sold in California took a 14 percent dive in the commodity’s most recent season, according to a government report.

Producers turned out 102 million pounds of so-called “button” mushrooms in the 2013-2014 season, down from 118,098 pounds a year earlier and 121,354 pounds in 2011-2012, reports the National Agricultural Statistics Service office here.

The value of sales of California mushrooms has slid from $208.1 million two seasons ago to $189.6 million this season, according to NASS. However, the average price of $1.87 per pound is up 7 percent from last year, the agency notes.

California accounted for 12 percent of the Agaricus mushrooms produced nationwide this past season, as the total 882-million-pound U.S. crop was slightly larger than last year. The value of sales nationwide this season was $1.05 billion, up slightly from last year.

Agaricus bisporus is the most commonly grown mushroom in the United States, accounting for up to 90 percent of mushroom production, according to researchers at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

Ranchers argue against moving flock off grazing lands Fri, 29 Aug 2014 11:22:59 -0400 The Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association says moving sheep out of a grazing area to protect them from wolf attacks threatens a Hunters, Wash., rancher’s property rights.

In a press release, the association said groups are pressuring the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to make rancher Dave Dashiell leave the area as members of the Huckleberry wolf pack continue to kill sheep from Dashiell’s flock.

If the state doesn’t follow through on its commitment to remove problem wolves, and prevents the Dashiells from fulfilling their grazing contract with private landholder Hancock Timber, it will negatively affect the land, the association says.

“That timberland is being grazed to the benefit of the timber stands, the reduction of wildfire fuel loads and improvement of wildlife habitat,” association president Scott Nielsen stated in the press release. “If we call all of that management to a halt because we refuse to deal with a predator crisis, we are moving in the wrong direction.”

Forcing Dashiell to leave his grazing lands won’t solve the problem, Nielsen added.

“Preventing the legitimate use of private land to meet political goals is always unacceptable,” Nielsen stated. “Under this logic, we have seen endangered species policy ruin businesses and deny people’s property rights. We do not want that to happen here.”

More than 22 sheep have been killed since the Huckleberry pack started targeting Dashiell’s sheep herd, according to the association.

According to the association, the helicopter authorized to remove up to four wolves on Aug. 22 was recalled, after only one wolf was killed. Padded leg hold traps have been deployed to catch the wolves and euthanize them, according to the association.

The association supports the attempt to kill the wolves, but the current crisis was caused by denying ranchers the collar data information they needed to keep their herds from wolf areas, Nielsen stated. The department’s position that information could not be obtained from the Spokane Tribe of Indians is not valid because they had more than a year to sort out the issue, Nielsen said.

“We need to remember that if the Dashiells had the collar data as they requested last year, there would likely never have been livestock herds in proximity to this wolf den,” Nielsen stated. “The rancher has every right to be on that land and should not be forced to leave.”

The Center for Biological Diversity and seven other conservation groups have filed an appeal to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to block efforts to kill wolves from the pack.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in August denied the groups’ petition to add more steps by ranchers and the state before killing wolves in livestock depredations.

Under the proposed rule, a rancher would have to use best management practices and employ nonlethal measures “for a meaningful period of time” to be eligible for compensation after a wolf killed livestock.

“All we’re asking for are some very reasonable standards on what ranchers need to do to protect their livestock and when the state can step in and kill an endangered species,” Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer with the center, said in a press release.

Inslee’s office has 45 days to respond with a final decision, according to the center.

OSU looks at possible remediation for water rule Fri, 29 Aug 2014 10:58:39 -0400 Sean Ellis ONTARIO, Ore. — Oregon State University researchers here are looking at ways to help onion growers follow possible federal rules that would limit how much bacteria can be present in irrigation water.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed a produce safety rule that would limit how much generic E. coli bacteria can be present in irrigation water, require farmers to test their water weekly and stop using it if it exceeds a minimum threshold.

Onion growers say the rules aren’t necessary or scientifically sound and would be costly, with no public safety benefit.

The FDA will release a revised rule before the end of the summer and onion growers are hopeful it will include substantial changes to the part of the rule dealing with allowable bacteria levels in irrigation water.

But OSU researchers are proceeding with their experiments so growers aren’t caught flat-footed if the irrigation water rule isn’t significantly altered.

“There wasn’t any sense delaying the research to wait and see what is going to come out,” OSU cropping systems extension agent Stuart Reitz said. “We want to make sure … we have the information necessary to ensure we can keep growing onions in the valley.”

Reitz and other OSU researchers are looking at three main ways growers could meet the proposed FDA standard for allowable E. coli levels in irrigation water.

One method would involve applying a copper fungicide over the top of onions and researchers are comparing bacteria levels in treated plots vs. untreated plots.

Another possible solution could involve treating ditch water with a copper sulfate compound. Bacteria counts are being measured before and after treatments.

A third possibility is injecting chlorine dioxide through drip irrigation tape to kill off bacteria. Growers already use chlorine to keep drip lines clear of algae.

Reitz said researchers are trying to determine rates that are “low enough to kill off bacteria and economically viable for growers to use.”

He said all those products are already registered for use in onions.

“In Stuart’s research, he’s dealing with products that are already registered on onions,” said Nyssa farmer Reid Saito. “To prove, or disprove, that these products work … would really help us deal with any potential new food safety rules and regulations.”

OSU researchers provided growers and industry representatives an update Aug. 26 on their continuing research on whether E. coli bacteria in irrigation water poses a threat to onions.

This is the second year of the field trials and Clint Shock, director of OSU’s Malheur County experiment station, said they’re important whether or not the FDA revises its proposed rule.

“It’s really important that we have safe produce and our growers are assured they are delivering safe products to the marketplace,” he said.

So far, Shock said, the trials have shown that E. coli contamination is not a risk in furrow- or drip-irrigated bulb onions, regardless of water quality.

Giving triticale a chance Fri, 29 Aug 2014 09:00:05 -0400 Matw Weaver CONNELL, Wash. — Jeff Shawver isn’t afraid to take risks.

The Connell, Wash., farmer has been raising triticale — a cross between durum wheat and rye — since 2010.

The main risk for him and other farmers is the USDA offers no crop insurance for triticale.

“In a drought year like this, you don’t have the crop insurance to protect you, so you’ve gotta be kinda ballsy,” Shawver said. Less than 5 inches of rain fell this year, about half the average.

Shawver raises about 1,000 acres of triticale for seed each year. In July’s harvest, he averaged about 20 bushels per acre, the same as his winter wheat yield and about double his spring wheat yield. In a normal year, with 9 to 10 inches of rain, triticale can yield 40 to 45 bushels per acre.

“It’s an easier crop to grow than wheat, in my opinion,” he said. “You don’t have as many headaches.”

Tri State Seed Co. co-owner Dana Herron said he pays Shawver a premium to raise triticale seed for forage. Shawver estimated he receives a $2-$3 per bushel premium to grow triticale compared to wheat.

Triticale, which was first developed in 19th century Scotland and Sweden, is a versatile crop that is attracting attention on the West Coast and parts of the Plains states. Some 5,446 acres of triticale were grown in Washington state in 2012, more than double the acreage 10 years previous, according to the USDA Census of Agriculture. Washington’s triticale acreage peaked in the 2007 census at 9,427 acres but high wheat prices since have prompted some farmers to switch back to that crop.

Nationally, 61,428 acres of triticale were harvested in 2012, with California and Kansas growers each raising about a quarter of the total. Idaho farmers grew 1,445 acres and Oregon grew about 1,079 acres that same year.

Triticale is also grown in Europe and other parts of the world for food grain, animal feed or forage, and researchers say it has potential as a biofuel feedstock.

According to the most recent USDA Agricultural Marketing Service weekly hay report, triticale sold for roughly $160 per ton. As of Aug. 22, triticale for grain was priced at roughly $149 per ton, according to Central Washington Grain Growers.

Triticale seed has become a mainstay of Tri-State Seed’s business and is sold in at least 15 states. Herron said 90 percent of it is sold to grow forage.

For dairy and beef producers, triticale offers good digestibility for cattle, said Herron.

“The dairymen in the Columbia Basin are not casual farmers, they’re serious,” he said. “When they say they like it, there’s a reason.”

Sid Wavrin of Mabton, Wash., feeds triticale to his dairy cattle. He plants it as a winter crop after harvesting corn, then harvests it for silage in the spring before planting corn again.

“It works really well in our rations,” Wavrin said. “It’s a pretty major portion of my program.”

Howard Nelson, manager of member special services for Central Washington Grain Growers, contracts with growers to raise triticale, primarily for grain.

“We tell them if they grow it, we’ll provide a market for it,” he said.

Demand and usage vary each year, Nelson said. This year, triticale went into the cover crop market, some food use and chicken feed.

Tri-State Seed co-owner Craig Teel estimates roughly 30 growers produce triticale seed in the Pacific Northwest, 20 for forage seed and 10 for grain seed.

Grain farmers also see rotational benefits in using triticale, breaking the disease cycle of wheat, Herron said.

Triticale is more tolerant of diseases than wheat, without the need to spray for rust or fungus.

“It’s as close to a bulletproof plant as you can get,” Teel said.

Washington State University researcher Bill Schillinger has included winter triticale in the rotation for a long-term cropping systems study in Ritzville, Wash.

In this low-rainfall region little moisture is stored at the surface in no-till fallow. Schillinger wanted something that could be planted before the winter freeze and grow faster in the spring.

“If you plant winter triticale early, it will produce considerably more grain biomass than early-seeded winter wheat,” Schillinger said. “If you plant late, you get the same amount of grain biomass as early-planted wheat.”

Schillinger hopes to see farmers try triticale in the Horse Heaven Hills, where they often have trouble with early seeding due to dry conditions. He advises trying 50-100 acres first.

“Make your no-till fallow and if we have a wet year — it rains in the summer — plant your wheat early,” he said. “If not, dust in your triticale on Oct. 15.”

If triticale is versatile, easy-to-grow and drought-tolerant, why aren’t more farmers growing it?

The answer comes down to two words: crop insurance.

Triticale acreage fluctuates so much because of the lack of federal crop insurance for it, Nelson, of Central Washington Grain Growers, said. When faced with a choice, many farmers grow wheat, the mainstay of Eastern Washington, because they can obtain crop insurance for it.

“If we could get some growers together to put some pressure on (the USDA Risk Management Agency) to get crop insurance, that would be the biggest thing we could do to benefit triticale production,” Nelson said. “If we had crop insurance, the acreage of triticale would skyrocket.”

Jo Lynne Seufer, risk management specialist at the RMA office in Spokane, said the agency considered crop insurance for triticale several years ago. At the time, it was determined not to be feasible, Seufer said, but the agency may take another look at some point.

Farmers interested in insuring their triticale should contact their local USDA service center about the Non-Insurance Assistance Program, Seufer said. The agency uses NAP participation to gauge farmer interest in crops such as triticale, Seufer said.

Besides insurance concerns, many farmers are leery because of perceived similarities to rye, a noxious weed, Shawver said. But triticale doesn’t grow continuously, as does rye, he added.

Shawver said he plans to continue raising triticale, particularly on his lighter, sandier soils, as long as he can find someone to grow it for.

“There’s not a whole lot of options for us in this dryland area,” he said. “Triticale gives me another option besides wheat, white or red, that I can grow here.”

Thai worker settlements with Hawaii farms at risk Fri, 29 Aug 2014 08:53:03 -0400 JENNIFER SINCO KELLEHER HONOLULU (AP) — A federal judge in Hawaii says she won’t consider approving $2.4 million in settlements for hundreds of Thai farm workers until the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission holds a news conference clarifying that the agreements are still subject to court approval.

U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi is ordering the agency to provide proof of the news conference by Friday. She said in her order issued last week that the EEOC didn’t follow rules when it filed the proposed agreements.

The EEOC is planning a news conference in Honolulu on Friday to comply with the order.

Kobayashi’s order warns that if the EEOC doesn’t comply, the judge may deny the requests to approve the settlements and reset all claims for trial.

The EEOC “ignored the possibility that this court could reject one or more of the consent decrees,” Kobayashi’s order said. “The EEOC’s disregard of the applicable rules and this court’s express instructions is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

The agency apologized for its error in a court filing.

Anna Park, a regional attorney for the agency in Los Angeles, said Thursday that it was procedural oversight. “It was clearly a miscommunication on our end. We hope we can now move on for the judge to consider the decrees in the interest of the claimants in the case,” she said.

The agency announced in June that it had reached settlement agreements with four Hawaii farms over allegations that they exploited workers.

EEOC attorneys disregarded the judge’s instructions on filing the proposed agreements, “apparently so that EEOC officials could announce, during a previously scheduled press conference, that consent decrees had been ‘filed’ in this case,” Kobayashi’s order said.

The EEOC should have waited to do so until she approved the settlements, Kobayashi said. The EEOC gave the misleading impression the settlements were final, according to her order.

Park said reporters were told at the news conference that the agreements were still subject to court approval, but that point was ambiguous in the news release the agency issued.

Kobayashi said she will lodge disciplinary complaints with the State Bar of California against Park and Sue Noh, a Los Angeles EEOC supervisory trial attorney. Park said she and Noh won’t comment on the disciplinary action.

According to the settlement agreements made public in June, Mac Farms of Hawaii would pay $1.6 million, Kelena Farms would pay $275,000, Captain Cook Coffee Co. would pay $100,000 and Kauai Coffee Co. would pay $425,000. Attorneys for the farms couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Del Monte Fresh Produce Inc. settled for $1.2 million. Kobayashi has already approved that agreement.

All of the $3.6 million will go directly to the workers, Park said in June, in a distribution process that involves determining who worked on the various farms, for how long and the severity of the abuse workers suffered.

The EEOC filed a federal lawsuit in 2011 against California-based labor contractor Global Horizons and six Hawaii farms, with allegations including workers subjected to discrimination, uninhabitable housing, insufficient food, inadequate wages and deportation threats.

Global Horizons was found liable for the discrimination and abuse of the workers. Global Horizons and Maui Pineapple Co., the last farm that hasn’t settled, are scheduled to go to trial.

USDA seizes more than 1,200 illegal giant snails Fri, 29 Aug 2014 08:46:41 -0400 MARY CLARE JALONICK WASHINGTON (AP) — The giant African snail damages buildings, destroys crops and can cause meningitis in humans. But some people still want to collect, and even eat, the slimy invaders.

The Agriculture Department is trying to stop them. Since June, department authorities have seized more than 1,200 live specimens of the large snails, also known as giant African land snails, all of them traced back to one person in Georgia, who was selling them illegally.

The USDA discovered the snails through a tip from social media at the end of June. From that tip, the department seized more than 200 snails from a person on Long Island, New York, who identified the seller in Georgia. The department then interviewed the seller and seized almost 1,000 more snails in Georgia, plus one each in Indiana, Pennsylvania and New York.

Agriculture officials said the investigation was ongoing and they would not identify any of the individuals.

It’s important to capture the snails without delay, authorities say, because they multiply quickly, producing 1,200 or more offspring a year. And the snails, which can grow larger than the size of a fist, have no natural predators in the United States. People are their only threat.

Florida authorities know this all too well. Agriculture officials there are in their third year of trying to eradicate the snails. They were discovered in Miami in September 2011, and they’ve been found on houses, where they eat plaster and stucco to gain calcium for their shells, and in residential gardens, where they tear through plants.

Mark Fagan, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Agriculture, said the agency so far has found 141,000 snails in 26 areas of Miami-Dade County. Luckily, he said, they have not yet progressed into any of the state’s rich agricultural areas. The snails eat 500 types of plants, including most row crops and citrus, so keeping them away is an important investment for the state’s $100 billion-a-year farm industry.

Florida first saw the giant snails in the 1960s, when a boy from Miami was believed to have smuggled some of them in from Hawaii. His grandmother eventually released his snails into her garden — starting an infestation that took 10 years to eradicate.

Fagan said state officials don’t know how the latest infestation started. But people have different reasons for importing the snails. Sometimes they arrive accidentally in luggage or cargo. The USDA believes most of the snails it has seized this year were being collected by hobbyists who wanted them as pets. They are also used in some African religious practices and even in some cosmetic procedures. And some people consider the snails a food delicacy.

Consumption was the apparent reason for one person’s attempt to bring 67 live snails into California in July. U.S. Customs and Border Protection at Los Angeles International Airport intercepted the snails, which were declared by a person from Nigeria, as for human consumption and destined for a location in Corona, California. Customs officers said the person appeared not to know that importation of the live snails into the United States was illegal.

Eating or handling them could be dangerous, government officials said. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the snails can carry a parasitic worm that can lead to meningitis.

The Agriculture Department said it wants to warn people about the threat. People may not know the live snails are prohibited in the United States, and if those people report that they have them, they won’t face any penalties. Those who knowingly import them illegally could face fines.

“The more people who know about giant African snails and know that they are illegal in the United States, the better we are in keeping them out,” said Wendolyn Beltz, a director in the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. “If they didn’t know and they are reaching out to us to do the right thing, there will be absolutely no penalties for that.”

It is legal to import frozen giant African snails for consumption in the U.S., and live snails are legal and available in some parts of Europe, as well as other foreign countries, so people may not be aware of the U.S. ban. The snails seized by the USDA this summer came from Britain, the department said.

Dr. Jim Young, an entomologist at USDA who identifies snails and other species intercepted in international commerce, said the best bet is just to be careful when you are abroad.

“Don’t play with snails when you are on vacation,” he said.


USDA on giant African snails:

Vast Northern California wildfire keeps surging Fri, 29 Aug 2014 08:28:05 -0400 HAPPY CAMP, Calif. (AP) — A wildfire near the small Northern California logging and gold mining town of Happy Camp in the Klamath National Forest has grown to 50 square miles, pushed by westerly winds that sent embers ahead of the main blaze.

The lightning-sparked fire near the Oregon border had forced the evacuation of people in as many as 250 scattered rural homes and other buildings by late Thursday.

It was 20 percent contained since starting two weeks ago.

Fire spokesman Ken Sandusky said fears that the fire could quickly cover the 10 miles separating it from Scott River Valley prompted the mandatory evacuations ordered Wednesday night by the Siskiyou County sheriff.

An evacuation center has been set up in Yreka, but no one was using it, Sandusky said.

Persistent air inversions trapping smoke in the valley have kept air tankers from dropping retardant in recent days. The fire has taken off at night when the inversion lifts, forcing firefighters to fall back.

Dry weather with steady winds from the west are expected to keep the fire growing through the week, Sandusky said.

California counties ask to form separate state Fri, 29 Aug 2014 08:16:20 -0400 JULIET WILLIAMS SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Representatives of two counties in far Northern California petitioned state officials Thursday for the right to form a 51st state called Jefferson, formally asking state lawmakers to vote on their proposal.

Modoc and Siskiyou counties, which share a border with Oregon and have a combined population of about 53,000, submitted petitions from their county governments to the secretaries of the state Assembly and Senate after filing a petition complaining about a lack of representation to the secretary of state.

Organizer Mark Baird told a crowd of about 70 supporters at a rally outside the state Capitol that residents of as many as 10 counties “would be free to create a small state with limited government.”

“We don’t need government from a state telling people in a county what to do with their resources and their children’s education. You are better equipped to educate your children than the state or federal government,” Baird said to applause.

Six counties have so far approved plans to pursue secession, either through elected officials or at the ballot box, and supporters plan to submit more petitions in the coming months. Voters in two counties considered the idea in the June primary, with Tehama voters approving secession and Del Norte voters rejecting it.

On Thursday, supporters waved flags and wore T-shirts bearing the movement’s logo: two X’s and a coiled snake that said “State of Jefferson. Don’t tread on me.”

Later, a group of about 10 of them pushed past the dozens of lobbyists lining the halls of the Capitol for the final week of legislative session to deliver their petitions to the clerks’ offices, where staff members were slightly confused.

“We fully expect to be ignored,” Baird said.

The filings were the first step in building a legal case that supporters believe will allow them to secede from California. They say the U.S. Constitution allows a region to petition the government for secession. If lawmakers ignore the petition, Jefferson proponents say it will give them standing to file a lawsuit.

Critics question how an area with a relatively low tax base and small population could afford to pay for basic services such as schools and roads.

“It would reawaken the rural economy if it were unleashed from urban control,” said Brandon Criss, a Siskiyou County supervisor who voted for secession. “California has over 500 government agencies micromanaging the people.”

Residents would choose how to set up their government, which services to provide and how to pay for them, he said.

Earlier this summer, Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper submitted signatures for a ballot initiative seeking to split California into six separate states, including a northern one to be called Jefferson. If his petition has enough valid signatures, it could appear on the statewide ballot in 2016.

Baird said Draper’s heart is in the right place but that his proposal would not have the required legal standing.

Environmental groups seek wolf rules Fri, 29 Aug 2014 08:03:13 -0400 NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Environmental groups on Thursday asked Gov. Jay Inslee to push for the creation of strict rules limiting when wolves can be killed in response to livestock depredations.

Their petition sought to limit when the state Department of Fish and Wildlife can kill wolves. It would also require ranchers to use nonlethal measures to protect their livestock.

Rules similar to those requested by the petition are in place in Oregon.

The groups made the request as the state was in the process this week of trying to kill four wolves in the Huckleberry Pack in an effort to protect a herd of sheep. One wolf has been killed so far.

Wolves were hunted to extinction a century ago in Washington. Since the early 2000s, the animals have started to make a comeback by entering Washington from Idaho and British Columbia. The state is estimated to have 52 wolves in 13 packs.

“All we’re asking for are some very reasonable standards on what ranchers need to do to protect their livestock and when the state can step in and kill an endangered species,” said Amaroq Weiss of the Center for Biological Diversity.

The governor’s office has 45 days to respond to the request. The office has received the petition and will review the request, Inslee spokeswoman Jaime Smith said.

In 2012, the state killed seven wolves in the Wedge Pack despite the fact that the rancher had taken little action to protect his stock, the environmental groups said.

They contend the situation is similar with the Huckleberry Pack.

However, the Department of Fish and Wildlife has said the owner of the sheep herd has taken numerous nonlethal steps to protect his 1,800 animals. But wolves keep killing the sheep.

Conservation groups filed a similar petition in 2013, but they withdrew it based on promises from the Fish and Wildlife to negotiate new rules governing lethal methods of wolf management. No negotiations have taken place, the environmental groups said.

The groups appealing to Inslee also include Cascadia Wildlands, Western Environmental Law Center, Gifford Pinchot Task Force, The Lands Council, Wildlands Network, Kettle Range Conservation Group and the Washington State Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Onion and Potatoes Market Report Fri, 29 Aug 2014 08:00:25 -0400 Fruit and Vegetable Market News,

Federal - State Market News Service, USDA.

Prices represent open (spot) market sales by first handlers on product of generally good quality and condition unless otherwise stated and may include promotional allowances or other incentives. No consideration is given to after-sale adjustments unless otherwise stated. Brokerage fees paid by the shipper are included in the price reported. Delivered Sales, Shipping Point Basis excludes all charges for freight.

The Following Terms when used by Market News will be interpreted as meaning:

Occasional-1 to 5%, Few-6 to 10%, Some-11 to 25%, Many-26 to 50%,

Mostly-51 to 90%, Generally-91 to 100%

Moses Lake, WA Clear 67/89

Pasco, WA Clear 61/93

Twin Falls, ID Clear 61/89

Ontario, OR Clear 54/93

Stevens Point, WI Overcast 50/72

Antigo, WI Overcast 46/71

Saint Cloud, MN Mostly Cloudy 59/72


Sales F.O.B. Shipping Point and/or Delivered Sales, Shipping Point Basis

2014 Season


MARKET ABOUT STEADY. Truck shortage limits movement.

Round Red U.S. One

baled 10 5-lb film bags sz A 8.50-10.00 mostly 9.00

50 lb cartons

sz A 8.75-10.00 mostly 9.00 occas lower

sz B 12.00-15.00 mostly 12.00-13.50 occas higher

Creamers 3/4-1 5/8” 20.00-30.00 mostly 20.00

50 lb sacks

sz A 7.50-8.50 mostly 8.00 occas lower

sz B 11.00-14.00 mostly 12.00 occas higher

tote bags approx 2000 lbs per cwt

sz A 13.00-15.00 mostly 14.00 occas lower

U.S. Two 50 lb sacks

sz A 2.75-4.50 mostly 3.00-4.00 occas higher

sz B 5.00-8.00 mostly 6.00-7.00 occas higher

Yellow Type U.S. One

baled 10 5-lb film bags sz A 11.50-12.50 mostly 12.00 occas lower

50 lb cartons

sz A 11.50-12.50 mostly 12.00 occas lower

sz B 8.50-11.00 mostly 10.00 occas lower

Creamers 3/4-1 5/8” 20.00-25.00 mostly 20.00

tote bags approx 2000 lbs per cwt

sz A 18.00-20.00


Sales F.O.B. Shipping Point and/or Delivered Sales, Shipping Point Basis

2014 Season



Russet Norkotah U.S. One

baled 5 10-lb film bags sz A 6.50-8.00 mostly 7.00

baled 10 5-lb film bags sz A 7.50-9.00 mostly 8.00

50 lb cartons

40s 10.00-12.00 mostly 11.00-12.00

50s 10.00-12.00 mostly 11.00-12.00

60s 10.00-12.00 mostly 11.00-12.00

70s 10.00-12.00 mostly 11.00-12.00

80s 10.00-12.00 mostly 11.00-12.00

90s 9.00-10.00 mostly 10.00

100s 9.00-10.00 mostly 10.00

Round Red U.S. One

baled 5 10-lb film bags sz A 8.50-10.00 mostly 8.50-9.00 occas higher

baled 10 5-lb film bags sz A 9.50-11.00 mostly 9.50-10.00 occas higher

50 lb cartons

sz A 9.00-10.00 mostly 9.00-9.50

sz B 10.00-14.00 mostly 13.00-13.

50 50 lb sacks

sz A 8.00-9.00 mostly 8.00-8.50

sz B 9.00-13.00 mostly 12.00-12.50

Round White U.S. One 50 lb sacks

sz A 6.50-8.00 mostly 7.00-7.50

Yellow Type U.S. One 50 lb cartons

sz A 11.00-13.00 mostly 12.00


Sales F.O.B. Shipping Point and/or Delivered Sales, Shipping Point Basis

2014 Season


Yellow Hybrid 50 lb sacks

jbo 7.50-8.50 mostly 8.00-8.50

med 5.00-7.00 mostly 6.00

White 50 lb sacks

jbo 12.00-13.00

med 10.00

Red Globe Type 25 lb sacks

jbo 7.00-8.00 mostly 8.00 occas higher

med 6.00-6.50 mostly 6.00 occas higher


Sales F.O.B. Shipping Point and/or Delivered Sales, Shipping Point Basis

2014 Season


Russet Norkotah U.S. One 2” or 4-oz Min

baled 5 10-lb film bags

sz A 5.00-5.50

non sz A 3.50-4.50 mostly 4.00

baled 10 5-lb film bags

sz A 6.00-6.50

non sz A 4.50-5.50 mostly 5.00

50 lb cartons

40s 6.00-8.00 mostly 7.00 occas higher & lower

50s 6.00-8.00 mostly 7.00 occas higher & lower

60s 6.00-8.00 mostly 7.00 occas higher & lower

70s 6.00-8.00 mostly 7.00 occas higher & lower

80s 6.00-8.00 mostly 7.00 occas higher & lower

90s 6.00-7.00 occas higher & lower

100s 6.00-7.00 occas higher & lower

U.S. Two 50 lb sacks

10 oz min 4.00-6.00 mostly 4.00-5.00


Sales F.O.B. Shipping Point and/or Delivered Sales, Shipping Point Basis

2014 Season


Yellow Spanish Hybrid U.S. One 50 lb sacks

Super Col 12.00-13.00 mostly 12.00 occas lower

col 9.00-10.00 mostly 10.00 occas higher

jbo 8.00-9.00 mostly 8.00

med 5.50-7.00 mostly 6.00

White 50 lb sacks

jbo 12.00-13.00 occas higher

med 10.00-12.00 mostly 10.00 occas higher

Red Globe Type U.S. One 25 lb sacks

jbo 8.00-9.00 mostly 9.00

med 7.00-8.00 mostly 7.00 occas lower


Sales F.O.B. Shipping Point and/or Delivered Sales, Shipping Point Basis

2014 Season


Russet Norkotah U.S. One 2” or 4-oz Min

baled 5 10-lb mesh sacks non sz A 40% 5-oz min 4.25-5.00 mostly 4.50 occas higher

baled 5 10-lb film bags non sz A 40% 5-oz min 3.50-4.50 mostly 4.00

baled 10 5-lb mesh sacks non sz A 40% 5-oz min 5.25-6.00 mostly 5.50 occas higher

baled 10 5-lb film bags non sz A 40% 5-oz min 4.50-5.50 mostly 5.00

50 lb cartons

40s 7.00-8.00 mostly 7.00-7.50

50s 7.00-8.00 mostly 7.00-7.50

60s 7.00-8.00 mostly 7.00-7.50 occas lower

70s 7.00-8.00 mostly 7.00-7.50

80s 6.50-8.00 mostly 7.00-7.50

90s 6.00-7.00

100s 6.00-7.00

U.S. Two 50 lb sacks

6 oz min 5.50-6.00 mostly 6.00

10 oz min 7.00

Intermountain Grain & Livestock Report Fri, 29 Aug 2014 07:57:51 -0400 POCATELLO — Wednesday Prices: White wheat 5.80 (steady); hard red winter 6.22 (up 8); 14 percent spring 6.30 (down 2); hard white 6.22 (up 8);

BURLEY — White wheat no quote; 11.5 percent winter no quote; 14 percent spring no quote; hard white no quote; barley no quote;

OGDEN — White wheat 6.16 (up 9); 11.5 percent winter 6.30 (up 12); 14 percent spring 6.87 (up 12); barley 6.10 (steady); corn 8.20 (up 11);

PORTLAND—— Soft white 7.06 (up 6); hard red winter 7.40-7.45 (up 6 ? 17); 14 percent spring 8.16 (up 20); white club 9.06 (steady); oats 290.00 (steady);

NAMPA— Soft white 10.42 (up 12) cwt or 6.25 (up 7) bushel. ———

LIVESTOCK AUCTION —— Idaho Livestock in Idaho Falls on August 27. Breaker and boner cows 100.00-115.00; cutter and canner 82.00-102.00; heiferettes 140.00-160.00; feeding cows 94.00-104.00; slaughter bulls 118.00-130.00; feeding and cutting bulls 110.00-140.00; steers: heavy 183.00-210.00, light 225.00-240.00, stocker 240.00-310.00; heifers: heavy no test, light 190.00-208.00, stocker 210.00-270.00; holstein steers: no test. Remarks: cows and bulls lower, feeders steady.

Smoke lessens from wildfires in Oregon Cascades Fri, 29 Aug 2014 07:52:01 -0400 PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Smoke from the Oregon Cascade Range wildfires blamed for making the air unhealthy over a wide area has lessened, a spokeswoman for fire crews said Thursday night.

The Deception Complex fires generated less smoke Thursday than the giant plume that drew air advisory warnings on Wednesday, said spokeswoman Rita Dyer. Calls from residents concerned about the smoke came from as far away as the central Oregon community of Bend.

“There was less of a smoke column Thursday,” Dyer said.

Another expected air inversion could make things smoky early Friday, she added. The forecast calls for lower temperatures and higher humidity that should help firefighters.

Residents of a mobile home park and along a road near the wildfires were on evacuation alert after being temporarily evacuated on Wednesday.

Any residents with mobility issues have left the area, Dyer said.

The wildfire complex has burned across nearly 3 square miles.

Oregon Transportation Department spokesman Rick Little urged people traveling over the holiday weekend to stay informed on the state of the Deception fire.

“If their travel plans include a trip over Highway 58, they should be prepared to take an alternate route, make alternate plans and be ready for the unexpected,” he told The Register-Guard newspaper.

Earlier, the state Department of Environmental Quality said the air quality in Klamath Falls deteriorated Wednesday to a level that’s unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as people with asthma.

The air was similarly dangerous in Bend, the agency said, while the air quality was judged as only “moderate” in the Eugene area on the west side. Between the two cities, the air was rated unhealthy at the center of the fire.

Lightning started the first fire two weeks ago, and it combined with two other fires.

The smoke wasn’t widely bothersome until the wind shifted Wednesday.

Jerry Shortt, 70, said he and his cousin spent hours watering down his 7-acre property near the mountain town of Oakridge, using sprinklers and hoses as burned leaves rained down.

It was the closest that a wildfire has gotten in the nearly 40 years he’s lived on the property, Shortt said. He said his and his cousin’s wives packed up their motorhomes in case an evacuation order came.

“We’ll have to do what we have to do,” Shortt said. “There’s nothing else we can do about it.”

Feds jail ginseng poacher as wild plants face risk Fri, 29 Aug 2014 07:45:53 -0400 MITCH WEISS ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Broke and down on his luck, Billy Joe Hurley turned to the only way he knew how to make a living: poaching ginseng.

But after his latest in a long string of arrests, federal prosecutors had enough.

They told a U.S. magistrate Thursday that poaching by Hurley and others in the national forests in western North Carolina has dramatically reduced the numbers of wild ginseng — a humble looking plant whose roots can fetch more than $900 a pound.

Prosecutor David Thorne said they needed to send a message: Illegal ginseng harvesting won’t be tolerated.

Hurley, 46, of Bryson City, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 5½ months in jail — the fifth time in a decade that Hurley has been sentenced for illegal possession or harvesting of ginseng. He could have received up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.

But Magistrate Dennis Howell said he didn’t fine Hurley because he knew he couldn’t pay it.

Hurley’s legal troubles illustrate a larger problem: As prices continue to skyrocket, more people are traipsing through national forests, state parks and even private property to hunt ginseng, leaving the plant’s survival in doubt.

“We only catch a small fraction of what’s going on here,” said Wes Mullins, a National Park Service ranger who arrested Hurley on June 28. “Most of them are woodsmen and they know the mountains better than we do.”

He said poachers often camp out deep in the hardwood forest, digging up the slow-growing plant for its two- and three-prong roots. They can get up to $200 for fresh roots. Dried roots can go for more than $900 because of the strong demand, mostly from eastern Asian markets.

“We just have to keep trying. Otherwise, the plant will go extinct,” he said.

Digging ginseng — or ‘sang, as some still call it — has been an Appalachian tradition for generations. And it’s not illegal to harvest ginseng on your own property.

The Chinese have used ginseng for thousands of years as everything from an aphrodisiac to an elixir of longevity. But Asian ginseng has become virtually extinct due in part to overharvesting.

Some large-scale farms in China, the United States and other countries grow ginseng, said Jim Hamilton, the Watauga County extension director.

But wild American ginseng is the most desired and fetches the most money because of its potency. And it only grows in selected cool climates, such as the Appalachian Mountains. It flourishes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which straddles the border of North Carolina and Tennessee.

Each September, the U.S. Forest Service sets a legal harvesting period for the Pisgah and Nantahala national forests, issuing permits that limit how much can be gathered.

This year, the agency has issued just 136 permits through a lottery system. Each permit holder can gather up to 3 pounds.

But the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is off limits for ginseng harvesting.

And that’s where wildlife officials have been working to save ginseng, one plant at a time.

Jim Corbin, a plant protection specialist with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, has developed a way to track ginseng. Each August, he and a group of volunteers spend a week trudging up steep hillsides in the park. When they find a ginseng plant, they push aside the dirt and sprinkle yellow powered dye to mark the roots.

Ginseng dealers are alerted not to buy plants with dyed roots.

Corbin said his team usually marks more than 2,000 plants during the week.

But with ginseng roots fetching so much money, he says it’s hard to stop poachers.

Just ask 42-year-old James Williamson, who faces ginseng poaching charges.

People in western North Carolina are struggling to get by, Williamson told the Associated Press.

“There aren’t many jobs around here. Logging is gone. Mills are gone. It’s easy to go out in the woods and walk,” he said. “I’m not a bad guy. I just need the money.”

“This was something fathers taught their sons,” he added. “People used to go digging just to get extra money for Christmas. Now they need the money to live.”

That’s one reason Hurley has been poaching ginseng for years, said his attorney, Corey Atkins. He said Hurley was “destitute,” living with his parents. He had no money, no job prospects.

“He is sorry,” Atkins said, adding, “It is something that he has developed a skill for — identifying the plants.”

West Nile Virus found in Michigan horse, turkeys Fri, 29 Aug 2014 07:43:39 -0400 TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Michigan officials have confirmed the West Nile Virus has been found in a northern Michigan horse and a mid-Michigan turkey flock.

The state Agriculture and Community Health departments said Thursday an 8-year-old horse from Grand Traverse County tested positive for the mosquito-borne virus this month. It was euthanized after it didn’t respond to treatment.

The disease affects humans and animals. Symptoms in horses include stumbling, tremors, facial paralysis, impaired vision and seizures.

Officials say there hasn’t been a human case of the virus this season.

They say turkeys in a small flock in Ingham County were infected with the disease and were dying at a high rate.

A state veterinarian says people should be diligent about vaccinating horses, using bug repellent and keeping water troughs clean.

Wisconsin cranberry industry woos Chinese buyers Fri, 29 Aug 2014 07:41:20 -0400 WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin officials are turning to Chinese buyers to take a bite out of the state’s overgrown cranberry crop.

Stevens Point Journal Media reports the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection hosted a group of potential buyers from China this past week to talk to local farmers and tour facilities. Industry leaders are hoping to expand the reach of Wisconsin’s harvest as overproduction of the fruit causes prices to drop.

A Wisconsin international trade representative says the department wants to increase awareness of cranberries among Chinese consumers. The Chinese professionals represented businesses in China’s e-commerce, wellness, retail and magazine industries.

The U.S. Agriculture Department projects Wisconsin will produce 5.4 million barrels of cranberries in 2014. That’s more than 60 percent of the nation’s total cranberry production.

Highest number of North Dakota bee colonies ever Fri, 29 Aug 2014 07:39:07 -0400 BLAKE NICHOLSON BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The number of bee colonies in the nation’s leading honey-producing state is on the rise, as is landowner acceptance of the boxlike colonies.

State and industry officials in North Dakota credit more beekeepers, a more concerted attempt to register colonies and a unique effort to help beekeepers and landowners live in harmony.

Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said 221 beekeepers have registered 510,000 colonies this year, compared to 205 beekeepers registering 482,500 colonies last year. More than 12,200 hive locations have been registered, compared to 11,000 last year.

Goehring said there has been a spike in registration compliance because of education and outreach done by his department’s apiary staff. There also are more colonies because drought elsewhere has steered more beekeepers to North Dakota, said Will Nissen, a longtime Minot beekeeper and president of the North Dakota Beekeepers Association.

While other states, such as Montana and South Dakota, have strict limits on space between colonies, “North Dakota is kind of a ‘bring-’em-on-in’ state,” he said.

Goehring also said complaints about bee colonies are on the decline. One reason might be the state’s Pollinator Plan.

North Dakota last year became the first state to heed the call of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture to develop a plan to help beekeepers and landowners resolve differences while protecting honeybees, in the hope of reversing the effects of colony collapse disorder. A federal report blames a combination of factors including a parasitic mite, multiple viruses, bacteria, poor nutrition, genetics, habitat loss and pesticides for the loss of as much as one-third of the nation’s bees each winter since 2006.

“The pollinator plan was developed in response to a growing need for a balanced public policy that mitigates risk to honey bees, while minimizing the impact of that mitigation on production agriculture to prevent unintended consequences,” Goehring said.

North Dakota’s eight-page plan was based on information gathered at meetings of beekeepers, growers, pesticide applicators, crop consultants and others.

“A lot of this is simple — getting to know what a beekeeper needs, and what a farmer needs,” Nissen said, adding that efforts to improve relations and improve the industry are “heading in the right direction.”

North Dakota has led the nation in honey production for the past decade, and last year produced more than 33 million pounds of honey, 22 percent of the national total.

Capital Press calendar of events Wed, 27 Aug 2014 15:20:35 -0400 To submit items to the calendar, send an email with information to



Aug. 29 — Turf Grass Field Day, 8 a.m., Lewis-Brown Farm, 33329 Peoria Road, Corvallis, Alec Kowalewski, 541-737-5449


Aug. 30-Sept. 6 — Eastern Idaho State Fair, 97 Park St., Blackfoot, (208) 785-2480,



Sept. 1-3 — Agrifoodtec, Nairobi, Kenya,

Sept. 7-10 — Saudi Agriculture 2014, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia,


Through Sept. 1 — Oregon State Fair, Salem,

Sept. 5-6 — 56th Annual Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association Tree Fair and Trade Show, Red Lion on the River, Jantzen Beach, Portland, (503) 364-2942

Sept. 6 — Third Annual Small Farm School, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Clackamas Community College,

Sept. 15 — Willamette Valley Oilseed Producers Association Annual Meeting, 7:30-10:30 a.m., Polk County Fairgrounds, Rickreall,

Sept. 26-27 — Geothermal Workshop: Lease, Units and Water Use Legal Issues and Hydrothermal Resources and Geothermal Exploration, Oregon Convention Center, Portland, or 530-758-2360

Sept. 28-Oct. 1 — Geothermal Resource Council Annual Meeting and Expo, Oregon Convention Center, Portland. Register by Aug. 30 for $100 discount, or 530-758-2360


Sept. 5-21 — Washington State Fair, Puyallup,

Sept. 13 — Farmer Consumer Awareness Day festival, Quincy,


Sept. 18-19 — California Poultry Federation annual conference, Monterey Plaza Hotel, 400 Cannery Road, Monterey,

Sept. 23-25 — Fresh-Cut Products: Maintaining Quality and Safety Workshop, University of California-Davis,


Through Sept. 6 — Eastern Idaho State Fair, 97 Park St., Blackfoot, (208) 785-2480,

Sept.3 — Increasing habitat for pollinators workshop, sponsored by the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides, 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Peaceful Belly Farm, Dry Creek Valley north of Boise, or or (208) 850-6504



Oct. 1-3 — North American Blueberry Council and U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council fall meeting, Hyatt Rosemont Hotel, Rosemont, Ill., (847) 518-1234 or (916) 983-0111.

Oct. 20-22 — National Farmland, Food And Livable Communities Conference, American Farmland Trust, Lexington, Ky.,


Oct. 18 — Oregon Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation Fall Harvest Dinner and Auction, Oregon State University, Corvallis, (541)737-8629 or


Oct. 2 — Introduction to Food Safety and HAACP Workshop, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Hilton Garden Inn Idaho Falls,


Oct. 24-25 — Washington State Sheep Producers annual convention, Leavenworth,



Nov. 7 — Denim and Diamonds annual dinner auction, Agri-Business Council of Oregon, 5 p.m., Portland Marriott Hotel,


Nov. 3-5 — Produce Safety: A Science-based Framework Workshop, University of California-Davis,


Nov. 10-11 — Dairy Industry Annual Meeting, Heathman Lodge, Vancouver,

Nov. 7-9 — Tilth Producers of Washington 40th anniversary conference, Vancouver Hilton,


Nov. 4-6 — Practical Food Safety and HACCP Workshop, Riverside Hotel, Boise,

Lawmaker criticizes how Carlton Complex fire was fought Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:33:08 -0400 Matw Weaver A Washington state legislator is calling for hearings to address what he says were shortcomings in the way firefighters handled the Carlton Complex fire.

Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, said he observed firefighting efforts on Gebbers Farms in Brewster, Wash.

Kretz stressed that the failings were not in the firefighters but the system.

“On the management end of this thing, we’ve gone from firefighting to fire-managing,” he said. “I think it’s going to have to be a complete overhaul.”

Local fire departments and Gebbers Farms’ efforts were successful and effective, but he said he couldn’t get answers from incident commanders.

Kretz said he saw success by local firefighters and private entities, while frustrated crews sat in Brewster waiting for orders.

“The only reason Brewster’s here is Gebbers Farms,” Kretz said.

Gebbers Farms used its equipment to build a fire line to save houses and towns, he said, and requested two-wheel drive fire trucks to follow along and spray down hot spots, and were told by managers they’d get back to them.

“When you wait four days for them to get back to you, something’s screwed up,” Kretz said. “You fight fire in real time, you don’t fight it in four- or five-day delays.”

Kretz also said calls for permission to take a fire line across state-owned ground took too long for a reply.

“When it takes five-and-a-half hours to get an answer, you’ve lost your window,” he said. “It could have been contained several times in situations like that.”

Washington Department of Natural Resources communications and outreach director Sandra Kaiser said it will be a while before details are available on precisely what happened in all the locations that made up the Carlton Complex fire.

“The top priority for the incident commanders was to keep people safe,” Kaiser said. “It’s terrible when people lose their homes, but it’s worse when they lose their lives.”

There was one fatality, a landowner who reportedly had a heart attack while trying to protect his home, Kaiser said.

Fire crews and equipment were in high demand because there had been many massive, fast and dangerous fires throughout the region, in addition to the Carlton Complex, Kaiser said.

At one point, more than 3,000 firefighters were battling the Carlton Complex fire, Kaiser said.

There were 27 firefighter injuries or illnesses, she said.

The Carlton Complex fire burned 250,000 acres and 300 homes and cost $36 million to fight so far, Kaiser said.

“The fire set a new standard of unpredictability, destruction and danger for all who fight fires in the West,” Kaiser said.

Kretz has discussed holding hearings with the chair of the state House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

The people who suffered the most need the chance to address what happened, he said. If the management isn’t working, it’s the Legislature’s job to examine the situation to avoid similar scenarios, Kretz said, saying most of what he saw was avoidable.

“If we’re going to ask citizens to pay a fire assessment, what are we paying for and what are we getting?” he said. “I don’t see why we’re sending that money to Olympia if they’re going to bungle like they did.”

Concerns also arose in the agriculture community over instances where volunteers reportedly offered to help extinguish fires caused by lightning in the Carlton Complex fire and were turned away.

DNR does not typically turn qualified firefighters away, Kaiser said.

“However, there are many risks involved in wild land firefighting, and it is the responsibility of the incident management team — made up of local, state and federal firefighters — to manage those risks,” Kaiser said, noting safety is top priority. “If volunteers try to step in without being a part of the incident management team, their safety and the safety of all firefighters can be compromised.”

GMO initiative recruits farmers to dispel myths Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:27:49 -0400 John O’Connell SUN VALLEY, Idaho — An organization that operates a website intended to dispel myths about genetically engineered crops is recruiting farmers and other agricultural industry experts to field the publics’ questions about the controversial technology.

The GMO Answers Initiative — — was launched about a year ago under the umbrella of the nonprofit Biotechnology Industry Organization, with funding from Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer Crop Sciences, BASF, Dow AgroSciences and DuPont Pioneer.

Speaking Aug. 27 to spud farmers attending the annual Idaho Grower Shippers Association meeting in Sun Valley, Kate Hall, manager for partnerships and programs with the Biotechnology Industry Organization, said potato farmers are needed as experts, with USDA approval of J.R. Simplot’s Innate line of transgenic potatoes expected soon. About 100 experts now assists in fielding questions pertaining to their expertise.

“(Farmers) are the most valued and respected voice in agriculture,” Hall said. “People want to connect with and hear from the farmers who are growing their food.”

While the initiative emphasized those within the agriculture industry in its inaugural year, it will prioritize engaging the public, planning to have a presence at large events in 2015.

Hall believes GMO opponents have effectively spread misinformation on social media, using emotional rather than scientific arguments, which is rapidly shared by consumers with little agricultural background. In response, initiative staff respond to misinformation about GMOs when they encounter it on social media.

They’ve also created “visual myth busters,” which offer the facts coupled with humorous images, such as a syringe injecting a tomato.

Hall emphasized GMO traits have only been commercialized thus far in corn, soy, canola, cotton, sugar beets, alfalfa, squash and papaya, though the brevity of the list comes as a surprise to visitors of the website, who often falsely believe other GMO crops are in widespread production and cause allergies and other health problems.

She’s seen progress in public understanding. When the site first launched, Hall said questions were far more vitriolic, and less concerned about science.

“We’re definitely seeing a trend of people looking for information and not just yelling at us,” Hall said.

Though consumers once had to scroll through several pages before finding a positive site about GMOs in online searches, Hall said the initiative’s site now typically surfaces on the first page, and had fielded 776 questions through July.

Hall said information from the website has also been translated for a Japanese audience.

U.S. Potato Board member Karleen Hardy, of Oakley, said she’s been frustrated for years that the industry hasn’t done a better job of educating consumers and is encouraged by the initiative’s direction.

“If they’re not getting that education at the consumer level, we’re not getting anywhere,” Hardy said.

For more information, contact Hall at

Vancouver port taps North Dakota for new customer Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:00:15 -0400 Don Jenkins VANCOUVER, Wash. — Railcars dispatched from the Port of Vancouver with supplies for North Dakota’s energy fields will return with farm commodities, according to an agreement between the port and North Dakota agriculture officials.

Right now, some of those railcars rumble back to the West empty. Meanwhile, North Dakota farmers and shippers are struggling to move food to Asia and Latin America, the state’s agriculture commissioner, Doug Goerhring, said Thursday.

“Everybody is experiencing problems with rail service,” he said. “It’s crucial we find modes of transportation.”

Goerhring and Port CEO Todd Coleman signed the agreement Wednesday in Fargo, N.D.

The port will supply the railcars, put the commodities on ships and coordinate rail service with Burlington Northern Santa Fe.

North Dakota officials will publicize the service among the state’s farmers and shippers.

Goehring said he hoped the shipments of soybeans, peas, lentils, dry beans and other commodities will start arriving as early as mid-September.

The idea originated with the Columbia River port, a daily launching point for railcars carrying supplies such as steel pipes and bauxite for North Dakota’s coal, oil and gas fields.

The port approached North Dakota officials about filling those railcars for the return journey more than a year ago.

The port is already a leading West Coast handler of bulk commodities. Some 16 percent of the wheat grown in the U.S. flows through Vancouver, according to port officials.

The port will obtain and control a supply of railcars by leasing them for $625 each per month. Initially, the port will lease 50 railcars. Port commissioners have authorized leasing up to 180 railcars.

The port’s return on its investment will depend on interest shown by North Dakota farmers and shippers.

Port spokeswoman Abbi Russell said the port expects to at least break even, but does not have revenue projections.

The agreement calls on the port to make upgrades to its handling facilities if necessary. No improvements are planned for now, Russell said.

The port began a $275 million project in 2007 to improve rail access to the port. The port expects to complete the project in 2017.

WSU to discontinue annual Seattle football game Thu, 28 Aug 2014 16:52:19 -0400 Matw Weaver The Washington State Beef Commission is re-evaluating its marketing relationship with Washington State University football after school officials decided to discontinue its annual game in Seattle, the organization’s executive director says.

The commission has based a marketing push on the annual Seattle game. WSU’s football game against Rutgers University Aug. 28 is its last in Seattle for the foreseeable future, WSU athletic director Bill Moos told the Capital Press.

WSU, which normally plays at its Pullman, Wash., campus across the state, held its first football game in Seattle in 2002.

Moos cited the university’s television deals and investments in facilities on the WSU campus as reasons for ending the Seattle game.

“We have all of that investment into Martin Stadium, and just feel that’s where we should be playing our games now,” Moos said.

Washington’s beef industry has used the game to promote itself in Western Washington.

Washington State Beef Commission Executive Director Patti Brumbach said sponsorship of the Seattle game was one element of the commission’s Beef for Tailgating campaign, typically capping off four weeks of promotions with Certified Angus Beef and QFC grocery stores.

“It’s been important, it’s given us a lot of great exposure and pre-game advertising as well as game day advertising,” she said.

Last year, Brumbach estimated the four-week, $180,000 promotion made about 20 million consumer impressions.

This year, the “Beef for Tailgating” promotion will continue through September at QFC stores. The buildup to the game coincides with summer grilling campaigns.

The commission is advertising on food websites, social media and Pandora Internet Radio, Brumbach said.

Brumbach said the commission was aware that WSU was considering ending the Seattle game.

Brumbach said the commission board will have to evaluate its next steps and consider future alternatives with WSU football. The board will look at all its options and keep them wide open, she said.

“As a cattleman myself, I’m hoping that partnership continues,” Moos said. “We certainly hope we still have something that’s appealing to them and we will be in discussions here shortly.”

Moos and his wife have a certified Angus cattle ranch in Valleyford, Wash., typically raising 15 head.

Federal government lists Oregon spotted frog as threatened Thu, 28 Aug 2014 12:21:59 -0400 Eric Mortenson Online

A fact sheet on Oregon spotted frogs is available at