State's oilseed restrictions too broad, forcing revision

By MITCH LIES

Capital Press

SALEM -- The contentious debate over whether to allow canola production in certain parts of Oregon is back -- and well before expected.

The issue -- thought to be put to bed for the next three years -- has resurfaced because of an error in how the state described canola in its ruling.

In restricting production of Brassica rapa, Brassica napus and Brassica juncea -- scientific classifications associated with canola -- the state in its rules inadvertently restricted production of Chinese cabbage, turnip, mustard and other crops.

"The intent was not to ban production of Chinese cabbage," said Dan Hilburn, administrator of the Oregon Department of Agriculture's plant division. "It appears we have more work to do to clarify our intent."

The department, Hilburn said, is weighing how to address the inadvertent restrictions.

He suspects the department can change the rules with a minimum of difficulty.

Small rule changes, such as changing dates, typically can be done without public hearings, he said.

Still, he said, the department will need to open the process to public comment and perform paperwork required of even minor rule changes.

"It'll take a lot of time," Hilburn said. "Rule-making is time-consuming."

Problems with the rules arose when the department tried to identify canola -- a commercial term for the oil produced from the seed of canola plants -- in scientific terms.

"In this case, the terms don't match up very well," he said.

Hilburn said that to his understanding there is no unique scientific term for canola.

The state has asked Oregon State University to help it better define canola in the rules.

The state earlier this year restricted canola-for-oil and canola-for-seed production in the Willamette Valley, Central Oregon and two areas in Eastern Oregon where high-value specialty seed is produced.

Fears are that widespread canola production and the subsequent development of volunteer canola plants will increase insect and disease pressure in vegetable seed crops and lower some seed purity through cross-pollination.

The state plans to revisit the restrictions in three years.

Staff writer Mitch Lies is based in Salem. E-mail: mlies@capitalpress.com.

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