Grass seed survey circulating

Mitch Lies/Capital Press Kathy Freeborn Hadley harvests annual ryegrass July 13 on the Freeborn family farm near Rickreall, Ore. Grass seed harvest in the Willamette Valley was just getting under way this week, about 10 days later than average.

By MITCH LIES

Capital Press

Oregon grass seed leaders hope to get a better handle on just how much tall fescue and ryegrass seed is produced in the state, and in timely fashion.

The Oregon Tall Fescue Commission and the Oregon Ryegrass Growers Seed Commission have contracted with USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service to survey growers on acres harvested in 2012 and acres available for harvest in 2013.

The NASS Oregon field office earlier this month began mailing the survey to growers.

Industry leaders hope information derived from the project provides a fairly accurate picture of the total ryegrass and tall fescue seed acres in play in Oregon. The information could help influence planting and marketing decisions, they said.

"Today, growers don't have a clue what is going on in the industry in terms of acreage," said Mark Simmons, executive director of the Oregon Grass Seed Bargaining Association. "This will provide the ability to manage for a profit."

"I think it is always good to have information," said Roger Beyer, executive director of the Oregon Seed Council, an industry group representing seed companies and seed growers.

Beyer said even if growers don't answer questions factually, surveys can be valuable.

"What I have been told is surveys are all inaccurate," Beyer said, "but they get more accurate over time, as long as people consistently lie."

Oregon State University annually provides the industry an estimate of total grass and legume seed production by tracking certified acres, compiling reports from extension agents and tracking commodity commission assessments.

But Simmons characterized assessment data as "a hindsight look at seed that moved from grower to dealer."

"And," he said, "if a dealer is sitting on the seed, it might not get tracked for a long time."

The survey will provide more timely -- and more useful -- information, he said.

Also, Bill Young, OSU extension seed specialist, said it is getting harder to obtain information from extension agents as the number of agents in the Willamette Valley has declined in recent years.

"This process has become more difficult as extension has fewer boots on the ground than it use to," Young said.

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