The Oregon Orchard-grass Seed Producers Commission would be abolished because of the crop’s diminishing popularity under a bill approved 56-1 by the Oregon House on April 23.
However, research and promotion activities for orchardgrass would still continue under House Bill 3401, under which assessment fees for the crop would be collected by the Oregon Tall Fescue Commission.
Eliminating a crop commission in this manner has been done before. In 2011, lawmakers eliminated the Oregon Highland Bentgrass Commission, whose operations were taken over by the Oregon Fine Fescue Commission, said Rep. Shelly Boshart Davis, R-Albany.
That arrangement has worked well and would serve as a model for winding down the Orchardgrass Commission, she said.
If the bill passes, the number of Oregon commodity commissions would drop from 23 to 22.
While prices for orchard grass seed are decent, many farmers have nonetheless abandoned the crop because it’s a weed in other grasses and thus requires dedicated equipment for harvesting, said Roger Beyer, executive director of the Oregon Seed Council.
The crop is also afflicted with “choke” disease, which has proven difficult for the industry to effectively control, Beyer said.
The disease was accidentally introduced to Oregon from Europe about two decades ago, with the fungus soon spreading to most orchardgrass fields in the state, according to Oregon State University.
Choke blocks the emergence of the plant’s flowering seed head, reducing yields and forcing farmers to replace the fields more quickly than normal due to the limited efficacy of fungicides, according to OSU.