Canola comment September 28, 2012

(A repost of my original opinion because the ODA has not changed its position despite TWO public hearings, cautionary scientific evidence, and overwhelming economic impact. -H)

September 28, 2012
Director Coba, Governor Kitzhaber, and the Oregon Department of Agriculture:

I was born and raised in Oregon. I went to Oregon State University and received a B.S. in Horticulture. I am a young vegetable seed farmer. At my farm I grow organic specialty vegetable seeds on contract for Wild Garden Seeds. I intend to be part of the specialty seed industry in the Willamette Valley for the rest of my professional life. With so many aging farmers in America, and so few young farmers stepping up to grow food for people, why would the ODA choose to irreversibly limit opportunity for young farmers in Oregon? I can’t afford hundreds of acres and the equipment to manage it to grow a low value commodity crop, but I can afford a few acres and small equipment to grow high value specialty seed crops. Ten years from now young farmers like me will be creating a lot of jobs. Where will the canola bubble be ten years from now after the biofuel subsidy goes away and grass seed prices return to normal? I urge the ODA to make the sustainable choice and preserve this unique valley for future generations of farmers in Oregon.
Canola for oilseed cannot coexist with specialty seeds. Canola is a low value, subsidized commodity crop grown in massive acreage with minimal management, while specialty seeds are high value, independently successful, focused on quality and purity. The inevitable contamination would be irrelevant to canola for oilseed production, but would devastate the specialty vegetable seed industry, worth over $50 million annually, as well as the clover seed industry, worth over $15 million.
Who is responsible when just a few seeds somehow escape from a theoretically sealed transport truck and end up in populations along roadsides, miles away from the farm that produced them? Whose job is it to pin the canola fields of today for years and years into the future as canola seeds continue to sprout out of secondary dormancy? (Munier et. all 2011) Who is responsible for the flood waters like the massive floods this valley experienced this spring, that carry seeds to hundreds of acres downstream of the original field? The ODA’s provincial enforcement rules only apply to a quarter mile radius around current year fields, making them largely useless. The thin profit margin of canola would make it economically impossible for growers to control all their escaped plants. However, not controlling the spread of canola would economically cripple the specialty seed industry. Financial responsibility for the ODA’s misguided rule would be decided in court between farmers. Two farms, both alike in dignity, would drag each other down to bankruptcy. Canola would be a plague upon this valley, and I oppose the change to the canola exclusion zone.
Hank Keogh

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