News Feeds (RSS) ARTICLE SAIF to host farm safety seminars in Hermiston N.W. Crane Service of Hermiston chosen for SAIF&#x2019;s 2018 calendar. Wed, 27 Dec 2017 13:30:35 -0500 <p>HERMISTON &#x2014; Free farm safety seminars will be held in Hermiston on Jan. 9-10.</p><p>The half-day seminars, hosted by SAIF Corporation, are open to &#x201c;anyone interested in ag safety and health&#x201d; even if they are not insured by SAIF, Oregon&#x2019;s not-for-profit workers&#x2019; compensation insurance company.</p><p>The Jan. 9 seminar is in English and will run from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Hermiston Conference Center, 415 S Highway 395. The Jan. 10 session is in Spanish and runs 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the conference center. Lunch is included both days.</p><p>According to a news release from SAIF, this year&#x2019;s topics include mechanical hazards, ergonomics, safety leadership, communication skills and the difference between safety and compliance. The seminar meets OSHA&#x2019;s instructional requirement for small agricultural operations, the Oregon State Landscaping Contractors Board&#x2019;s continuing education credits and the Department of Consumer and Business Services&#x2019; producer continuing education credits.</p><p>For more information or to register visit</p><p>SAIF also announced that its 2018 calendar will feature N.W. Crane Service of Hermiston as its business for June. The theme of the 2018 calendar is &#x201c;building a better &#x2014; and safer &#x2014; Oregon&#x201d; to celebrate the state&#x2019;s construction industry. N.W Crane Service was chosen to help represent that theme because they &#x201c;consistently go above regulations and requirements&#x201d; in their dedication to safety. </p> 2017-12-27 13:30 -05:00 2017-12-27 12:30 -06:00 ARTICLE Oregon&#x2019;s newest AVA attracting development Three years after it was designated Oregon&#x2019;s newest American Viticultural Area, Steve Robertson says big things are beginning to happen in The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater. Tue, 26 Dec 2017 11:04:42 -0500 George Plaven <p>Three years after it was designated Oregon&#x2019;s newest American Viticultural Area, Steve Robertson says big things are beginning to happen in The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater.</p><p>Robertson, owner of SJR Vineyard and Delmas Winery, was a key figure in establishing The Rocks District, which was approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau in February 2015. He serves as president of the Rocks District Winegrowers, a nonprofit formed last summer to promote the unique landscape and wines within the district.</p><p>&#x201c;We&#x2019;ve been busy,&#x201d; Robertson said. &#x201c;There&#x2019;s been quite a bit of progress made over the last couple of years now.&#x201d;</p><p>It can take decades for a new AVA to gain acceptance in the wine world, Robertson said, though The Rocks District is already garnering recognition from some of the industry&#x2019;s biggest names. Harvey Steiman, longtime editor at Wine Spectator magazine, recently described the district as &#x201c;the most distinctive terroir in America&#x201d; for its rugged, stony soils.</p><p>The wines themselves are also receiving acclaim, with 25 local wineries scoring 90-plus points out of 100 with Wine Spectator. Critics are especially impressed with the quality of Syrah varieties.</p><p>&#x201c;When you can taste the difference, those markers are telling you there&#x2019;s something special about that place on planet Earth,&#x201d; Robertson said. &#x201c;That&#x2019;s a really remarkable thing. It&#x2019;s limited. It&#x2019;s rare. It&#x2019;s distinctive.&#x201d;</p><p>Robertson said there is evidence of wine grapes being grown in the area as far back as the early 1900s. The unique geography, he explained, makes for premier growing conditions.</p><p>The Rocks District is a subset of the Walla Walla AVA, though it is located entirely in Oregon. It is the only AVA predicated on one single soil series, characterized by basalt cobblestones &#x2014; and lots of them.</p><p>The land was essentially formed over thousands of years by the nearby Walla Walla River, which washed down from the Blue Mountains and deposited gravels up to several hundred feet deep.</p><p>Geologists call it an alluvial fan. Robertson calls it tremendous terroir. Not only do the rocks allow for incredible drainage, he said, but the surface stones also act as miniature radiators to ripen grapes later in the season.</p><p>&#x201c;It&#x2019;s not because we&#x2019;re geniuses. It&#x2019;s because of that terroir,&#x201d; Robertson said.</p><p>The Rocks District covers 5.9 square miles and has grown to include 37 vineyards, with more in development. Robertson said a producer from Rioja, a wine region in northern Spain, has purchased 10 acres in the district, while Willamette Valley Vineyards, one of Oregon&#x2019;s top wine producers, will plant its first 5 acres in the district in early 2018.</p><p>Willamette Valley Vineyards, based south of Salem, is not new to the Walla Walla Valley. The company first purchased 42 acres in SeVein Vineyards near Milton-Freewater in 2015, growing mostly Cabernet Sauvignon.</p><p>Christine Clair, winery director for Willamette Valley Vineyards, said they purchased 36 acres of former apple and cherry orchards in The Rocks District, which will eventually become an estate vineyard for their local brand.</p><p>&#x201c;We think this is one of the most interesting wine growing areas in all the new world,&#x201d; Clair said. </p><p>The goal of The Rocks District Winegrowers, Robertson said, is to continue telling the district&#x2019;s story as the AVA garners more attention and investment from around the world.</p><p>The nonprofit currently represents 20 different growers. Robertson said another 165 acres are in development. In 10 years, he said, The Rocks District could become a major player at the global level.</p><p>&#x201c;The hardest thing about the wine industry is being patient,&#x201d; Robertson said. &#x201c;I think our first steps can&#x2019;t necessarily be in New York or San Francisco. Our first steps need to be in Seattle and Portland.&#x201d;</p><p>Robertson said the nonprofit will be meeting in mid-February to decide upon its members&#x2019; ambitions and marketing goals. First, he said, they need to build up their volume. Consumer awareness will then follow.</p><p>&#x201c;Our biggest job in the Northwest is going to be Portland,&#x201d; Robertson said. &#x201c;But the upside is strong, because so few people from Portland have had the opportunity to taste these wines.&#x201d;</p><p>Tom Danowski, president of the Oregon Wine Board, already likes what he sees out of The Rocks District. The AVA, he said, is like a &#x201c;turbo-charger&#x201d; for highlighting the Oregon side of the Walla Walla Valley.</p><p>Along with critical acclaim and a passionate group of advocates, Danowski said those are the tail winds that can help an AVA take off fast.</p><p>&#x201c;The potential is just going to be extraordinary,&#x201d; Danowski said.</p><p>Robertson said The Rocks District must prove it can walk before it runs, but ultimately he believes it will become the most important AVA in the Northwest.</p><p>&#x201c;It&#x2019;s going to be an exponential rise in planted acres, which then drives everything else,&#x201d; Robertson said. &#x201c;It&#x2019;s not a causal thing. It&#x2019;s serious business.&#x201d;</p> 2017-12-26 11:04 -05:00 2017-12-26 10:04 -06:00 ARTICLE Community college instructor to lead National Association of Agricultural Educators Nick Nelson, an agriculture science instructor at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, will serve as president of the National Association of Agricultural Educators. Tue, 19 Dec 2017 15:32:38 -0500 George Plaven <p>Nick Nelson, an animal science instructor at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, is set to become the first teacher from Oregon and first from a postsecondary institution to serve as president of the National Association of Agricultural Educators.</p><p>Nelson was chosen during the NAAE annual convention Dec. 5-9 in Nashville. The group represents more than 7,800 members and 12,000 agriculture teachers across the country.</p><p>As NAAE president, Nelson said his primary focus will be working to solve the agriculture teacher shortage nationwide. According to the association, there were 770 open teaching positions in 2016, and 98 schools were forced to eliminate their agriculture programs due to budget cuts, low enrollments or inability to find a qualified instructor.</p><p>&#x201c;Ag teachers are truly dynamic individuals that wear numerous hats,&#x201d; Nelson said in a statement. &#x201c;They teach in the classroom, serve as the FFA advisor and then make project visits to students&#x2019; homes all year long.</p><p>&#x201c;They are also very active in the community, doing numerous tasks, all the while raising a family and farming on the side,&#x201d; Nelson said. &#x201c;It is no wonder why we are seeing an increase in the number of schools that want ag programs, but not enough ag teachers to fill the positions.&#x201d;</p><p>Nelson said the biggest thing is to get more states participating in the NAAE Teach Ag campaign, which helps to recruit, retain and mentor more young agriculture teachers.</p><p>Nelson is a second-generation teacher whose father, Veril Nelson, taught agriculture in Roseburg. Together, they also raise Red Angus cattle and market bulls through the Lorenzen Red Angus program.</p><p>Before arriving at BMCC, Nelson taught high school in Clackamas and Hermiston. He will serve one year as NAAE president, and travel to Washington, D.C., for board meetings as well as the National Policy Seminar, hosted by the Association for Career and Technical Education.</p><p>&#x201c;It&#x2019;s a service job, and the Western states really pushed me to continue that on,&#x201d; Nelson said. &#x201c;That&#x2019;s really why I did it, to represent them.&#x201d;</p> 2017-12-19 15:32 -05:00 2017-12-19 14:32 -06:00 ARTICLE Meetings to focus on rule changes for Walla Walla sub-basin groundwater The Oregon Water Resources Department will host a pair of meetings Monday and Tuesday in Umatilla County to discuss new rules in the Walla Walla sub-basin. Fri, 08 Dec 2017 17:43:38 -0500 George Plaven <p>The Oregon Water Resources Department will host a pair of meetings in Umatilla County to discuss new water metering requirements for farmers in the Walla Walla sub-basin.</p><p>Informational meetings are scheduled for Monday, Dec. 11 from 5-8 p.m. at the Milton-Freewater Community Building and Tuesday, Dec. 12 from 9 a.m. to noon at Weston Memorial Hall. </p><p>On May 11, the Oregon Water Resources Commission designated the 300,000-acre Walla Walla sub-basin as a &#x201c;serious water management problem area,&#x201d; meaning OWRD will no longer approve new agricultural wells within the boundary.</p><p>The designation also requires farmers and ranchers with permitted basalt wells to install flow meters and report water usage to regulators by no later than Jan. 1, 2019. Cost sharing opportunities are available through OWRD and the Natural Resource Conservation Service, which will be discussed at both meetings.</p><p>Justin Iverson, groundwater section manager for the department, said the designation was made to address declining groundwater supplies in the sub-basin, which includes Milton-Freewater and Weston.</p><p>&#x201c;We&#x2019;re pumping more than the aquifer is recharging,&#x201d; Iverson said.</p><p>Iverson emphasized that exempt groundwater uses are still allowed in the area, including domestic use and stock water wells.</p><p>For more information, contact Iverson at 503-986-0933 or local watermaster Greg Silbernagel at 541-278-5456.</p> 2017-12-08 17:43 -05:00 2017-12-08 16:43 -06:00 ARTICLE Dead llama ruled &#x2018;probable&#x2019; wolf attack A llama killed on private land in Union County was ruled a &#x2018;probable&#x2019; wolf attack by the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife. Fri, 01 Dec 2017 17:41:34 -0500 George Plaven <p>Wolves may very well be responsible for killing a 250-pound adult llama on a private forested pasture in Union County, though the Oregon Department of Fish &amp; Wildlife stopped short of confirming the incident as a wolf attack.</p><p>Investigators instead ruled it a &#x201c;probable&#x201d; wolf attack, taking place just 10 miles away from where wolves with the Meacham pack preyed on cattle at Cunningham Sheep Company earlier this summer.</p><p>The landowner found the dead llama Friday, Nov. 24 about 200 yards from the residence. The carcass was mostly intact, except most of the hide and muscle tissue along the right rear leg above the hock and around the anus had been consumed. </p><p>ODFW arrived the next day, and according to the agency&#x2019;s investigation report, the llama likely died sometime between late Wednesday, Nov. 22 and before dark Thursday, Nov. 23. At least two sets of wolf tracks were seen in the mud about 20 yards away, which were one to two days old. Investigators also documented trail camera photos taken about 300 yards from the carcass, showing a wolf moving toward the area on Nov. 23.</p><p>However, wounds to the llama were not consistent with extensive wolf-caused injuries, the report went on to state. Taking all evidence into consideration, the agency determined that &#x201c;there was sufficient evidence to confirm predation on the llama by a large predator, but not enough evidence to confirm which predator.&#x201d;</p><p>The same landowner also reported another dead llama earlier in the month, which had been largely consumed except for its neck, head and left shoulder. ODFW investigated Nov. 14, and determined there was no evidence of a predator attack at the scene. The cause of death is unknown.</p><p>&#x2014;&#x2014;&#x2014;</p><p>Contact George Plaven at or 541-966-0825.</p> 2017-12-01 17:41 -05:00 2017-12-01 16:41 -06:00 ARTICLE Hermiston Farm Fair highlights latest research, trends The 44th annual Hermiston Farm Fair featured a number of new seminars Thursday, including organic crops, precision irrigation and pollinators. Thu, 30 Nov 2017 21:48:35 -0500 George Plaven <p>Heading into its second year at the Eastern Oregon Trade and Event Center, the Hermiston Farm Fair continues to add new lectures and seminars highlighting previously overlooked aspects of Columbia Basin agriculture.</p><p>Historically speaking, the Farm Fair has focused on the latest and greatest developments in potato production &#x2014; the signature crop supported by Oregon State University&#x2019;s Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center.</p><p>The 44th annual event, however, introduced a number of new presentations Thursday covering topics such as organic crops, precision irrigation and pollinators.</p><p>Phil Hamm, station director at HAREC, said he did not know the exact attendance, but estimated it was in the hundreds.</p><p>&#x201c;What we&#x2019;re trying to do is (reach) as many of our stakeholders as possible in our region,&#x201d; Hamm said.</p><p>Last year&#x2019;s move to EOTEC from the Hermiston Conference Center has certainly helped, Hamm said, providing a larger venue to bring in more presenters and hold more sessions. This year&#x2019;s trade show featured 48 different vendors, including multiple farm suppliers, Energy Trust of Oregon and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency.</p><p>Attendees filled the room for a morning seminar on pollinators, which discussed the importance of bees and bee habitat in agricultural systems. Andony Melathopoulos, with OSU&#x2019;s Pollinator Health Extension Program, said Oregon is home to more species of bees than there are east of the Mississippi River.</p><p>&#x201c;It&#x2019;s a hotbed of diversity,&#x201d; Melathopoulos said. &#x201c;People are just amazed by them.&#x201d;</p><p>Melathopoulos went on to explain how farmers can treat their crops for weeds and pests while taking care not to harm pollinators. He ran through a litany of available products, demonstrating how to properly read labels and determine if and when a grower should apply certain chemicals in the field.</p><p>&#x201c;Without a doubt, pollination is very important for the production of many crops,&#x201d; Melathopoulos said. &#x201c;I hope people came out of this session knowing pest control is possible and compatible with pollinators.&#x201d; </p><p>For the first time, the Hermiston Farm Fair also organized a seminar dedicated specifically to growing organic crops. It takes three years before a farm can be certified organic, and growers must adapt to a very strict set of approved standards.</p><p>Local organic production is on the rise, said Alexandra Stone, a former organic farmer and cropping system specialist for OSU. In eastern Washington, Stone said organic sales grew sixfold at the farm gate between 2005 and 2015, from $100 million to $600 million.</p><p>&#x201c;There&#x2019;s already a lot of organic production out here,&#x201d; she said.</p><p>Yet demand for organics is still outpacing production in the U.S., with imports exceeding exports by $1.1 billion, Stone said. With that in mind, she led a survey among 20 farmers in the room to determine what they want and need from the university to tap into the organic marketplace.</p><p>Of those polled, 79 percent said they expect demand for organics will continue to increase, yet 40 percent said they did not have the tools to control pests and disease. The vast majority of farmers said they would benefit from some kind of technical training through OSU, with more than half favoring a hybrid online undergraduate and professional development certificate program.</p><p>Later in the afternoon, Clinton Shock with the OSU Malheur Experiment Station detailed how precision irrigation can optimize yields and save farmers money, all while protecting the environment.</p><p>&#x201c;We really want high and stable production of horticulture and crops,&#x201d; Shock said. &#x201c;Precision irrigation is really the key.&#x201d;</p><p>Shock said researchers are working to determine a set of criteria known as the soil-water tension for different crops, which essentially describes the amount of energy a plant must expend to suck up water in the ground. If the tension is too high, a plant may shut down. If the tension is too low, water may leach away nutrients, leading to waste.</p><p>But if a grower knows the soil property, Shock said they can find the sweet spot. That means healthier crops for less money. Plus, as a side benefit, he said the more efficiently nitrogen is used, the more it protects groundwater quality.</p><p>&#x201c;A lot of the public thinks growers are not innovative, or stuck in the mud,&#x201d; Shock said. &#x201c;That just isn&#x2019;t so.&#x201d; </p><p>The Hermiston Farm Fair will continue Friday at 8 a.m. at EOTEC before coming to a close at noon.</p><p>&#x2014;&#x2014;&#x2014;</p><p>Contact George Plaven at or 541-966-0825.</p> 2017-11-30 21:48 -05:00 2017-11-30 20:48 -06:00 ARTICLE Food processors air grievances at Cleaner Air Oregon While few people attended Tuesday&#x2019;s public hearing in Pendleton about proposed regulations for industrial air polluters, one industry in particular was on hand to express its displeasure with Cleaner Air Oregon: food processing.According to the state employment department, food processing makes up 6 percent of overall employment in Umatilla County and a whopping 28 percent in neighboring Morrow County. Food processors accounted for 3,426 jobs between the two counties in 2016,... Wed, 29 Nov 2017 19:21:57 -0500 George Plaven <p>While few people attended Tuesday&#x2019;s public hearing in Pendleton about proposed regulations for industrial air polluters, one industry in particular was on hand to express its displeasure with Cleaner Air Oregon: food processing.</p><p>According to the state employment department, food processing makes up 6 percent of overall employment in Umatilla County and a whopping 28 percent in neighboring Morrow County. Food processors accounted for 3,426 jobs between the two counties in 2016, along with $143 million in combined payroll.</p><p>But Craig Smith, director of government affairs for the Northwest Food Processors Association, said those companies face another layer of burdensome regulations under the Cleaner Air Oregon rules, spearheaded by Gov. Kate Brown to lower health risks posed by industrial air emissions.</p><p>&#x201c;We don&#x2019;t like this rule at all,&#x201d; Smith said. &#x201c;It&#x2019;s way too broad, and the cost of the program will be enormous for very little benefit.&#x201d;</p><p>Smith was one of 14 people who attended the hearing Tuesday at the Pendleton Public Library, and half of those were employees of the Oregon Health Authority and Department of Environmental Quality, which are working to develop the rules. Similar meetings were held Nov. 15 in Medford, Nov. 16 in Coos Bay and Nov. 20 in Corvallis, with future dates scheduled in Portland, Eugene, Salem and The Dalles.</p><p>Debbie Radie, vice president of operations at Boardman Foods and chairwoman of the Northwest Food Processors Association Board of Directors, was the only person to testify Tuesday, saying the proposed rules are &#x201c;poorly designed and unworkable.&#x201d;</p><p>Cleaner Air Oregon was established last year in response to toxic air emissions in 2016 Bullseye Glass in southeast Portland. Yet rather than address sources of emissions that DEQ knows to be an issue, Radie said the agency is targeting companies like hers that are already subject to regulation.</p><p>&#x201c;There is no plan in this rule to identify sources of emissions that are not currently permitted,&#x201d; Radie said. &#x201c;The only way this rule will reduce emissions is to force companies to curtail or stop production. The level of uncertainty does not create an environment where businesses and communities thrive.&#x201d;</p><p>The draft rules, released Oct. 20, would require companies to report their use of 600 chemicals, including heavy metals and other air pollutants. Facilities would then need to calculate potential health risks to nearby communities, considering what if any health problems may be caused by short- and long-term exposure.</p><p>From there, DEQ may require additional steps &#x2014; such as a risk reduction plan or conditional permit &#x2014; to mitigate the risk. Keith Johnson, who serves as special assistant to the director of Cleaner Air Oregon, said the goal is to use health-based standards for reducing harmful air toxics.</p><p>&#x201c;A facility that&#x2019;s in a remote location would be much less risky than a similar one located in the middle of a city or town,&#x201d; Johnson explained. &#x201c;Smaller facilities would likely not be impacted because of low risk and low emissions.&#x201d;</p><p>Out of 2,500 businesses with DEQ air quality permits, Johnson said only the 80 highest-risk facilities would be regulated by the program in the first five years. </p><p>But in her testimony, Radie said the rule would not be based on verified science and data, but rather by asking already permitted facilities to submit data that would be entered into a &#x201c;very crude, inaccurate and misleading formula to determine theoretical risk.&#x201d;</p><p>Cleaner Air Oregon also factors the cumulative effects of industrial emissions in a given area, which Radie said may cause some companies with minimal emissions to be dragged into a full-blown risk assessment process just by being near an industrial location.</p><p>Boardman Foods, an onion processing plant, is located at the Port of Morrow&#x2019;s East Beach Industrial Park near Boardman, which includes other value-added processors such as Lamb Weston and Tillamook Cheese. </p><p>Smith said the added cost of complying with the program might not force food processors to close their doors, but could make them less competitive moving forward.</p><p>&#x201c;That&#x2019;s a huge deal,&#x201d; he said. &#x201c;Right now, there is a lot of investment being made both by the processors and our suppliers.&#x201d;</p><p>The Oregon Legislature is expected to consider a fee structure for Cleaner Air Oregon in the coming session, and the Environmental Quality Commission may decide to adopt all or part of the rule as early as July 2018.</p><p>&#x2014;&#x2014;&#x2014;</p><p>Contact George Plaven at or 541-966-0825.</p> 2017-11-29 19:21 -05:00 2017-11-29 18:21 -06:00