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Organic Consumers Association

Willamette Valley Immediately Threatened By Canola

August 3, 2012

It is with deep concern that Friends of Family Farmers sends out this action alert.  The shortsighted approach of the Department of Agriculture and steamroller process of preparing to file a temporary rule which would invite canola, including GE canola, into the protected zone of the Willamette Valley could mean the ruination of the specialty seed industry.

Late Friday, ( just before 5 pm) the ODA sent out a news release to say that the department plans to file a temporary administrative rule that would "refine" (shrinks by 300,000 acres) the boundaries of the existing protected area in in the Willamette Valley where canola cannot be grown, "to allow Willamette Valley growers to make important planting decisions by the first of September."

This move on ODA's part opens up one of the most unique growing regions in the world to a noxious species of brassica that readily cross-pollinates, thus contaminating the genetics of other brassica crops.  As the ODA regulation that originally established these control areas states, "production of rapeseed [canola] for oil or seed is incompatible with production of crops of the same or related species grown for seed or vegetables." OAR 603-052-0880(2). Many customers of Willamette Valley seed growers claim they will not renew their contracts if canola is planted in the protected zone. There is too much at stake.  

We need to shout loud and clear: Protect Our Willamette Valley Growers!! We need to let the ODA  know the Willamette Valley is too valuable!!  Tell the ODA to cut canola out!!

Due to the nature of a temporary rule, ODA is not required to issue public notice, take public comment, or hold public hearings.  ODA intends to file this rule on Friday, August 10th.  It would become effective immediately.  For an agency to issue a temporary rule, it must prove that the need for this rule is important enough to deny the public their right to weigh in on it.  The agency must provide "a statement of its findings that its failure to act promptly will result in serious prejudice to the public interest or the interest of the parties concerned and the specific reasons for its findings of prejudice."  ODA has not issued formal findings to this effect, and it is unclear to us how the inability of some unnamed producers in one region to plant one particular crop in this particular year could constitute enough of a "serious prejudice" to necessitate this temporary rule and the denial of the public's right to comment.  If failure to be able to plant canola in September of 2012 in parts of the Willamette Valley is a "serious prejudice" to these growers, it is the ODA that has created this prejudice by failing to initiate a formal rulemaking process (with notice and comment) several months ago.

To ODA's credit, an advisory committee of was put together of both canola proponents and specialty seed growers  to review the rules regulating canola production.  The results of which yielded a complete stalemate as specialty seed producers have nothing to gain by making room for both conventional and GE canola.

ODA seems to be rolling out the red carpet to a handful of interested canola producers and the Willamette Biomass Processors by pulling the rug out from under our world renowned and highly lucrative specialty seed industry.  How ODA has come to the conclusion that canola is now a good idea is unfounded. The department refuses to refute any of the research findings conducted by OSU in 2009 on behalf of ODA .  These findings were what that lead to the creation of the protected zone in the first place!

If the temporary rule is put into place, canola growers would be able to "pin" their production sites on the map.  And once canola is in the ground, it would be nearly impossible to control it.  This temporary rule would have a permanent, irreversible effect on seed production in the Willamette Valley. If ODA  files for this temporary rule on August 10th, it would simultaneously file for permanent rulemaking, which would allow for public input, but if canola is already in the ground at the time of the hearings, the damage will already be done.

We will be fighting this temporary rule tooth and nail, but we need your input now.

Let's set the stage now and tell ODA we do not approve of canola in the protected areas of the Willamette Valley and we do not approve of their process.  They claim both the specialty seed industry as well a the pro-canola side set the deadline for this decision.  That is not the case.

Please call ODA today!!

(503) 986-4552

And

Send an email to Director Coba: KCoba@oda.state.or.us

And

Call the Governor's office:

(503) 378-4582

And email: the Governor's Office

Follow ODA's website to see when the permanent regulation is posted and stay tuned for additional information!!

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