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Megan Anderson

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Tracy Rice (left) Kelly Houson (right)


Onions good business for trucking industry

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It’s no secret that Malheur County is a community built around agriculture and that one of its biggest producers is onions. During harvest season, trucks hauling onions are prevalent and those onions travel from distances as close as one of the local grocery stores in Ontario to as far as Japan. One local shipping company, Murakami Produce, exports on average 20,000 loads of onions a season, with each load weighing about 45,000 pounds. This could not be done without the hired help of multiple truck drivers from all over the nation. Tracy Rice is just one of those truck drivers and on Nov. 8, he was preparing to head out of Ontario with a full load of onions to be transported to Rollins, N.C. Rice, who drives a 1971 Peterbuilt truck that was purchased brand new by his father, is a native of Grayson, Ky., and owns his own

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ARGUS OBSERVER, SUNDAY, NOV. 18, 2012 / INDEPENDENT ENTERPRISE, WEDNESDAY, NOV. 21, 2012

ONTARIO

truck company, Bad News Trucking. Primarily handling exports from the Northwestern portion of the United States, Rice said that he carries a bit of everything, including a large amount of equipment, but does carry a lot of onions during this season. “This will be my last load of onions for the season, since it is an open trailer and it’s getting colder out,� Rice said. Having learned from his dad, Rice said that he has been driving trucks since he was 17 and couldn’t imagine doing another line of work. Upon completion of high school, Rice spent a year traveling with his dad and learning the trade before going out on his own. “Been doing this for years now and I still love it,� Rice said. “I get to see different parts of the country and meet different people every day. It’s not the typical nine-to-five grind.� Rice also said that he loves the

Onions good business for trucking industry....................................2, 3 Payette Valley Riders for those who love to ride ............................4, 5 Megan Anderson came late to FFA program...................................7, 8 It’s a small world after all..........................................................................8, 9 Ranchers partner in Sage-Grouse Initiative................................10, 11 Soggy weather sours sugar beet harvest .......................................12, 13 Stink bugs look for a home in Oregon, maybe yours ..............14, 15 Ranchers fight fires to keep a home on the range ..................16 - 20 Hawaii says aloha to Oregon Christmas trees ...................................20 Dairies weather fluctuating prices, contend high feed costs .......21 All-Oregon Thanksgiving feast pricier but possible........................22 Net farm income approaches record high ...........................................23


FROM PAGE 2

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WILLIAM LOPEZ | ARGUS OBSERVER

Truck driver Tracy Rice (left) and Murakami Production Manager Kelly Houston stand beside Rice’s freshly loaded truck. Rice, who is taking the onions to North Carolina, expects this to be his last load of onions for the season.

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ARGUS OBSERVER, SUNDAY, NOV. 18, 2012 / INDEPENDENT ENTERPRISE, WEDNESDAY, NOV. 21, 2012

challenge that driving on typical northwest roads during the winter brings, something that some truck drivers try to avoid. Throughout the year, Rice said that he typically spends about three to four weeks at a time on the road, and then he spends about a week or two back on his ranch in Kentucky. He takes advantage of his time home by riding horses and spending time with his family, including his two children, who are 13 and 15 years old. “Both kids want to go to college and hauling is going to make sure it happens,” Rice said. Murakami Produce contracts with an average of 15 to 20 farmers a season to acquire the onions they ship, Kelly Houston, production manager, said. Aside from truck drivers, Murakami has a railroad service that hauls onions as far as the east

coast. “We do have a rail service that helps us ship from coast-to-coast,” Houston said. “We export onions to Taiwan, Mexico, Canada and Japan as well.” During production season, the company has on average 90 to 100 employees and that number doubles during harvest season, Houston said. Annually, through the amount of labor, shipments and money generated in Malheur County alone from the production of onions is about $120 million, Murakami President Grant Kitamura said. That’s when you factor in everything from the fertilizers and seeds needed to the shipping methods. Kitamura said that during the months of September through March, 45 percent of the national consumption of onions comes from the Murakami Produce company alone.


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Payette Valley Riders for those who love to ride CHERISE KAECHELE ARGUS OBSERVER

ARGUS OBSERVER, SUNDAY, NOV. 18, 2012 / INDEPENDENT ENTERPRISE, WEDNESDAY, NOV. 21, 2012

PAYETTE COUNTY

For the horse lovers in Payette County who are looking for a group of like-minded people to ride with, the Payette Valley Riders offers much more than the typical organization- it offers all age groups the chance to succeed in their love of riding no matter the skill-set. Michelle Brown has been a member of the Payette Valley Riders for only a few years, but has been a big part of the group’s revitalization. For the last two years, Brown and some of the other members in PVR have undertaken the task of cleaning up the rodeo fairgrounds outside of Payette that had been neg-

lected for years. The arena and surrounding land was bought for the group’s use in 1956. Though lately, no one had used the land and it had been overgrown with weeds for quite some time. Though the history of PVR is murky, Brown is confident that the organization has been a part of this community for quite some time, she said. She has found records indicating its existence pre-1940s. Despite the unknown history of the group, she does know the members of PVR had suffered a downturn in the group several years before she joined, Brown said. Groups go through cycles. They go through growth and like in any club, they go through friction and change. Some

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people want things the old way, and some what some new things. Brown and the other board members in the group want to make sure there is a balance to the members’ goals for the group. Now, 80 members strong and growing, PVR offers to listen to all the members and plan for the activities they want to do as well as offering playdays to those who do not have the expertise of riding or the horse to ride, an opportunity to come to the arena and ride with those who know how to ride and who can make sure every one is safe and comfortable.

They offer lead line classes where children are riding the horses but their parents are leading the horses. “We’ve developed classes and divisions for them that accommodate the kids who don’t have the skill set,� Brown said. “If some of our riders are challenged, then we slow it down for them,� Brown said. “We give them that extra minute or two to get ready to mount their horse for a rodeo competition, that they may not have gotten somewhere else.� Additionally, PVR wants to preCONTINUED ON PAGE 5

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FROM PAGE 4

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Katy Creason and her husband added barrel racing to their wedding celebration at the Payette Valley Riders arena earlier this year. Katy Creason and Chase Creason, her husband, were married in Bend, Ore., but came over to Payette a couple of months after their wedding.

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pare the teens and participants for the local rodeos. The young girls who want to be rodeo queen can know what it feels like when they are crowned PVR Rodeo Queen. The group makes the princesses abide by rules and regulations that are very similar to other rodeos regulations. “In other rodeos, you’re going to be seen by others,� Brown said. “You’re going to be scrutinized by others.� PVR is hoping to allow them to be better prepared for that. The girls are representing our community, Brown said. They need to realize what that means. They have to dress appropriately, they have to put in some community service time and they have to see they have a responsibility when they are crowned. The group also wants the members to go out into the community and serve. “I’m not talking about putting the funny looking jumpsuits on,� Brown said. “It’s not like they are in trouble. I’m talking about doing things like breast cancer awareness walks, taking something and being proud of it. Doing good deeds for the community.� Brown hopes that those who are doing community service are enjoying themselves. This isn’t something they want to force them to do or make them dread doing. “The

community has done a lot for the group and it’s time for us to give back to them,� she said. Brown believes the group has been around for so long because there’s people in the community who are willing to go the extra mile and make sure the group doesn’t fail. That idea, that PVR has continued for so long, is part of what makes the members work so hard for nothing. Members are willing to do almost anything for the betterment of the group. They enjoy what PVR stands for and want others to enjoy it too, Brown said. Even non-members. Those interested in riding with PVR do not have to be a member to do so. Anyone can join in on the group and go with them on their trail rides or any of their activities. The only requirement is if a nonmember wants to use the arena then a member must be present. There is something for all ages at PVR. There’s a group for 5 years old and under, as well as all the way up to adults. “This is not a youth club, nor it is an adult club,� Brown said. “There is combined activities and there is separate activities for age groups.� For more information about Payette Valley Riders, visit their website at payettevalleyriders.org.


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Megan Anderson came late to FFA program JESSICA KELLER ARGUS OBSERVER

ONTARIO

ARGUS OBSERVER, SUNDAY, NOV. 18, 2012 / INDEPENDENT ENTERPRISE, WEDNESDAY, NOV. 21, 2012

Megan Anderson, 17, developed her love for horses as a girl, visiting her grandparents’ ranch on the weekends. At the time, the Ontario High School senior’s grandfather had some cattle, and her grandmother kept 58 head of horses, which she trained and broke. “Every weekend I’d be over there helping feed the animals and gather the eggs of the chickens and helping out as much as I could,� she said. “I loved it.� Anderson now lives with her grandmother in Ontario, and she takes care of their 20 chickens and four horses, two of which belong to her. Anderson, however, didn’t decide

to join FFA and take ag classes until high school, when she joined as 7 a sophomore at the urging of her mother and grandmother. While she was unsure about joining to begin with, she said she really enjoys it. Anderson, who is the Ontario FFA Chapter treasurer this year, said, in addition to learning a great deal in the ag classes, taught by instructor and FFA adviser Les Linegar, FFA has helped her develop leadership and public speaking skills. JESSICA KELLER | ARGUS OBSERVER Her favorite ag class, however, is animal science, because she is learn- Ontario High School senior Megan Anderson sits atop her horse Carrot recently. spent many weekends as a child on her grandparents’ ranch, where she ing more about different animals’ Anderson learned about horses and how to care for them. Now she is learning more through FFA anatomy and specifically the diges- and the ag classes she takes at OHS. She intends to become a large-animal veterinartive systems of horses, which inter- ian and run her own ranch in the future. ests her because she likes knowing er have at home, she has raised two have grown to love them,� she said of horses. more about her own horses. Of the herself and has trained all four. four horses she and her grandmoth- “Just growing up with them, I CONTINUED ON PAGE 8

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FROM PAGE 7

only a large-animal veterinarian. “I actually want to have a working cattle ranch,� she said. Anderson said, in one of her classes at school, students completed a section on owning their own ranch for a year. She said that section helped put a lot of things in perspective for her, and she believes she can manage her own ranch some day. “I like the idea of owning a lot of animals, but they have to have a purpose,� she said. “They can’t just be there.� Being a large-animal veterinarian will not only benefit her ranchwork, but the income she receives will help supplement the expense of owning a ranch with, preferably, 300 head of cattle. Anderson said she is not as much interested in growing any crops, but really likes the idea of working outside with friends and family and moving cattle.

It’s a small world after all ometimes a person can get some fairly odd songs stuck in your head, especially if you have small children. Those songs can then bring to mind other things Malheur seemingly out of the extension ForuM blue. And so it was that a couple of songs Stuart Reitz running around my head brought to mind the potato. Potatoes are one of our more interesting and complex crop plants. Potatoes provide more calories, vitamins, and nutrients per area of land farmed than other staple crops. Potatoes a fat-free, cholesterol-free food that is relatively low in calories (it’s all the stuff we pile onto potatoes and fry them in that add the calories).

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In addition, potatoes are good source of fiber and vitamin C. In fact, Spanish sailors found that they could avoid scurvy by eating potatoes. Given all of these good traits, it’s no wonder that potatoes are one of the world’s most popular foods. Today potatoes are a staple crop that is grown and eaten throughout the world. They are farmed on 45 million acres in over 125 countries. In Malheur County, potatoes are one of our leading crops, with over 2,000 acres grown each year. Potatoes are often associated with the cuisines of northern and eastern Europe. There are the familiar Irish potatoes, the “chips� in England’s fish and chips, the potato pancakes of Germany, and potato-stuffed Pierogi in Poland. Yet potatoes are also part of Indian curries, the Gallitos de CONTINUED ON PAGE 9

    

     

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ARGUS OBSERVER, SUNDAY, NOV. 18, 2012 / INDEPENDENT ENTERPRISE, WEDNESDAY, NOV. 21, 2012

Anderson said her animal science class is also giving her an introduction to future studies. 8 She said she intends to go to Blue Mountain Community College next fall because they have a good equine program. After getting her associate’s degree she will apply to get into the pre-veterinary science program at Washington State University because her ultimate goal is to become a largeanimal veterinarian. She attributes much of her future plans to FFA and what she has learned in the high school agriculture classes. “I knew that I wanted to pursue something with horses, but that was about it,� Anderson said. “I didn’t know that I wanted to have a degree in veterinary science.� Not that Anderson plans to be


FROM PAGE 8

riosity to try potatoes. Two of America’s most famous Francophiles, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson did as much as anyone to place potatoes on America’s dinner plate. But the potato’s popularity in America only soared after soldiers returning from their service in France during the

First World War with a taste for pommes frites, or as we have come to know them, French fries. Indeed for the potato, it’s a small 9 world after all, and what a long strange trip it’s been. With apologies to Walt Disney and the Grateful Dead, bon appetite!

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Papas of Costa Rica, and the mashed potatoes your mom may have served alongside meatloaf. Not surprisingly with the world’s largest population, China is the world’s leading producer of potatoes, but people in the former Soviet republic of Belarus eat more potatoes per person than any other country – over 400 pounds per year! Now that is a lot of potato. Americans eat much less than that – about 130 pounds a year, but that still comes to 365 potatoes a year. Maybe we should say “a potato a day keeps the doctor away”. This widespread taste for potatoes is a recent phenomenon. Potatoes are native to the Andes Mountains in South America, where they were cultivated by the Incas for centuries before the Spanish Conquistadors first took them back to Spain during the 1500s. Although the gold and other

treasures taken by the Conquistadors were quite popular, potatoes took a long time to become popular. For many years in Europe, the potato was largely avoided, in part because it is a member of the same family as deadly nightshade. At best, it was considered a peasant food only to be eaten when faced with starvation. Perhaps because the people of Ireland have suffered so many famines, they were among the first Europeans to adopt the potato. It was France’s Antoine-August Parmentier who actually popularized the potato in Europe in the 1700s with some clever public relations stunts, including placing guards around his potato fields, to pique people’s cu-


Ranchers partner in Sage-Grouse Initiative FROM USDA NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION SERVICE

ARGUS OBSERVER, SUNDAY, NOV. 18, 2012 / INDEPENDENT ENTERPRISE, WEDNESDAY, NOV. 21, 2012

District Conservationist for Crook 10 PAULINA, Ore. – One hundred County. “He saw the same issues million years ago during the earth’s threatening sage-grouse also undercretaceous period, Gary Bedortha’s mining the long–term sustainabiliranchland was a shallow ocean sup- ty of his ranch.” porting a rich community of sea To reverse the declining populalife. Today, that same land rises tions of the greater sage-grouse, 5,000 feet above sea level, and sup- ranchers are partnering with ports a different kind of ecosystem NRCS and the Oregon – one rich with sagebrush, bitter Department of Fish and Wildlife to brush, juniper, elk, deer, snakes, implement the Oregon Sagebobcats, coyotes, cougars, eagles, Grouse Initiative. The SGI is a focused strategy for investing Farm hawks and the sage-grouse. Bill and other conservation reBedortha’s knowledge and management of his ranch’s ecosystem sources. The purpose of this initiahas made him a valuable partner tive is to make measurable and sigwith USDA Natural Resources nificant progress in alleviating a Conservation Service in a strategic specific threat to sage-grouse in conservation effort known as the Oregon—the expansion of western PHOTO COURTESY OF USDA NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION SERVICE. Oregon Sage-Grouse Initiative. juniper. Western juniper is a native “Gary was one of the first ranchers tree that has greatly expanded be- Gary Bedortha surveys his ranch land in Crook County. to participate in this initiative” says yond where it occurred historically Bedortha has been able to engage Chris Mundy, USDA-NRCS moving into sagebrush steppe ar- eas. Bedortha has watched the sage- in an aggressive schedule of juniper grouse population decline as west- removal in order to improve and ern juniper has encroached into the protect the sage-grouse habitat. We salute the hands that feed us. sagebrush ecosystem over the years. “It’s a good program,” Bedortha “When I was young growing up in said. By complementing some earlithis country, I knew some of these er juniper removal efforts with endraws had in excess of 100 sage- rollment in the SGI, 7,000 acres of grouse—you would ride through the sagebrush-steppe land on the draws and the whole ground would Bedortha Ranch has now been remove in front of you. At that time, stored. we didn’t have the juniper like we Chris Mundy, who has provided do now.” CONTINUED ON PAGE 11

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FROM PAGE 10

because if permitted to grow, they will become a problem for the sagegrouse, the ecosystem, and the rancher in 20 years. According to Mundy, most of the trees on the Bedortha Ranch are in the 80-90 year old range, which is relatively young for juniper. Wildfires historically killed juniper and kept it out of sagebrush ecosystems, but natural fire regimes were severely altered in the late 1800s and early 1900s, allowing trees to greatly expand their range. “We want to take it back to where it was,” says Chris. As the juniper trees grew and reproduced over the past century, they slowly but surely squeezed out the habitat for the sage-grouse. “The junipers out-compete everything,” Mundy said. “First the brush goes out, then the grass goes out and then you have no top soil layer.” When plant cover is destroyed, there are no roots left to hold the soil in place.

Sage-grouse are true sagebrush obligates. They eat sagebrush leaves and buds and are dependent on it for cover all year. A sagebrush plant has both deciduous and evergreen 11 leaves so there are always leaves on the shrub. Several varieties of sagebrush thrive in Crook County. Mountain Big Sagebrush and Wyoming Big Sagebrush are the primary species of tall sagebrush in the area, followed by the lower species Low Sagebrush and Early Sagebrush. If sagebrush is lost from the area, the sage-grouse disappear as well. “What’s good for sage-grouse habitat is good for the rangeland,” Mundy said. Bedortha’s stewardship of sage-grouse habitat on his 20,000-acre ranch ensures that his rangeland—with an ecosystem containing a diversity of wildlife, domestic livestock, plant life, soils and waterways—will thrive for future generations.

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ARGUS OBSERVER, SUNDAY, NOV. 18, 2012 / INDEPENDENT ENTERPRISE, WEDNESDAY, NOV. 21, 2012

leadership for the conservation service in Crook County for five years, says the program is different from past efforts. “Now we shore up the best bird populations and make sure they can exist in the long run. Instead of trying to work everywhere, we focus our efforts where we can maximize our benefit for the birds.” Mundy attributes the success of the program to its multiple benefits, “It’s good for the birds and good for the land overall benefitting these ranchers,” he says. The spread of juniper into important “leks,” nesting and brood-rearing areas, is perhaps most problematic for grouse. “Leks” are traditional mating grounds where the courted hens gather to get a clear view of the colorful males as they strut and perform their mating dance. According to NRCS statewide habitat biologist Jeremy Maestas, “Sage-grouse are highly philopatric, which means they tend to return to the same breeding areas every year. When the breeding habitat is first invaded by juniper, birds may continue to use these areas but suffer increased mortality by predators. With too many trees, birds disappear as they begin to avoid these area altogether.” “Sage-grouse don’t like anything tall,” Mundy said. “They want to see for miles and anything up in air

is a threat.” Even if the land is sparsely inhabited with trees, grouse don’t want to go there. Trees taller than the native shrubs—or approximately four feet high—might hold predatory birds including eagles, hawks and ravens. Avian predators sit atop their new perches, waiting to swoop down on their next meal of grouse adults, chicks or eggs. Western juniper trees grow for about 15-25 years before topping most native shrubs. After that, they can really shoot up, depending on water availability. Mundy explains that once the tree population reaches six feet tall or 20-30 individuals per acre, “If you don’t do something, these trees really start having an impact on the desirable native understory plants.” Understory plants grow under a canopy of other plants and usually include grasses, forbs and low shrubs. These plants are necessary to create a healthy rangeland environment. The Oregon Sage-Grouse Initiative focuses juniper removal efforts in areas that are still in the early phases of invasion to prevent trees from reaching the density where damaging thresholds are crossed. On the Bedortha Ranch, the effort to remove juniper is in full throttle. Crews of workers are busy cutting and flattening trees. Even the smallest junipers are removed,


Soggy weather sours sugar beet harvest

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The metal wheels angle 6 inches into the damp earth, each set pulling a long, white sugar beet up and into the maw of the harvester. One beet, caked with mud, is about the size of a toddler’s head. The recent rains have added an extra challenge to harvesting Washington’s remaining sugar beet acres near Paterson, said Ryan Munn, one of the owners of R. Munn Farms. The rain and mud will make harvest last three weeks, instead of two, he said. Tractors pulled trucks through one of Munn’s fields earlier this week. The harvesters fill each truck

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ARGUS OBSERVER, SUNDAY, NOV. 18, 2012 / INDEPENDENT ENTERPRISE, WEDNESDAY, NOV. 21, 2012

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with about 13 tons of sugar beets, all of which will head 250 miles away to Amalgamated Sugar of Nampa, Idaho, where sugar will be extracted from the beets to form the white, brown and liquid sugars that Americans consume, Munn said. Once it’s processed, Munn said there is no difference between sugar from sugar cane or sugar beets. Just one acre of sugar beets from this area can create about 11,000 pounds of sugar, he said. That’s from an average of 42 to 46 tons per acre. Sugar beets look like giant turnips, and may weight around 3 pounds. While most are white, a few in CONTINUED ON PAGE 13


FROM PAGE 12

LARRY MEYER | ARGUS OBSERVER

Oct. 15 this year. First, a beater goes over the rows of sugar beets, hitting the leafy heads with rubber flails, and scalping off the top of the beets. Then, the harvester comes, with a truck driving parallel to store all the sugar beets. It takes about 20 people total to harvest the root vegetable. Each truck takes its load to the beet dump on Munn’s farm, where beets are piled to store until a semi comes to truck them to Idaho.

By the time harvest is complete, Munn estimates his 25-foot-tall pile will be about 200 yards long. Munn said he only knows of three farms, including his own, that grow sugar beets for sugar extraction in Washington. All three farms are members of Sunheaven Farms, an irrigation system partnership that includes R. Munn Farms and four other area farms. R. Munn Farms was putting in sugar beets in the late 1980s, while

ARGUS OBSERVER, SUNDAY, NOV. 18, 2012 / INDEPENDENT ENTERPRISE, WEDNESDAY, NOV. 21, 2012

Munn’s field were a lush red. Munn said the sugar beets are a mix of varieties, and every once in a while, the color of the root vegetable shows that one of its parents was a red beet. Munn rotates the crops on his land in a four-year cycle, with a rotation crop such as peas or green beans, then grass seed, followed by onions and sugar beets. Onions are the crop that gives Munn the most potential for profit. But, “beets are much more steady,” he said. Sugar beets are easy to grow, once the plants get started, Munn said. Irrigation is a necessity here, where Munn said they may get 7 inches of rain. They are planted in March, and harvest mid-October, he said. The longer they stay in the ground, the more sugar the beets contain. Munn said they started harvest

others were taking them out. They’ve always grown the beets for Amalgamated Sugar, a co-op owned by the farmers who grow for it. The co-op determines how many acres 13 each farm can grow in a given year, said Munn, who is on the board of directors. Washington’s sugar beet decline started when Utah & Idaho Sugar Co. closed the only two refineries in the state in 1979, one in Toppenish and the other in Moses Lake. Attempts to resurrect the industry in the 1990s failed, with Pacific Northwest Sugar Co. of Moses Lake closing its doors in 2002, according to Herald archives. Sugar beets once covered about 95,000 acres in the Columbia Basin, according to Herald archives. Washington had only 2,076 acres of sugar beets in recent years, all in Benton County, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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Stink bugs look for a home in Oregon, maybe yours FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

It’s the annual rite of late autumn. Insects jump at the chance, or more likely crawl, to find safe harbor in homes as the temperatures drop. For Oregonians, the list of unwanted house guests now includes the brown marmorated stink bug, an invasive pest that is mainly a nuisance for residents but a huge economic threat to agriculture. The Oregon Department of Agriculture is beginning to get more calls from homeowners noticing the stink bug. That’s to be expected since the population of the crop-eating bug is increasing and spreading fairly quickly throughout the state. “We believe the initial infestation was in southeast Portland, but at this point, we have 10 counties we

know are infested with brown marmorated stink bug and another six where it has been reported to be found,” says ODA entomologist Josh Vlach. “It hasn’t even been a decade since it was first found in Oregon. We’ve seen it as far east as Umatilla County and as far south as Jackson County.” It appears the exotic stink bug is here to stay in Oregon. The pest has been found in such agricultural production areas as the Willamette Valley and Hood River. On a pest risk scale of 1 to 10, it has been described by some to be a 15. Native to Asia, the brown marmorated stink bug has no natural predators, parasites, or diseases in the US to help control its population. ODA is the lead regional agency for conducting research on finding a bio-

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logical control agent to work against the bug, but results may be a few years away. While the insect has caught the attention of officials because of its potential to damage a wide array of agricultural crops, it is the homeowner this fall and winter who might see more immediate evidence of the brown marmorated stink bug- especially anyone who might have attracted the pests earlier in the year by having a backyard garden. “Oregonians might find several hundred coming into their homes, but back east, where the stink bug has become well established in high populations, some homeowners are seeing up to 50,000 of these bugs inside their house,” says Vlach. As creepy and crawly as the stink bugs may be, they won’t cause harm to humans although, as the name implies, they can release an unpleasant odor when disturbed. “They are not harmful outside the agricultural setting,” says Vlach. “They don’t bite. Since they do not feed while overwintering, they will leave your house plants alone. They won’t bother your pets. They might hide underneath your picture frames or get snuggly in your couch, but they really won’t

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hurt anything inside the house. Unfortunately, they do stink when agitated.” The best advice for brown marmorated stink bug is the same advice for any insect potentially becoming your housemate- keep them out in the first place. Some species are much smaller than the stink bug and can easily enter through gaps under and around doors leading outside. They can also wiggle their way through poorly fitting windows, dryer vents, and other points of access into a residence. “Seal up points of access,” says Jim LaBonte, another member of ODA’s team of entomologists. “For bugs that have already entered the home, it depends on how many you have and your tolerance to these insects. You can escort them outside, flush them down the toilet, or dispose of them as you see fit. If there is a large number of them, a vacuum cleaner works well. We don’t recommend calling a pest control company this time of year. First, these bugs aren’t harmful. You should be able to deal with them on your own. Secondly, your home is like an island in a sea of bugs. Spraying pesticides, might get rid of pests inside the house at that time, CONTINUED ON PAGE 15

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but others likely will come in and take their place, especially if you haven’t sealed the accesses.� After a few hard frosts, the outdoor bugs will likely become very inactive or will have already found shelter for the winter. In either case, they aren’t likely to come indoors. Several native species find their way into the home during winter, most commonly the box elder bug, which normally feeds on maple leaves. In the past, ODA has also received numerous calls and contacts about the native western conifer seed bug, Leptoglossus occidentalis, a leaf-footed bug sometimes mistaken for the “conenose� or “kissing� bug. That bug is a species of assassin bug, which bites people, sucks their blood, and can transmit Chaga’s disease. However, “conenose/kissing� bugs are not found in Oregon. Other exotic species distantly related to the brown marmorated stink bug have also been reported in Oregon as insects that will aggregate in homes. These include the big-nosed bug, Metapoplax ditomoides, and the tuxedo bug, Raglius alboacuminatus, as well as two species without common names, Rhyparochromis vulgaris and Xanthochilus saturnius. None of these are known to be crop pests. A new insect pest this year to be

reported in eastern Oregon is the elm seed bug, discovered across the Snake River in western Idaho this past 15 summer when the hot weather drove them indoors in many homes. Homeowners may also see a variety of spiders indoors this time of year. Harmless web-producing garden spiders, and various house or ground spiders are more noticeable in the winter months as they enjoy the warm confines of someone’s residence. These spiders are nothing to be concerned about. As recently as last year, ODA was very interested in hearing from homeowners who might have discovered brown marmorated stink PHOTO COURTESY OREGON DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE bug living under the same Native to Asia, the brown marmorated stink bug has no natural predators, parasites, or disroof. However, the increasing eases in the United States to help control its population. population of the pest has made it well established, especially in the Willamette Valley. The only regions of the state yet to detect the GET USED! stink bug are the Oregon coast and southeastern Oregon. Whether this ends up being a bad year for indoor bug activity remains to be seen. Like it or not, it isn’t unusual to have to share your home over the winter with insects, including the brown marmorated stink bug.

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FROM PAGE 14


Ranchers fight fires to keep a home on the range BY BRUCE POKARNEY

For many folks who live west of the Cascades, southeast Oregon might as well be in another time zone. In fact, part of Malheur County is in the Mountain Time Zone. As the locals say, this is a corner of the state where, on a map, you will find the map’s legend. But there is a community of ranchers and a rural economy hoping to maintain vitality in the face of changing federal land management policies, agricultural market shifts, and a recession. When an act of God strikes in the form of lightning - as was the case this summer it takes several acts of people pulling together to keep their way of life from going up in smoke. Several major wildfires, along with many smaller ones that never

made the news, burned about 1.3 million acres of southeast Oregon that provides habitat for wildlife and forage for cattle. That adds up to the largest contiguous burned acreage in state history-equivalent to more than a third of the Willamette Valley. It took heroic human effort to put the fires out and keep them from spreading even more. In the aftermath, it will take tremendous human effort to restore the burned landscape and devise a future approach to land management that avoids a repeat of this past summer. Two days after Gov. Kitzhaber toured the burn area and met with local leaders in Harney and Malheur counties this fall, Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Katy Coba did the same meeting with ranchers and range-





  

 

land scientists from Burns to Jordan Valley. Following one of the worst fire events in Oregon’s history, Coba’s wish is to find a way to mend and protect the area’s natural resources while keeping the ranchers in business. Heroes of the sagebrush steppe Hovering over the remains of both the 162,000-acre Miller Homestead fire in Harney County and the nearly 558,000-acre Long Draw fire in Malheur County, a small airplane piloted by Jordan Valley rancher Bob Skinner, Jr., carries ODA Director Coba for a bird’s eye view of the carnage left behind. The charred path extends to the far horizon. “Everything above ground was burned, mile after mile after mile,� says Coba, after observing a moonscape-like terrain from several hundred feet aloft. What were once sagebrush plants now appear as small dark blots on the earth. The tops of bunchgrass and other native range plants wiped clean, although root systems appear to be in good shape in many areas. This is prime real estate for grazing and wildlife habitat, including sage grouse, one of the West’s critters of current interest when it comes to the future of rangeland economies. Three months earlier, Skinner and other ranchers could see the

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gathering storm clouds. Lighting strikes are not uncommon in this part of Oregon, neither are fires. But this time, the conditions were ripe for cataclysm. “Fire in the desert is a lot different than fire in the forest,� says Skinner. “The storms that come through here don’t just start a fire, they start a bunch of fires.� Multi-federal agency teams battled the big blazes. They got tremendous help from local volunteer firefighters, led by ranchers such as Skinner. “When we were called to go on the Long Draw fire, it was on the west side of Highway 95 and about 27,000 acres. When it jumped the highway and came into our jurisdiction, we rallied all of our people. The very next morning, it was at 300,000 acres. It went through our firefighters and through them and through them. It was that way for a day and a half. Had the Long Draw jumped the south fork of the Owyhee River, nobody knows where it would have stopped. It would have been in Idaho in 15 minutes. Our firefighters singlehandedly held that fire away from the town of Rome without any aerial support or help.� The fires took their toll in many

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on the individual and community level. When women drive out to the firefighters with cases of Gatorade or when 17 semis arrive in Burns carrying nearly 500 tons of hay grown and trucked by people around the region just wanting to help, it’s a sign that everyone is in it together. That kind of collaboration kept the 1.3 million scorched acres from topping the 2 million acre mark and it helped address the immediate impacts. Science and land management The perfect storm created the perfect wildfire. An unfortunate alignment of events preceded the catastrophe and, for some ranchers, it was all too predictable. Southeast Oregon was hit hard by drought conditions this year, making the land tinder dry. But relatively wet

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conditions the previous two years provided some of the best forage growth seen on the range in quite awhile. Combined with non-native invasive annual grasses, the spike in growth also created greater fuels for fire once the drought hit. The ranching community believes additional grazing on these

CONTINUED ON PAGE18

ARGUS OBSERVER, SUNDAY, NOV. 18, 2012 / INDEPENDENT ENTERPRISE, WEDNESDAY, NOV. 21, 2012

ways. Local firefighters, many of them savvy with experience, came back devastated. They had never seen anything like it before. “These are young, tough guys - in tears,� recalls Skinner. “Watching habitat go up in flames is one thing, but when you watch animals die in fires - I don’t care if it’s jackrabbits or coyotes - nobody wants to see animals burned up and die a slow death. The fire took the deer, it took the birds, it killed fish. Streams were running white with fish bellies.� Fortunately, the casualty list did not include people. But it did include some of their structures and their livestock. A precise count of cattle mortality has not been completed, but the deaths and injuries certainly soared well into the hundreds. The number of grazing cattle displaced by the fire is several thousand. The rural firefighters have received a lot of accolades and their success points to the need for more fire protection districts to be formed. Rapid response when the fire initially hits is the best strategy for avoiding the monster blazes. “That’s where we come in on this thing,� says Skinner. “The agencies can’t respond as fast as we can. They don’t know the country and a lot of firefighting takes place at night in strange terrain.� Self-preservation takes over, both

federal lands could have reduced some of that fuel load without damaging the landscape. The result might have saved a lot of acreage from burning while maintaining a 17 good landscape condition. Meeting with ranchers in Burns and Jordan Valley, Director Coba listened to frustrated cattlemen who want to avoid a repeat of July. “There is concern about the federal government’s management of public rangelands,� says Coba. “We also know these agencies are often times in litigation over decisions they make. It really hampers their ability to be nimble in response to changing circumstances, such as these big fires.� The Bureau of Land Management, which issues grazing permits and determines allotments for cattle, is also responsible for implementing recovery plans for the burned areas. Ranchers are hoping

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ecological recovery will take place. In the short term, a lot depends on such factors as winter precipitation. BLM will do at least some re-seeding of desirable vegetation in the area destroyed by the Long Draw fire. But not enough resources are available to do much more at this time. If southeast Oregon is blessed with optimal conditions, ranchers hope their animals get a chance to graze by late next summer. Waiting an additional year could be challenging-especially given the price of feed. Some ranchers are already paying up to $200 a ton for hay. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t as bad as some folks who lost everything, but a lot of cows had to be sent off for butchering,â&#x20AC;? says rancher Gary Miller, whose family has the dubious honor of being part of the name of one of the large fires. Currently, some ranchers have found additional available pasture at a reasonable rate, others have

purchased hay, some have received hay donated through the Oregon Cattlemenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Association (OCA) and others may have to liquidate part of their herd in order to stay solvent. If grazing on federal lands is off-limits for two years, options may dry up faster than Oregonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s high desert. The work of ARS and Oregon State Universityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s research center gives science-based hope and opportunity of doing something different and effective. A catalyst for change OCA has actively responded to the great fires of 2012, facilitating relief efforts and now advocating for changes that could help both short and long-term recovery. â&#x20AC;&#x153;As bad as the fire devastation was, hopefully it can be a catalyst for change,â&#x20AC;? says OCA President Curtis Martin, himself a rancher in Baker County. â&#x20AC;&#x153;This discussion CONTINUED ON PAGE19

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the federal agency provides more flexibility and tries some innovative approaches in the future. 18 Tony Svejcar of USDAâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Agricultural Research Service is based at the Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center in Burns. His findings indicate invasive annual plants like cheatgrass and the noxious weed medusahead create fire hazards. These invasive grasses are also one of the largest risks to sagebrush steppe habitat

and, thus, a significant threat to sage grouse. Svejcar says grazing can, when managed correctly, help reduce the fuel load on rangeland while establishing native bunchgrasses ahead of the invasives. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We now have better information on plant responses to grazing after fire,â&#x20AC;? says Svejcar. â&#x20AC;&#x153;In general, if the rangeland was in good shape to start with, and minimal damage was done, then controlled grazing soon after the fire is not a problem.â&#x20AC;? Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s too early to know how fast the


FROM PAGE 18

PHOTO COURTESY OREGON DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Jordan Valley rancher Bob Skinner Jr. helped fight back the fires that threatened the area this summer.

ings with BLM and other groups to come up with ideas on changing the past land management that has caused the problem we saw this summer,” says Harney County Commissioner and rancher Dan

Nichols. “We can come up with an effective plan, but we’ll need help from federal agencies, ODA, the governor, and others to support the concept of collaboration. We need to break this fire cycle by looking at

CONTINUED ON PAGE 20

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can’t end at a community center in Jordan Valley. It goes beyond these ranchers. We hope this event will get those in high levels of government to sit down and address these issues, backed with good scientific data. We need to make sure our rural communities aren’t decimated any further and that the economy can grow.” With the US Fish and Wildlife Service set to review the listing status of sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), there is a lot at stake when it comes to averting a “spotted-owl of the prairie” scenario. Oregon’s congressional delegation has been contacted. The governor’s visit to the area also indicates a keen interest in developing solutions that restore and protect the habitat, but also sustain the region’s economic health-namely cattle ranching. “We hope to put together meet-

philosophical changes to get us back into positive land management.” That’s the intent of the “SageCon” effort, an Oregon Solutions project co-convened by 19 the Governor’s office, BLM and USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service with the counties, OCA, and others at the table. Through SageCon, the state is focused on proactively addressing sage grouse ESA-listing concern with a collaboratively developed plan that not only conserves sage grouse populations and associated wildlife habitat, but addresses the economic and community vitality of southeast Oregon. The Governor has indicated that policy changes are on the table and should be part of the SageCon discussion, including the ideas he heard from Svejcar, Nichols, OCA, and others while visiting Burns. In September, the Oregon


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Hawaii says aloha to Oregon Christmas trees FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Oregon, the nation’s top producer of Christmas trees, is already harvesting and shipping those trees to several export markets with good intentions of not sending along insect pests or diseases. One of those key markets is Hawaii, and the Oregon Department of Agriculture is working with its counterpart in that state to reduce any chance that invasive species go along for the ride. “Hawaii is concerned with things like yellowjackets, which are very common in Oregon, and some of our slugs and snails that can hitch a ride on trees,” says Gary McAninch, manager of ODA’s Nursery and Christmas Tree programs. “We don’t want to send those pests there either, so we have a vigorous program to inspect those trees.” Oregon Christmas trees are popular in Hawaii. Last year, about 230 containers were shipped to Hawaii, which means about 138,000 Oregon Christmas trees were sold to that state in 2011. A similar number is expected this year and some of the first shipments are al-

ready headed across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii and other destinations such as the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Guam. “Growers have generally done a good job of adhering to the requirements for shipping to Hawaii,” says McAninch. “They clean those trees up to make sure only the tree itself goes to the islands, not any pests or diseases.” ODA plays an essential role in making the export of Oregon Christmas trees possible. Inspectors check to make sure trees bound for other states and countries are as pest and disease-free as possible. Those inspectors will be facing a whirlwind of export activity in the next few weeks as growers seek an all-important piece of paper known as the phytosanitary certificate. "The phytosanitary certificate is an Oregon grower's passport to the international marketplace," says Bryan Ostlund, executive director of the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association. "Without the ODA inspector, there would be no passport."

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Legislature’s Emergency Board allocated $50,000 to ODA to help with short-term restoration ef20 forts. That was matched with another $50,000 from the Governor’s Strategic Reserve Fund. Over the next couple of months, ODA will work with ranchers and federal land managers to determine how best to spend the money. Despite the uncertainty of the next year or two, ODA Director Coba says some truths and opportunities have emerged from the chaos and ashes of the rangeland fires. “In the future, there will be more scrutiny on how the federal government manages these lands, whether more aggressive management can better protect the landscape and wildlife, and how grazing, as a tool, can help. We are learning a lot from these fires. But

we need to keep in mind that the people who live here and work the land fear for the future of their livelihood. These are multi-generational ranching families that care about their own animals and the wildlife. They love this land and want to help prevent future fire catastrophes.” Even though this tragedy is playing out in a corner of the state, the area is home to environmental, economic, and cultural resources for all Oregonians. “In Oregon, we value our rural communities and need to make sure we give them a chance to recover,” says Coba. “They are struggling right now but we want to provide encouragement and hope.” Hopefully, the kind of lightning that struck the sagebrush steppe in July 2012 won’t strike twice. Or if it does, circumstances will have changed by then for the better.

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Dairies weather fluctuating prices, contend with feed costs SAMANTHA TIPLER HERALD & NEWS STAFF REPORTER

silage, grass hay and alfalfa hay, Krahn said. For those who have to buy, the price will be higher, Krahn said. DeJong said his dairy does not produce any feed, though it does pasture cows during the summer. DeJong counted himself lucky because he has already contracted his feed prices. He does not have to pay the high prices that are hitting the market now, he said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We took a gamble,â&#x20AC;? DeJong said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We contracted our grain when we thought grain prices were in a decent spot. We did OK as far as that was concerned.â&#x20AC;? Riding the market â&#x20AC;&#x153;The important thing to remember about dairy producers is theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re price takers, they donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t set prices,â&#x20AC;? said Krahn. â&#x20AC;&#x153;If Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m a dairy producer and I ship milk today, I get paid 30 days from now. We donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know

what weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll get paid.â&#x20AC;? Dairies have to ride things out and hope they have enough posi- 21 tive times to get through the negative ones, he said. With prices back on the upswing, DeJong is looking to pay off debts and save any funds he can. Still, he said it is likely most of his funds will go toward feed. Many dairies will try to put much of their profits toward operating loans that paid for alfalfa hay. The best bet, DeJong said, is to pay bills every month and at the end of the year see if heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s made a profit. Those funds will go toward prepaying hay and grain for the next year. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The bottom line is, are you current, are you behind or can you prepay?â&#x20AC;? DeJong said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Any extra money now thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s made is going back into feed.â&#x20AC;?

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Milk prices are on the rise after a six-month slump that is costing dairies in Oregon and across the west. â&#x20AC;&#x153;There are literally hundreds of dairies getting foreclosed on because of the last six months,â&#x20AC;? said Richard DeJong, of the Langell Valley Dairy. His dairy has survived, but he said it has been a challenge. â&#x20AC;&#x153;You do what you can,â&#x20AC;? DeJong said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Bite the bullet and hang on.â&#x20AC;? The University of Wisconsin listed milk prices at a low of $16.20 per hundredweight in May and June. In January the price was $19 and by September the price was back up at $19.10. In 2011 the prices reached as high as $21.80 in July, according to University of Wisconsin statistics. In January 2011 the price was low, at $16.70. In 2010 milk prices dropped even lower to $14.60 in April. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s extremely difficult from a financial perspective for a dairyman today,â&#x20AC;? said Jim Krahn, executive director of the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association. Dairies must be able to profit enough in the good times to survive the bad. For those with a debt load,

it is more difficult. But even those with less debt have to use their equity to keep going, Krahn said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;In either case itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not a good thing,â&#x20AC;? he said. Feed costs Low milk prices coupled with high input costs have put weight on dairies. One of the highest costs is feed. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve seen a tremendous increase in feed costs for a dairy operator,â&#x20AC;? Krahn said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;When we look at the price of milk today, that price is pretty good. But itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not good when you compare it with the cost of feed and other inputs.â&#x20AC;? For the past few years dairy farmers have lost out to ethanol when it comes to corn, Krahn said. Last year, 40 percent of corn was used for ethanol, he said. He expects the same this year. â&#x20AC;&#x153;It changed the entire dynamic for livestock producers,â&#x20AC;? Krahn said. Adding to the burden is the Midwest drought, making a less productive corn crop this year. â&#x20AC;&#x153;It will have some impact to the cost of grain,â&#x20AC;? Krahn said. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Who knows to what extent, but it will have an impact.â&#x20AC;? In Oregon, the drought may have less of an impact because some dairies produce their own corn


All-Oregon Thanksgiving feast pricier but possible LAURA FOSMIRE

The store has begun taking names for its Thanksgiving turkeys, which will be coming in from Deck Family Farm in Junction City. At $8.49 per pound, a large turkey can easily reach well over $100 â&#x20AC;&#x201D; or $135.84 for a 16-pounder. Rothâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Fresh Markets is another grocery chain that often features Oregon-specific products. Thanksgiving turkeys arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t on sale yet, but the chain plans to offer a number of options starting Wednesday. Peter McPartlin, the meat and seafood buyer for Rothâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s, said their turkeys will be coming from Utah and California. Although they arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t local birds, Rothâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s chose them because of a reputation of quality and the ability to keep up with high consumer demand. The Utah turkeys are from a national chain called Norbest and will cost $1.29 per pound. Another option will be free-range turkeys coming in from California, closer to $2.49 per pound.

STATESMAN JOURNAL

SALEM (AP) â&#x20AC;&#x201D; As Thanksgiving approaches and Oregonians begin their shopping, they might consider taking the local approach and opting for an all-Oregon feast. Although the choices are vast, the price range is not. The American Farm Bureau Federation takes an annual survey of the price of major components of a Thanksgiving dinner. According to this yearâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s survey, prices were slightly higher than 2011, but the overall average cost of the meal as a whole still came out to $49.48 for 10 people, or less than $5 per person. If shopping around for low prices is the goal of the meal, harvest fixtures such as turkeys and well. Thanksgiving can remain an af- pumpkins available in the state, an But it does cost more to eat local fordable holiday. But with so many Oregon-only holiday is possible as and to eat organic. The Farm Bureauâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s average finding of a 16-pound turkey came out to $22.23 in 2012. According to the details of the survey, participants were instructed to price only basic, frozen turkeys and not take into account organic, fresh or free-range birds. LifeSource, a locally owned natu- Information from: Statesman ral and organic grocery, boasts a Journal, http://www.statesmanlarge stock of Oregon-only prod- journal.com ucts. Ontarioâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Oldest and Most Reliable Wrecker Service Powder Coating & Sandblasting

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Net farm income approaches record high OF

cattle and dairy operators, for instance, had they not been required to pay high prices for feed. In some cases, higher feed prices have led to herd liquidation, which initially depresses market prices, but then causes the prices consumers pay for beef and dairy cattle to rise. Prices will likely stay up in 2012 and 2013, while inventories remain tight. Although net farm income has increased, cost control remains a major challenge and keeps income numbers from being even better. Last year’s total farm expenses were a record high for Oregon at $4.3 billion. “Feed costs were up almost 50 percent for livestock operators, fertilizer costs went up 36 percent, and the cost of petroleum fuels increased 28 percent,” says Searle. While rent and interest expenses

were relatively flat-certainly good news for the expense side-labor 23 costs were on the rise again. “The cost to pay farm employeeslargely because we have so many specialty crops that require hand harvesting-is the single largest expense for Oregon farmers. Last year, it topped $1 billion. In fact, overall labor costs continue to be higher in Oregon than net farm income. In other words, the total paycheck to Oregon’s farmworkers was larger than the total paycheck to Oregon’s farmers. Both need to grow for ag to remain viable.” It will be late summer of 2013 before this year’s balance sheet is finalized. So far, it appears many commodities are once again doing well even as livestock producer remain challenged by high feed costs. ARGUS OBSERVER, SUNDAY, NOV. 18, 2012 / INDEPENDENT ENTERPRISE, WEDNESDAY, NOV. 21, 2012

Oregon farmers and ranchers enjoyed one of the best bottom lines in recent times last year thanks to a combination of strong agricultural production and good prices for many of the state’s crops and livestock. Despite concerns over historically high expenses, Oregon’s 2011 net farm income shows continued recovery from the impact of the recession. “Overall, it was a great year,” says Brent Searle, analyst with the Oregon Department of Agriculture. “Oregon net farm income last year nearly doubled from 2010 and was the highest it has been since 2004. The industry has come out of the trough and many sectors appear to have turned a corner.” A newly released economic snapshot of Oregon agriculture shows net farm income at nearly $1.03 billion in 2011. That’s an improvement from the $519 million recorded in 2010 and continues a new trend of improving numbers after five years of decline. Net farm income is the amount retained by agricultural producers after paying all business-related expenses and is considered an important indicator of the agricultural economy’s overall health. Think of it as the farmer’s paycheck. Out of that paycheck, growers make payments on land purchases, family living expenses, and family health insurance. Statistics provided by the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS) show net farm income is cyclical. They also show that the average payout for Oregon farmers and ranchers may not be as high as you

would expect from a near recordbreaking year for net farm income. “On the whole, we are doing better, and that’s the good news,” says Searle. “But the income gains are not shared among all producers. The average farmer in Oregon earned $27,000 last year, even though the overall net farm income for the state exceeded a billion dollars.” With Oregon’s diverse agriculture, some producers did far better than the average while others, not so well. Much of that depends on the size of the operation and certainly what they are producing. The overall value of production increased last year. Crop production in 2011 jumped to more than $3.3 billion — an increase of about 23 percent, while the value of Oregon livestock production was more than $1.3 billion — an increase of about 18 percent. “Beef and dairy had good prices last year,” says Searle. “The value of beef production was up 34 percent and dairy products were up 28 percent. Crops did well too. Wheat set a record high in sales at more than $466 million, which was a 53 percent increase from 2010. Other field crops, such as hay, corn, and barley enjoyed their highest sales in years. Sweet cherries and blueberries have increased their production value tremendously the past couple of years. Again, Oregon’s diversified agriculture has helped overall net farm income.” However, what’s good news for some producers is not so good for others. The higher prices received by feed crop growers were paid by livestock owners. The bottom line would have been much rosier for

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