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Oregon net farm income reverses decline

September 30, 2011 --

Oregon net farm income shows moderate rise in 2010
— Nursery sales are still down, slowing net farm income growth
Farmers & ranchers begin to bounce back from a bad 2009
By Oregon Department of Agriculture

After a dismal 2009, the bottom line for Oregon’s farmers and ranchers last year showed modest improvement. However, it will take a much larger gain before the state’s net farm income is restored to its lofty pre-recession numbers.

“Overall, agriculture did a little better in 2010,” says Brent Searle, analyst with the Oregon Department of Agriculture. “Oregon net farm income is up about eight percent. But it’s a very slow dig out of a precipitous fall in 2009.”

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Survey shows winegrape shortages

September 29, 2011 --

CALIFORNIA: Economy and weather put the squeeze on wine grape supply, survey finds
Cool weather and a damaging freeze in the Central Coast have significantly reducing this year’s wine grape yield in California, according to GSM professor emeritus Robert Smiley.
By University of California Davis

The sluggish economy and unusually cool weather this season have dramatically tightened the supply of wine grapes, a situation that will likely continue for several years, reports Robert Smiley, dean and professor emeritus at the University of California, Davis, Graduate School of Management.

“Even though we have technically been out of the recession for two years, growers have been reluctant to expand their plantings or replace older vineyards that are moving into declining production,” Smiley said.

“Cooler weather — including a very damaging freeze in the Central Coast — have compounded the problem by significantly reducing this year’s wine grape yield in California,” he added.

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Arsenic in Apple Juice: Strong Poison or Much Ado About Nothing?

September 28, 2011 --

by Richard Goldfarb
Stoel Rives LLP, NW Law Firm
Food Liability Law Blog

It’s the battle of the network talking heads, M.D. division.  In this corner, Dr. Mehmet Oz, host of the Dr. Oz Show on FOX, and former Oprah Winfrey contributor.  In the other corner, Dr. Richard Besser, former head of the Centers for Disease Control and now chief health and medical director of ABC News.  The issue:  is there too much arsenic in apple juice marketed to consumers, including kids?

Click on the links above to see the positions of the two sides.  Basically, Dr. Oz did a study of apple juice and found elevated levels of arsenic in excess of the amounts the FDA approves for simple bottled water.  Weighing in on the side of Dr. Besser (or perhaps vice versa), though, is the FDA itself, which rather loudly is proclaiming “tosh.”  Or, rather, “Apple Juice is Safe to Drink.”

It’s hard to wade through the rhetoric here to figure out who’s “right”, particularly when even Dr. Oz is not recommending anyone give up apple juice because of the risk of arsenic.  The FDA and the manufacturers all dispute both Dr. Oz’s test results–they both tested juice from the same batches and came up with significantly lower levels of total arsenic–and criticize him for testing only for total arsenic, instead of distinguishing between inorganic arsenic, which is really bad, and organic arsenic, which the FDA says is generally safe and is ordinarily the kind of arsenic found in apple juice (but not in bottled water).  Dr. Oz’s response doesn’t seem to be all that persuasive; if the juice doesn’t test for too much inorganic arsenic (or too much total arsenic), does it matter that it comes from countries that use arsenic as pesticides?  And arguments about whether apple juice is better for you than eating raw apples are neither made stronger nor weaker if the level of arsenic is insignificant.

Although known to the ancients as a poison, arsenic has many benign uses, including being used in the first effective treatment of syphillis.  Along with other poisonous chemicals, it was used for centuries in makeup.  The plot of Dorothy L. Sayers novel Strong Poison centers on a murder by arsenic poisoning, where the murderer (SPOILER ALERT!) developed a resistance to arsenic over time, and thus survived while eating the exact meal as his victim.  The story was suggested by the tale of King Mithridates, as A.E. Housman wrote in “A Shropshire Lad,”

They put arsenic in his meat
And stared aghast to watch him eat;

Today, arsenic is used in semiconductors and light-emitting diodes.

It is not for this blog, of course, to weigh in on the actual merits of the controversy.  But we note that comments in the popular media about the safety of food can have a really strong, negative impact on purveyors of food items, whether they are true or not.  A strong debate about food safety is always welcome, but the use of sensationalist headlines and a failure to meet scientific arguments head on can leave misleading impressions that can have really significant impacts on real people.  Stay tuned.

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Minimimum wage hike not helping Ag

September 27, 2011 --

By Curt Kipp,
Daily Digger
Oregon Association of Nurseries

Oregon’s minimum wage will go up by 30 cents per hour at the end of the year, state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian announced this month. The new amount will be $8.80 per hour, starting on Jan. 1, 2012. The hike matches a 3.77 percent increase in the Consumer Price Index since last August, as mandated by Ballot Measure 25, which Oregon voters approved in 2002.

Oregon nurseries are a traded sector providing jobs in urban and rural Oregon. Roughly three-fourths of Oregon’s nursery products are shipped out of state, pumping dollars into the state economy. Starting nursery workers typically are paid well above the Oregon minimum wage, at more than $10 per hour. Nonetheless, the wage hike may be voter approved but is certainly not wise in this economic climate, according to Patrick Capper, director of government relations for the 1,100-member Oregon Association of Nurseries.

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Oregon Asia trade trip made into video — Japan

Ranchers win Idaho court victory

September 25, 2011 --

PLC, NCBA and ICA Granted Authority to Defend Ranchers in Court Room
By National Cattlemen’s Beef Association

WASHINGTON – The U.S. District Court, District of Idaho, yesterday, Sept. 22, 2011, granted the Public Lands Council (PLC), the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the Idaho Cattle Association (ICA) intervenor status in the Western Watershed Project’s (WWP) challenge of the Bureau of Land Management’s public lands grazing permit decisions. Specifically, WWP challenged grazing permits based on accusations that BLM did not account for preservation of sage grouse habitat. According to Dustin Van Liew, PLC executive director and NCBA director of federal lands, the accusations were not based on science and were presented solely to eliminate ranchers’ ability to graze livestock on public lands. He said having intervenor status will allow the groups to fully participate in the legal proceedings.

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Both Obama, Boehner seek Super Committee role expansion

September 23, 2011 --

Obama and Boehner Look to Expand Super Committee’s Task
BY National Association of Wheat Growers

President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) both added to the super committee’s already-considerable to-do list, while the director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said the panel must decide on any substantial changes by early November to meet its deadlines.

The bipartisan and bicameral group charged with finding at least $1.5 trillion – and maybe much more – to cut from federal spending met publicly and privately this week, as new questions about its task and timeline emerged.

At a hearing on Tuesday, Members of the committee heard from CBO Director Doug Elmendorf, who outlined in sometimes exhaustive detail the nation’s fiscal situation and the negative effects of the slowed economy.

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Wolves making comeback in Oregon

September 22, 2011 --

Natural Resource News Note:

Wolves, once hunted to extinction in the lower 48, are making a comeback, reports the Corvallis Gazette-Times. Rancher Denny Johnson complains that the predators have killed five of his cattle since last fall, including bull worth $5,000. “We’re not raising cattle for the government zoo,” he said. “Most of the people I know in the county who are for the wolves have no skin in the game. But it’s changing our life. It’s more stress on our family.”  More than 1600 wolves reportedly live in the Northern Rockies today—enough that Congress has removed them from the endangered species list in the eastern third of Washington and Oregon. Of those 1600, about 25 are believed to live in Washington and Oregon.

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Forest protestors rise up again in Oregon

September 21, 2011 --

Forest Policy Briefs (Excerpts)
by Rex Storm, Forest Policy Manager
Associated Oregon Loggers

State Timber Protestors: The self-proclaimed “Cascadia Forest Defenders” failed in previous State Forest illegal protests two and ten years ago, during which dozens of people were quickly arrested. Quick arrest and dispersal is key to discouraging such protests. “I think we’re all pretty okay with going to jail. When legal routes don’t work, sometimes it’s necessary to put yourself between the saws,” said a current protestor. Protestors said in a list of demands that their priority is stopping all native forest logging on Oregon public lands.

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Oregon discovers North America’s earliest beaver

September 20, 2011 --

A Dam Important Find!
North America’s Earliest Beaver Discovered in Oregon
By Bureau of Land Management Oregon

PORTLAND, Ore. – A new fossil find represents the earliest record of living beavers (Castor) in North America. A pair of teeth was found on BLM land near Dayville, Oregon by BLM staff during the course of their normal duties. These teeth come from the Rattlesnake Formation and are between 7 and 7.3 million years old.

Worldwide, the earliest “true” beaver, as we would think of them today, comes from Germany, about 10 to 12 million years ago. These beavers then spread across Asia, and eventually crossed the Bering Land Bridge to North America. The new find helps resolve when beavers dispersed to North America from Asia, and when the two living species, the North American Castor canadensis and Eurasian Castor fiber, diverged.

Read the full article and discuss it »
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