CORVALLIS, Ore. — New rules passed down by the Oregon Department of Agriculture Thursday have many Oregon farmers fearful of the future of organic seed farming. The ODA is allowing canola seed production in the Willamette Valley despite concerns from organic seed farmers about cross contamination.
The Willamette Valley has been an exclusion zone for canola production because of that fear. But now the ODA says it wants to provide an opportunity for canola seed farmers. Organic seed farmers say production will create cross contamination, pests and disease, and a hit to the industry all together. That’s because canola is in the same family as vegetables like radish, kale and broccoli. Farmers say a genetically-modified canola seed can be spread by wind, birds or water, and can cross pollinate with one of those organic vegetable seeds, bringing down its value.
“Because this region is used for growing seed for other markets, they demand pure seed,” said farmer Clint Lindsey with Greenwillow Grains. “So if they can’t get pure seed here, they will go somewhere where they can.”
But ODA leaders said Thursday that farmers should not be concerned. The new rules will limit how much canola can be grown at a cap of 2,500 acres–that’s 0.13 percent of farmable land in the valley. Production will be excluded from certain areas where there is a high concentration of organic seed farms.
But Lindsey says allowing just some canola seed can still contaminate and is opening a door for a growing market.
This new rule and its new boundaries goes into effect immediately. Opponents of this rule are trying to push legislation to ban canola in the Willamette Valley and/or push countywide ordinances to ban genetically modified organisms.