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An Oregon State Law Restricting Canola Cultivation is Expiring, Sparking a Battle Between Two Farmer

An Oregon state law restricting canola cultivation in Oregon’s Willamette Valley is set to expire on July 1, sparking a battle between two groups of farmers and their advocate-supporters.

Oregon’s Willamette Valley is a highly protected 125-mile span of farmland stretching south from Portland. The region is known for its diverse agriculture, and the production of grass seed, cover crop seed, and vegetable and flower seeds, which dominates the 1.7 million square acres, ranking the region as the world’s fifth top vegetable seed producing area in the world.

In 2013 the state took precautionary measures restricting canola cultivation to 500 acres or less, to protect the valley from pest, disease, and weed issues that could harm its vegetable seed industry. Now, as this law is set to expire on July 1, canola farmers and vegetable seed growers are squaring off over the future of agricultural production in the valley.

A state-mandated OSU study that collected data on disease and pest impacts from the 500 acres of canola planted in the state found that there were no agronomic or biological reasons to prohibit canola production in the state - which the Willamette Valley Oilseed Producers Association touted as clearance for production. However, the study did not address cross-pollination issues, and the vegetable seed industry remains steadfast in their opposition.

After years of meetings and negotiations with parties on both sides of the argument, the Oregon Department of Agriculture has drafted regulations for canola production that leave both sides dissatisfied. And as July 1 approaches, there is a growing chance that SB 885 - the law limiting canola cultivation to 500 acres - will be renewed by the end of June with a new deadline of 2023.

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