Farmers in Oregon’s Willamette Valley can now grow canola. The oil-rich crop has been controversial in Oregon. That’s because organic vegetable seed farmers fear new pests and cross-pollination.
Growing canola had previously been banned from the Willamette Valley. Starting now, valley farmers can grow a total of 2,500 acres of canola a year.
And only in an area outside a protected zone. That’s away from the highest concentration of specialty seed farmers. According to Oregon State University, Willamette Valley is one of five areas in the world that grows specialty vegetable seeds. The farmers worry insects, disease, and cross-pollination might soon follow the canola.
Bruce Pokarney is with the Oregon Department of Agriculture. He said the department will enforce management practices, like seed handling and transportation.
“Just a number of things that are really designed to keep canola from spreading into areas where it’s not supposed to be,” Pokarney said.
Farmers must also request to grow the crop each year. They’ll sign a contract with the department on Sept. 1.
Canola seeds can be used in renewable fuels. It’s also becoming a popular rotation crop in the Northwest. Farmers are able to make more money off canola than similar crops. According to the 2007 NASS Census of Agriculture, canola was valued at $450 per acre in 2007. Both Washington and Idaho have seen increases in canola production in the past several years.
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