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Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.

Oregonians for Food and Shelter

April 1, 2011

Today I've included four articles that Paulette wanted to share with you: 
  • H R 872 Passes the US House of Representatives
  • The Other BiOp
  • Organic Crops Alone Can't Feed the World
  • Court reinstates the Western Oregon Plan Revisions (WOPR) (Judge sends Oregon timber plans back to Interior)

Please plan on attending Natural Resources Day on Tuesday, April 19th at the Oregon State Capitol.  Click here for further information: http://www.growingoregon.org/

Enjoy your weekend!

Sandi, Paulette & Terry

With Walden’s support, House moves to protect farmers and others from duplicative permit requirement that threatens public health
March 31, 2011

The House of Representatives today passed bipartisan legislation that would block new regulations that would subject farmers, mosquito control districts, and others to duplicative permitting and tens of thousands of dollars in counter-productive fines. 

The legislation, H.R. 872, is cosponsored by Rep. Greg Walden. The bill is necessary to address negative economic and public health consequences of the ruling posed by the case National Cotton Council v. EPA (6th Cir. 2009). Under the court ruling, pesticide users would have to obtain a duplicative permit under the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) or be subject to a fine of up to $37,500 per day per violation. The new permitting process would not only endanger public health by subjecting mosquito control districts to new permitting requirements under the CWA, it would put further strain on states whose agencies would have to establish new systems to administer and comply with the requirements. 

“This court-ordered growth of unnecessary regulation threatens jobs and public health in rural Oregon,” Rep. Walden said. “The FIFRA registration and labeling process is and should remain the one and only standard for pesticide approval. It is imperative that this legislation quickly gain the Senate’s approval so the President can sign it into law and prevent the economic havoc that the Sixth Circuit Court’s ruling would have on our farmers, ranchers, and local governments. Without clarification from Congress that pesticides should only be regulated by EPA’s FIFRA process, I fear the next step may be regulation of farm spray rigs under the Clean Water Act.” 

The bill amends the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the CWA to clarify Congressional intent and eliminate the requirement of a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for the application of pesticides already approved for specific use under FIFRA. Clarification is needed from Congress to prevent further duplicative regulation and CWA application permits for the use of pesticides by farmers and foresters in accordance with the prescriptive FIFRA label. 

In 2006, EPA issued a rule exempting applications of aquatic pesticides from CWA permitting. However, the 2009 ruling by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned EPA’s rule and directed the agency to develop such a permit – nearly doubling both the population of entities permitted under the CWA, as well as the obligations of state regulators. 

The list of groups and individuals affected is long: farmers; ranchers; forest managers; scientists; state agencies; city and county municipalities; parks and recreation managers; utility rights-of-way managers; railroads, roads and highway vegetation managers mosquito control districts; water districts and managers of canals and other water conveyances; and pesticide applicators. 

If the legislation does not become law and the court’s decision goes into effect, it will mean approximately 6 million pesticide applications will have to be issued each year to hundreds of thousands of users or they risk facing a fine of up to $37,500 per day per violation. 

Our thanks to Representatives Greg Walden, Kurt Schrader and David Wu for voting YES on this important bill.  If you live outside of Oregon, check out this link to see how your Congressman voted:  Roll Call Vote: HR 872

Immediately following the passage of HR 872, Rep. Frank Lucas (R- OK) and Rep. Collin Peterson (D- MN), Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Committee respectively, released a joint statement praising the House passage of the bill. Lucas lauded his colleagues saying, “I am proud to be a part of the bipartisan effort that led to the House passage of H.R. 872. The last thing the agricultural community needs is another government mandate. This bill eliminates a costly and duplicative permitting requirement that is the result of a court’s fundamental ignorance of Congressional intent.  I urge my colleagues in the Senate to join our efforts so that we can get a bill to the President before more valuable resources are wasted”. Peterson also called on the Upper Chamber to act saying, “The courts are not the place to decide agriculture policy and this bill makes clear that it was never the intent of Congress to burden producers with additional permit requirements that would have little to no environmental benefit. I urge the Senate to quickly follow suit and provide certainty to producers by passing this legislation”.

Salmon can spoil an argument
By Tracy Warner, The Wenachee World, Editorial Page Editor, Wednesday, March 30, 2011 

You get the sense that some people are fed up. They are ready for this to be over. The never-ending lawsuit should end. Federal District Court Judge James Redden should approve the government’s salmon plan, the highly refined and rightly praised version that resulted from his decade of serial rejection. This legal battle should at last see its sun set, because the arguments in the negative are starting to look a little silly. There are just too many salmon. 

At issue is something called the Biological Opinion, known as the BiOp, which in great detail sets out the federal government’s plans for operating its Columbia and Snake River dams, and everything associated with them, in such a manner as to avoid the extinction of 13 species of salmon and steelhead. This plan is developed to satisfy the all-powerful Endangered Species Act. It cost millions to produce and will cost billions to implement, and the effort is under way. Producing it required a keen sense of diplomacy, intense deliberations, and sorting out the mountainous contributions of science. The most recent, we should say the final version sits before Judge Redden who soon is expected to rule on whether it meets requirements. If justice prevails he will say yes, thanks, this will do. 

The Northwest’s electric ratepayers, who provide the deep pockets for it all, will be better for it. The agencies that do the beneficial work for fish runs will be better for it. The salmon will be better for it. The people disappointed will be those who yearned for a day when a federal judge might order the government to send the Snake River around the dams they hate, instead of through them, so all their useful, clean megawatts and other benefits for humankind will be lost. Whatever the benefit to salmon wouldn’t really matter. 

The arguments began during the Clinton administration, when salmon were genuinely scarce and suffering. The federal government submitted a plan and environmentalists, tribes and offended states sued, calling it woefully inadequate. The judge agreed. Then another plan, a rejection, another plan and a rejection. The plan became the “Bush administration” plan, as if the name was enough to condemn it. And finally, it became the Obama administration plan, refined to the utmost degree, approved by the world’s best scientists, backed by most tribes, and all states save Oregon, requiring a ratepayer investment of $1 billion a year and the most extensive habitat restorations ever undertaken. By judge’s order it considers breaching of the Snake River dams a contingency, a last resort, and the government has agreed to compile a plan to study the possibility of developing a plan in the unlikely case such a plan would be needed. Clearly, it will not make dam breaching imminent. 

The Obama administration in its final brief pointed out the obvious. In the last 20 years Columbia and Snake salmon runs have gone from nearly nothing to breaking records, to abundance not seen since dams were first built. Fish runs that could be counted on one hand a dozen years ago now come by the thousands. The 2010 wild fall Chinook run on the Snake River topped 4,000. (The wild and hatchery run combined exceeded 41,000 at Lower Granite Dam in 2010, a record.). Snake River sockeye, the poster children of the salmon wars, reached 1,316. Wild spawning salmon are on the rise. The counters just found 5,626 fall Chinook redds (the nests full of soon-to-hatch eggs) on the Snake, which is 1,910 more than the record set only a year ago. Forecasters are predicting record Chinook runs on the Snake River again this year. The Columbia fall Chinook run, not endangered, is expected to reach 760,000 fish, the fifth largest run since 1948. 

The arguments of the BiOp opponents, that salmon are on the brink of extinction and that desperate measures — dam breaching — are required to save them, hold less and less water as each fish goes by. Approve the plan, so we can move ahead, for the fish and all of us.

Organic Crops Alone Can't Feed the World
By James E. McWilliams
March 10, 2011 


The Food and Agriculture Organization predicts that the global population will increase by 2.3 billion between now and 2050. This demographic explosion, intensified by an emerging middle class in China and India, will require the world's farmers to grow at least 70 percent more food than we now produce. Making matters worse, there's precious little arable land left (PDF) for agricultural expansion. Barring a radical rejection of the Western diet, skyrocketing demand for food will have to be met by increasing production on pre-existing acreage. No matter how effectively we streamline access to existing food supplies, 90 percent of the additional calories required by midcentury will have to come through higher yields per acre. 

How this will happen is one of the more contentious issues in agriculture. A particularly vocal group insists that we can avoid a 21st- century Malthusian crisis by transitioning wholesale to organic production—growing food without synthetic chemicals in accordance with the environmentally beneficial principles of agro-ecology.  As recently as last September the Rodale Institute, an organization dedicated to the promotion of organic farming, reiterated this precept in no uncertain terms. "Organic farming," it declared, "is the only way to feed the world." 

This is an exciting claim. Organic agriculture, after all, is the only approach to growing food that places primary emphasis on enhancing soil health. But is the assertion accurate? Can we actually feed the world with organic agriculture? 

New research undertaken by Dr. Steve Savage, an agricultural scientist and plant pathologist, indicates that it's unlikely. In 2008 the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service conducted the first comprehensive survey of certified organic agriculture. The study—which had a 90 percent participation rate among U.S. organic farmers who responded to the 2007 Census of Agriculture—recorded acreage, yield, and value for dozens of crops on more than 14,500 farms, in all 50 states. 

Savage took these unprecedented USDA/NASS data and compared them with similar USDA statistics from conventional agriculture during the same crop year. (The USDA tallies conventional agriculture stats every year in order to track U.S. agricultural output over time.) The reason why the USDA did not make the comparison to organic production itself is anyone's guess. But what Savagefound strongly suggests that organic production, for all its ecological benefits, is in no position to confront the world's impending demand for food.

Perhaps Savage's most striking finding is how few U.S. acres are actually in organic production. Characterizations of organic agriculture routinely portray it as a hard-charging underdog capable of competing for market share with conventional agribusiness. The USDA's Economic Research Service, for example, notes how "Organic agriculture has become one of the fastest growing segments of US agriculture." It's surprising, then, that the 1.6 million acres of harvested organic cropland in 2008 comprised a mere 0.52 percent of total crop acreage in the United States, as Savage found. 

Savage's methodology couldn't have been simpler: He lined up and charted organic and conventional yield data for the same crop and state in which they were harvested. Although Savage was working with, as he put it, "the largest such data set on Organic that I have heard of," it wasn't without limitations. The USDA/NASS studies tracked harvested acres without differentiating between irrigated and non-irrigated acreage; it gathered data on planted vs. harvested acres for some crops but not others; it did not account for systems in which "baby vegetable" crops (usually organic) are grown in short rotations on the same plot (such as spinach, lettuce, and carrots) and thus have lower yields; and it omitted some data that would have revealed too much information about individual farmers, in cases where very few growers produce a particular crop. 

But even with these qualifications, the numbers are discouraging for the organic option. The rubber really hits the road when it comes to yield. To its credit, organic does quite well in many cases: Sweet potatoes, raspberries, canola, and hay all yielded higher nationally than their conventional counterparts. At the state level, organic squash did better in Oregon than conventional squash; in Arizona and Colorado, organic apples yielded slightly higher than conventional ones; and in Washington state organic peaches beat out conventional varieties. In essence, there's a lot here for organic supporters to cherry-pick as evidence of organic's yield potential (but not cherries, which yielded much lower). 

Unfortunately, there's little hope in feeding the world with higher yields of sweet potatoes, peaches, and raspberries—much less hay. What matters most is the performance of basic row-crops. As it turns out, yields were dramatically lower for these commodities: 40 percent lower for winter wheat, 29 percent lower for corn, 34 percent lower for soy, 53 percent lower for spring wheat, 41 percent lower for rice, 58 percent lower for sorghum, and 64 percent lower for millet. Canola was the only row-crop with greater yields with organic farming. 

What we might call "secondary staples" did poorly as well. The organic option yielded 28 percent lower for potatoes, 21 percent lower for sweet corn, 38 percent lower for onions, 19 percent lower for snap beans, and 52 percent lower for bell peppers. Perhaps most distressingly, some of the healthiest foods on the planet yielded comparatively poorly under organic production: 42 percent lower for blueberries, 23 percent lower for broccoli, and almost 40 percent lower for tomatoes. 

Given these figures, a switch to organic agriculture would require a 43 percent increase over current U.S. cropland, according to Savage. As he puts it, "On a land-area basis, this additional area would be 97% the physical size of Spain or 71% the size of Texas." (Yes, Texas is bigger than Spain.) These are depressing figures, especially in light of the fact that global food demand is entering a 40-year upward trend. It's no wonder that Savage, who spent part of his career developing organic pest controls, concludes that organic "is too small and unproductive to ever be the 'solution' to our need to simultaneously feed the world and protect the environment," as he told me via e-mail. 

So should we dismiss organic agriculture outright? Absolutely not. Organic may not be "the" solution to global food demand, but it can certainly be part of it. As Jason Clay, senior vice president of the World Wildlife Fund, writes, "I think we need a new kind of agriculture—kind of a third agriculture, between the big agribusiness, commercial approach to agriculture, and the lessons from organic and local systems." With enhanced investment in agricultural research, there's every reason to hope that organic yields will improve and that the organic model will become more prominent. The fact that we're not yet there, as Savage's study verifies, doesn't mean we should abandon the quest for agricultural systems that are both high yielding and as ecologically responsible as they can be.

Judge sends Oregon timber plans back to Interior
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Lawrence Hurley, E&E reporter 

A federal judge ruled today that the Interior Department failed to follow the correct legal procedures in withdrawing a George W. Bush administration plan to increase the timber harvest in western Oregon. 

In December 2008, at the tail end of the Bush administration, Interior approved a plan for six Bureau of Land Management districts, covering 2.5 million acres of land. 

Seven months later, the Obama administration sought to withdraw the plan, saying BLM had failed to conduct necessary consultation under the Endangered Species Act.

Timber companies quickly sought legal review of that decision. 

In today's ruling, U.S. District Judge John Bates of the District of Columbia agreed that the Obama administration had cut corners. 

Bates wrote that the administration violated the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, which, among other things, requires the government to seek public comment before updating land management plans. 

Even if the government's claim that the Bush administration had failed to consult on endangered species issues was correct, that did not mean it could then ignore the FLPMA requirements, Bates added. 

It is not clear whether Bates' decision means that the Bush administration plan now goes into effect or whether the land in question will, as it was originally, be subject to the Northwest Forest Plan that was set up in 1994 to protect the habitat of the northern spotted owl. 

"What it means in practice is less than clear," said Susan Jane Brown, an attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center, who represented conservation groups that intervened on the side of the government. 

Click here to read the opinion.


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