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Oregon legislature considers making restrictions on canola farming permanent

A canola field with a mountain in the background.
File photo
Oregon Department of Agriculture
A canola field in Oregon.

Restrictions on canola farming in the Willamette Valley are set to expire this June. Now, a contentious state bill would make them permanent.

A small number of farmers in Oregon grow canola. But the plant can cross-pollinate with mustard and other relatives, damaging the yields of specialty seed growers.

Currently, a protected district stretches from Multnomah to Lane County. There, canola farming is capped at 500 acres, and it must be at least three miles away from any vulnerable crops. Advocates want to keep these restrictions.

Alice Morrison is with Friends of Family Farmers. At a hearing on Senate Bill 789 this month, she said that growers rely on specialty seeds as an efficient source of revenue.

“It's time to make the protected district permanent and give Oregon growers peace of mind,” she testified.

Opponents of the bill point to an Oregon State University study from 2017, which found that the local canola industry could safely expand beyond its current limits.

Rep. Anna Scharf, R-Amity, is among those in opposition to the bill. She said it gives special treatment to powerful seed companies.

A vote has not yet been scheduled. If the bill is post for for a work session by the this week, it will be dead. However, legislative concepts can be resurrected in various ways, even after deadlines.

Nathan Wilk is a freelance reporter and former reporting intern. He began in radio at a young age, serving as a DJ and public affairs host across Oregon. He is a senior at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication.