Canola (aka rapeseed) opponents are celebrating the announcement that canola will not be planted in the Willamette Valley this year. The Oregon Court of Appeals has put a stay on a temporary rule that would have allowed the controversial crop to be planted in an expanded area this fall on about 480,000 acres in the valley.
Canola is grown as a food crop and for biofuels, but vegetable and specialty seed producers say the plant acts like a weed, cross-contaminates with vegetable seed crops like turnips and rutabagas, and conventional canola seed is often contaminated by genetically modified (GMO) canola. The Willamette Valley has had a 3.7 million acre zone from Portland to Springfield that protected Oregon’s $32 million a year seed industry from canola contamination. The new rule would have allowed canola at the edges of the zone.
Leah Rodgers, field director for Friends of Family Farmers, which was part of the case along with the Center for Food Safety, Frank Morton of Wild Garden Seed and others, said in a Labor Day weekend announcement about the ruling that the fight is not over. The Oregon Department of Agriculture has filed for permanent rulemaking on canola. Unlike the temporary rulemaking, the permanent rule does allow for public input. Rodgers said that allowing canola in the valley “would change the face of the Willamette Valley, the lives and livelihoods of growers and the economic security of this state.”
The Oregon Court of Appeals wrote that FFF and its fellow petitioners demonstrated “the requisite prospect of irreparable harm” in their petition for a stay on the rule. And the court said it also took into account the “vehemently disputed” environmental and economic impacts of allowing rapeseed in valley put forth by Oregonians for Food and Shelter in an amicus brief.
The court ruled that the canola opponents had a “very substantial likelihood of prevailing on the merits” in the case, and at one point it called the ODA’s statement on what would happen if canola was not planted “inscrutable.”
A public hearing on the permanent canola rule has been scheduled for 9 am Friday, Sept. 28, at Cascade Hall at the Oregon State Fairgrounds, 2330 17th St. NE, in Salem. For more information on the canola control area issue and the proposed permanent rule, go to http://wkly.ws/1c4