The Legal Battle to Grow Canola in Oregon’s Willamette Valley
Restrictions on canola production have been in place in Oregon’s Willamette Valley for more than 25 years due to fears expressed by specialty seed producers who worry that cross pollination with related brassica crops will negatively impacy their businesses and market. Because canola is grown for oil and not genetics, seed producers worry about canola growers’ willingness to be strident in their goals of avoiding cross pollination.
In 2013, state lawmakers were considering an outright ban on canola production in the Willamette Valley, however, a six-year moratorium was adopted to allow Oregon State University (OSU) to conduct a three-year, 500-acre study on the crop’s potential to be the cause weed and disease issues. Although limits will likely continue to be placed on canola cultivation in the region, Oregon’s House and Senate have approved House Bill 3382, allowing for 500 acres of canola to be grown in the area through 2019, despite the overall moratorium on the practice.
To appease seed producers who oppose the measure, lawmakers included clauses in HB 3382 that place new conditions on the canola research being carried out by OSU in the valley. Because of fears that OSU and the Oregon Department of Agriculture have a ‘pro canola bias’, the bill has been amended to require that OSU’s research be evaluated by vegetable seed experts, and include historical data on canola’s interaction with other brassica crops in other regions.