grass seed industry feels betrayed
Capital Press 9/8/08
(AP) - Oregon's chief air quality regulator says there's no intent
to drive the grass-seed industry out of business. But a chief
spokesman for the industry says growers feel betrayed.
Both are talking about the decision by Gov. Ted Kulongoski to seek
an end to agricultural field burning in the Willamette Valley
The governor directed the Department of Environmental Quality to
draft legislation to that effect. The bill has been submitted to
legislative counsel and will be introduced when the Legislature
convenes in January.
In an explanation of the bill, the DEQ says smoke from field
burning "can be a significant health issue for people sensitive to
the pollutants found in smoke. While efforts are made to conduct
burning under optimum conditions, impacts from field burning smoke
In 1991, the Legislature reduced, in stages, the acreage of open
burning each summer until it reached the current maximum 65,000
The world has changed since 1991, said Andy Ginsburg, air quality
administrator with the DEQ.
He thinks that while growers in the valley could not get by
without some burning then, they may well be able to adapt now.
Grass seed growers burn their fields to help rid them of disease
"Washington state has banned field burning and the grass seed
industry is still thriving there," he said in an interview.
"The governor is concerned about the economy too and there's no
intent to drive the grass-seed industry out of business," Ginsburg
said. But at this point the concern about exposure to smoke is
outweighing other concerns, according to him.
Roger Beyer, the former state senator who has been spokesman for
the Oregon Seed Council since July, said the growers feel betrayed
by the proposal.
They have put up more money for research into making ethanol from
the straw of annual ryegrass, the kind that is typically still
burned, and it's shortsighted to enact a ban before that plays
out, Beyer said in an interview.
The ethanol research "is looking pretty good," he said, but it
will be at least three years before anything can be built.
Ginsburg said that weighing the pros and cons of a ban is not a
"Good strong arguments can be made on both sides," he said.
"That's why we elect our officials ... It's really a matter of
balancing incompatible interests."
While an early draft of the bill would limit burning to 40,000
acres in 2009, Ginsburg said that part's been dropped because it
would be too late to change the system by the time the bill