Oregon County Mandates 2,000 Acre Organic Farm Sprayed With Chemical Herbicides

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

A 2,000 acre organic farm in central Oregon is facing what could be a be an existential threat to its operations after county weed control authorities sent notice mandating that the farm use chemical herbicides, such as Roundup, to eradicate weed growth.

The mandate would bring to an end nearly 18 years of organic farming, placing a significant loss of organic food to the public.

Azure Farms is a certified organic farm located in Moro, Sherman County, Oregon. The farm produces almost all the organic wheat, field peas, barley, Einkorn, and beef for Azure Standard.

Sherman County could issue a court order on May 22, 2017 to quarantine Azure Farms and possibly to spray the entire farm with poisonous herbicides contaminating them with Milestone, Escort, and Roundup.

Such a unilateral action on the behalf of the few individuals representing county government could set a precedent in damaging perhaps one of the few remaining healthy alternatives to mass-market agribusinesses.

Oregon State law requires arms to control noxious weeds, in the case of Azure Farms Canadian Thistle. But in this instance Sherman County states that the farm is not doing enough to control this noxious weed through organic means. Instead, it was determined that the farm use a scorched earth herbicide to do what it states is an eradication effort rather than a control measures county officials consider ineffective.

In an appeal to the public for help, Azure Farms issued a statement that reads in part:

This will destroy all the efforts as your farm has made for years to produce the very cleanest and healthiest food humanly possible. About 2,000 acres will be impacted; that is 2.8 times the size of The City of London that is about to be sprayed with noxious, toxic, polluting herbicides.

The county would then put a lien on the farm to pay for the expense of the labor and chemicals used.

As if it was not enough to relegate the farm to being contaminated with hazardous chemicals, adding insult to injury the county is forcing the organic farm to pay for its own demise.

Azure Standard, the owner of Azure Farms, is the largest distributor of organic and non-GMO foods in the United States. The company received an email from Sherman County officials stating that the county had changed its interpretation of the statutory code regarding weed control on organic farms. They decided that control of noxious weeds simply is not enough and that instead thay want to eradicate noxious weeds. It is very difficult to fully eradicate weeds in an organic farming.

The farm may soon receive a court order to apply herbicides to the farm during a hearing on May 22 if the court follows the county’s demand.

One single application of a chemical herbicide is enough for an organic farm to lose its USDA Organic Certification. According the USDA:

Any land used to produce raw organic commodities must not have had prohibited substances applied to it for the past three years. Until the full 36-month transition period is met, you may not:

  • Sell, label, or represent the product as “organic”
  • Use the USDA organic or certifying agent’s seal

One can only imagine the economic impact for a three year period in which an organic farm cannot be certified. But aside from the certification issue, the provenance of the farm could be damaged and there may be residuals remaining in the soil.

It is not only an economic cost to the farm, but a loss of supply for many who are concerned about health risks with chemicals such as Roundup, a herbicide listed as a “Probable Human Carcinogen” by the Europeans.

Given the size of the chemical herbicide industry that faces loss of sales due to public demand for greater access to organic foods, a very convenient way to force herbicide might be through friendly faces in noxious weed control districts.

Update: Agricultural Scientist Responds To Oregon County’s Mandate To Apply Herbicides To Organic Farm

Here follows a video news release from the farm along with contact information for Sherman County:

UPDATE: The Organic Farm and Sherman County have reached a tentative settlement.

By Darren Smith


Oregon Revised Statutes
Azure Standard
Sherman County Oregon Weed District

The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.

119 thoughts on “Oregon County Mandates 2,000 Acre Organic Farm Sprayed With Chemical Herbicides”

  1. How about labeling these invading illegal Monsanto plants “noxious weeds”


    This is harming Oregon’s economy (and other states’) much more than a perceived danger from controlled Canadian Thistle in Azure. Most of the world doesn’t want GMO’s whether we like it or don’t.
    We need to consider our losses from exports if nothing else.

  2. Divide and conquer, CV? I am in California and started a petition in Avaaz.org to help gather signatures for Azure. We are all in this together. Nothing works better against you that lack of unity. Leave your differences aside and don’t knock others that feel strongly about this, whoever they are, wherever they are from or whatever ideology they may have. I know many so called “socialists” here in California that are angry at what is happening to Azure and are supporting them. Many have been buying from Azure for years…the best kind of support you can offer.

    1. Isabel,
      Thanks so much for standing with those of us in Idaho who also use Azure and fight against big farms using chemical agriculture. If our Indian tribes could be educated on the value of, sustainable farming without poisoning our earth, Azure would have more advocates with true standing. Unfortunately, this opportunity has not yet been realized up here in Idaho. The tribes keep building casinos instead of tilling the good earth.
      Rachael Johnson
      Benewah County, Idaho

  3. Here’s a link to a Harvard University report that Roundup has stimulated the mutation of weeds that are resistant to Roundup. According to Harvard, there are 14 such species that have been identified in the U.S. alone.

    It rather defeats the whole idea of destroying Azure’s organic fields using Roundup: a product that has not only been deemed likely carcinogenic by the World Health Organization and California’s environmental agency; but it has created its own demise via Roundup resistant weeds. It is becoming less and less effective for the very job it was engineered for.


  4. Roundup should be the subject of this conversation, not Azure Standard. Go out and research it. Independent researchers have found links to cancer, ADHD, Alzheimers and a host of other disorders. There are lawsuits pending that claim Roundup caused non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in workers in California. In South America and India where they are using Roundup heavily, there is a marked increase in serious kidney issues including kidney failure, cancer and birth defects. The World Health Organization and California’s environmental agency have already listed it as a known carcinogen. There are already 20 years of research that call the effects of Roundup into question. During a court case in California, Monsanto was caught creating supporting research for Roundups safety and presenting it as independent data. Why did they feel the need to manufacture supporting evidence? Why do they feel the need to counter true independent research?

    I seems to me that forcing Azure Standard to be sprayed with Roundup is a smokescreen to gain support for the notion that the weeds are worse than the poison they are trying to manipulate people to use on their lands.

    It should be Monsanto and Roundup — and not Azure Standard & organic farming –who should be facing elimination. Do we really want another repeat of DDT: with 40 years of birth defects, damage to wildlife and our water supplies before we use our own Common Sense? Do we have to wait for the FDA and EPA to be forced through lawsuits, illness and death to face the truth?

    I support Azure Standard. For the health and the freedom of our land and people, I hope you will, too.

    1. Very well said! I agree too! Do they know that goats really enjoy weeds alot? Get some goats and see what happens! That at least would be an acceptable solution to both sides!

      1. Thank you Melissa. Goats do work quite well, though they don’t always discriminate what they are clearing! I am an organic gardener and I live on a glade where many species of plants grow that are considered weeds. Many of these “weeds” are healing plants that have been used for thousands of years to heal all kinds of disorders. Allopathic medicine has copied the wisdom of nature all along to make synthetic medicines. I appreciate that human beings need food and land to live on, but I can’t help but regret human shortsightedness when I hear the massive clearing of lands in South America and India; where there has not been scientific work completed to know the cures we might be destroying out of greed and a rush tomake money in the short-term.

        Morning glory is used in Chinese medicine and traditional herbal medicine as an aid for kidneys, the liver and large intestine. Canadian thistle is used to aid the heart and liver. I am not familiar with white top, but it is likely to have benefits as well.

        While these “weeds” can reduce other crops productivity, they have benefits to the soil as well. Comfrey, long booed by farmers as a noxious dangerous weed, has a deep root system that brings minerals to the surface for other plants and trees. Dandelions, the bane of city perfect yards, have great nutrition and trace minerals that aid the liver. I have yet to find a plant, (other than the transplanted and very invasive kudzu) that does not offer benefits to the land, animals and healing qualities for humans as well.

        Roundup cannot make any of these claims. It kills indiscriminately, it has been overused and is creating “superweeds” so that Roundup is no longer an effective weed killer.

        Your goat idea becomes more and more appealing for everyone, even if they eat some wheat or other desirable grains along the way!

    1. I have driven through the county, along the freeway but also on US 97, north-south. Seemed perfectly normal farm country at that time.

  5. 1. If Azure Farms isn’t doing enough to control noxious weeds, the problem spreads to other farms. No idea whether this is the case or not, but if so forcing them to use pesticides may be appropriate.

    2. Organic foods aren’t healthier than non-organic foods, and are typically less safe to eat (greater risk of foodborne illness contamination). Let me guess, you’re one of those twits who also thinks GMOs are dangerous, right?

    3. Sure, pesticides are toxic…if you drink them directly. They’re also highly regulated and leave crops perfectly safe to consume if used in an appropriate manner.

    In other words kids, save money and protect your family: AVOID ORGANIC FOODS!

      1. There are indeed a few studies out there – legitimate ones! – that suggest there’s a small-but-non-insignificant boost in “healthy” traits of foods. Fine. This is also not the scientific consensus, and doesn’t outweigh the greater risk of foodborne illness from consuming organics and other less processed foods.

        1. “doesn’t outweigh the greater risk of foodborne illness from consuming organics and other less processed foods.”

          Processed foods do deliver foodborne illnesses, so to speak: obesity, diabetes, and pretty much every other chronic illness.

  6. Canadian Thistle has a deep root system, and can grow back from pieces of root left in the ground after pulling. Also, if the root splits when you pull it, it’s like the dreaded hydra; each piece will grow back a new Canadian Thistle.

    But this type of phoenix immortality takes energy.

    To kill Canadian Thistle without herbicides, you have to chop it off at the ground. Don’t bother pulling. And then keep chopping off new growth the moment you see it so it doesn’t get a chance to build up any reserves. It will eventually get exhausted and give up.

    It’s seeds are wind dispersed, so it can be a bit difficult to prevent it from reseeding if you live near a reservoir of Canadian Thistle.

    If you force organic farms to spray herbicide, then you are effectively telling citizens that they may not be permitted to farm organically. If this county is allowed to proceed with destroying an organic business, then counties everywhere can follow suit. It would be easy for conventional large agricultural businesses to donate money to the city, urging them to combat the “noxious weed” problem on organic farms. They could essentially wipe out organic farming in the US with this method. There will always be a convenient excuse – some insect or weed that all of a sudden is crucial to exterminate on farms, but not open space or state parks.

    This is one of those fights that you have to win.

  7. Someone at Sherman County, Oregon, got paid big $$$$$ for making this huge farm to loose their certification and their business. Great opportunity to sell good amount of Roundup!

  8. Glad to know that organic farms are so dangerous! Now Monsanto, they are totally a good neighbor and have never done anything wrong as a corporation ever! They are just trying to help people eat more cheaply! They really do care, both about farmers and the end consumer. What a wonderful company. It’s really weird that this has happened. I’m sure it’s just a fluke!

    “Last August, the EPA and state agencies received an “unusually high” number of reports of crop damage that appeared related to the illegal spraying of dicamba.

    Missouri seemed to have the worst of it. Since June 22, the state’s Department of Agriculture has received 124 complaints over pesticide drift that damaged more than 41,000 acres of non-target crops such as soybeans as well as peaches, tomatoes, watermelons, cantaloupe, rice, purple-hull peas, peanuts, cotton and alfalfa. Residential gardens, trees and shrubs have been included in the damage reports.”


  9. Interesting comments from folks, as usual. What isn’t usual is that I’m not seeing the usual detached analysis of the legal issues. FWIW, I was raised on a farm so am familiar with the basic ideas being discussed. In some ways, there are parallels to the whole vaccination issue. The organic farm in this case seems to be a harbor for noxious weeds that can cripple neighboring farms. Once the noxious weed is identified and found by the relevant authorities to present a threat to the rest of the farms in the area, what’s the obligation on the part of the organic farm to prevent “infection” of the rest of the farming community?

    What isn’t clear here is how much discussion there’s been within the community and neighboring farms. If farming methods at Azure present a threat to the viability or economic well-being of its neighbors, what’s Azure’s obligation here?

    I realize that lots of folks like the idea of organic foods, but those other farms are feeding orders of magnitude more people. And the people the non-organic farms are feeding are generally not as privileged or well-off as customers of Azure. Azure’s actions, then, have the effect of raising food prices for those less able to absorb higher costs. If Azure’s actions (or lack of) had no impact on any farms or people outside their property boundaries, I doubt there’d be any interest in spraying at all.

    1. Wonderer, at the risk of repeating myself…you are missing the point….
      Farming is a business. If it’s purpose were to feed people, the destruction of crops to keep prices high by farms and governments would simply not be.
      Farming is a profit making proposition. It creates wealth for agricultural corporations, provide income to local, state and the federal government. Also provide a living for the few individual farmers left and for farm workers.
      What has affected Oregon’s economy more than anything as of lately, is the finding of GMO plants in the state…courtesy of Monsanto and Scotts Miracle Grow Co. This is a much larger problem than the threat posed by weeds at Azure.



      These “volunteer” plants are spreading all over the state causing international sales of wheat and other crops to plummet since most countries of the world are wise to GMOs and don’t want them. This has caused tremendous losses in the millions to farmers, the state and to our country’s reputation of keeping its word in bilateral agreements.

      This is the point.

      Azure Organics provides inexpensive healthy and wholesome foods to everyone.. not only the rich as you and pesticide happy farmers would have you believe. Your organic vendors at local Farmer’s Markets do the same.
      Do your body a favor and try them and your organic vendors at Farmer’s Markets too . You will see they are cheaper than your local grocery store.

    2. To get the’legal issues’ answered, look up Google Brown and Croupon Law Group in St. Louis or call their law office. They and other attorneys are suing Monsanto for ‘Roundup’ causing in short, a form of cancer. Do your own due diligence.

  10. The other aspect that I do not understand is why this pressure to force an organic farm to spray weeds? Open space, naturalized areas, and state parks are all endless reservoirs for alien invasive weeds. I assume these “noxious weeds” are invasive alien species and not native. So why do they behave as if one single farm is an existential threat to all of agriculture?

  11. This sounds quite heavy handed by the county government. Perhaps there is more to the story and the reporting is incomplete or biased. I would like to see all the evidence before destroying a prospering and needed business. This is life changing for many and the county better be prepared for a long and costly fight before acting.

  12. I’ve seen several articles on this, but all represented only the views of Azure farm. I’d like to know how serious is their infestation of noxious weeds? Is this a major infestation which threatens the spread of these highly invasive species into neighboring farmers fields? Has Azure farms been making an effort to control these weeds? If so, how successful have their attempts been.

    Weeds such as Canada thistle are highly invasive and difficult to control. We had to buy the vacant lot next door in order to get the Canad thistle, which the previous owner refused to control and the county was unwilling to enforce laws requiring them to control the weeds. It then took us several years of work and expense to get the thistle eliminated and keep it from continuing to spread to our yard and pasture.

    1. SR,

      Those are all fair questions. But the city’s proposal to go to DefCon3 isn’t an answer!

      There’s time to figure out: 1. what is actually happening and 2. finding an answer that helps everyone.

      The city can chillax a moment and be a creative problem solver. The “solution” of poison that they are forcing won’t necessarily help ( weeds have become resistant) and it will most certainly cause great harm, both to this business and to the environment and to people. We have found out that, unsurprisingly, roundup is causing autoimmune disorders (among other things). This info was suppressed form the public by the company. So dousing everything and everyone in site with this and other carcinogens is the nuclear option.

      It’s not smart, it’s stupid. I wonder if some are being paid to propose such a stupid “solution”? There are much better ways to resolve issues like this and we should take them.

      1. @Jill, it’s probably the case that there’s been a lot of effort on the government’s part to look closely at the problem and find a solution. All of that has likely been figured out already. There might not be an answer that helps everyone, only an answer that helps the most. The problem is that we’re (mostly) newcomers to a discussion that local folks have been having for quite some time. It’s almost never helpful when people burst into the middle of a long discussion and expect that everything starts from the beginning again.

        You also claim that “roundup is causing autoimmune disorders (among other things),” can you cite your source? Everything I’ve seen indicates that these claims aren’t supported by the evidence or actual scientific studies.

        Last, if your intention is to bring people over to your side of the issue, you’re not going to get very far calling them or the solution they’ve worked to come up with “stupid.”

        1. Wonderer:

          I will look up the autoimmune information for you and post it here. As a reciprocal request:

          Would you mind citing your source for the information that the govt. probably looked at everything and tried to come up with a solution that could work for everyone? At this point, that seems like speculation, but maybe you have some evidence? Would you post it here? Thanks!

          Here’s another view for everyone to consider:

          “Monsanto chose to sell these seeds before they could be safely cultivated,” said Randles. “Monsanto’s own advertising repeatedly describes its Xtend seeds and its accompanying herbicide as a ‘system’ intended to be used together. But when Monsanto failed to get approval to sell the herbicide, it recklessly chose to go ahead and sell the seeds regardless.”

          “The inevitable result was farmers throughout the country used illegal and dangerous herbicides to try to protect the Xtend seeds. That inappropriate use of herbicides, which Monsanto knew would occur and encouraged, decimated hundreds of thousands of acres of crops nationwide,” Randles added.

          Monsanto’s rollout of its Xtend system has been marked by controversy ever since the company sold its Xtend cotton and soybeans several growing seasons before getting federal approval for the corresponding herbicide.

          Bollgard II XtendFlex cotton was introduced in 2015 and Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans was introduced in 2016. However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) only approved the corresponding herbicide, XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology, in late 2016. The new weedkiller is a combination of dicamba and glyphosate and is meant to address the proliferation of “superweeds” that have grown resistant to glyphosate.Without having the proper herbicide, cotton and soybean growers were suspected of illegally spraying older versions of dicamba onto their crops and inadvertently damaging nearby non-target crops due to drift.

          Last August, the EPA and state agencies received an “unusually high” number of reports of crop damage that appeared related to the illegal spraying of dicamba.

          Missouri seemed to have the worst of it. Since June 22, the state’s Department of Agriculture has received 124 complaints over pesticide drift that damaged more than 41,000 acres of non-target crops such as soybeans as well as peaches, tomatoes, watermelons, cantaloupe, rice, purple-hull peas, peanuts, cotton and alfalfa. Residential gardens, trees and shrubs have been included in the damage reports.”


            1. Thanks for the link, interesting. But there’s still no causal link in terms of biological data, just a lot of imputed correlation. I’d agree it needs more study, but frankly I’m not ready to say ban the stuff.

              1. Sure there is. It’s already banned in other countries. But yes, it’s a great profit center and it might make Monsanto executives weep openly if it were banned in the US.

          1. @ Jill, I don’t have a source for what steps the County may have taken before landing on the path they selected. You’re correct that it’s speculation on my part, but I think it’s a reasonable conclusion that the County officials didn’t just wake up one day and decide to hose down Azure with chemicals. Local governments just don’t work that way, IME.

            1. Wonderer,…
              I think that there are likely to be minutes from meetings of Sherman County Commissioners, as well as other agencies, relating to the history of the noxious weed issue.
              And input from various citizens.
              I think it is far less likely that you’ll be able to find an article, or a comment here, that has bothered to check the records for a history and content of previous discussions/ actions/ by ALL parties involved.

            2. Interestingly, looking into the matter, it does appear at least one official was anti organic farms prior to this issue becoming an issue. Also, I’d like to see people’s bank accounts–the ones offshore as well!

            3. Officials wake up one day with industry contributions, bribes or threats. That’s how local governments work. They are extremely susceptible to manipulation, since most people pay no attention to who is minding the store til the shelves are empty.

            4. Wonderer,….
              You may be interested in an article:”County may press for quarantine of an organic farm”. -By Eric Mortenson, May 15, 2017 Capital Press.
              Sorry I’m not able to post the link, but you can easily google it to bring it up.
              I’ve probably read 25-30 articles on this Azure Farm issue.
              Only one of those articles, the one I cited, goes into any history of the issue.
              It also has some statements from neighboring farmers.
              I didn’t think I’d have to go through a ton of articles to find the one article that actually gives something of a background.

        2. Wonderer? Then wonder this. It is hard to cite sources as monsanto controls so much. To divert attention they created an unprecedented heath scare. ~the dreaded ~ ZIKA VIRUS~ which has been around forever + 1day… but now is all of a sudden a big threat.. and our gov , “never let a tragic situation go unexploited” backs monsanto
          Have you not wondered what the cause of all this illness is??
          The last generation had no issues like we face today
          You have been drinking the round-up i am afraid???
          And with so many resources available in the world today folks that believe fake news ‘are’ “stupid” and there is really no hope.. We are a doomed society as ignorance is bliss when we have such resources at our fingertips.
          You will continue to be a sheep and there is nothing that can change that but you..
          Only a drug addict can make the change. No class or group can change him/her.
          The only real question here is are you really a Wonderer ?????
          or a Shill for monsanto/soros

    2. SierraRose…..,
      I noticed the same one-sided coverage.
      I don’t claim to know much about this specific issue.
      But when I see lopsided coverage of an issue, a lopsided PR campaign and bandwagon representing only one side of the issue, my cynical nature makes me think that there is more to the story.

      1. This page is not meant to provide full coverage of “both sides.” This is a blog by Professor Jonathan Turley. You will not be spoon fed “both sides” in today’s media environment.

        Industry has captured the regulators, industry compensates and leads much of the research, industry has media access to distribute their press packets and skewed research, industry has their sales force on the ground propagandizing farmers across the globe. Advocates in the public interest have very few paid workers to attempt to reach people with the “other side.”

        There are Profiteers and People. Which side are you on?

        1. Mojapinoca…
          – I’m not on anyone’s “side”.
          My comment was that the coverage of this issue was very one-sided.
          What’s missing is input from regulators who have made the decision, and input from neighboring farms.
          I’m not interested in your “People v. Profiteers” crap, or any other part of the propaganda machine I see in operation.
          You talk about “their sales force on the ground propaganizing farmers”.
          I’m seeing propaganda from people like you.
          If I form an opinion on this issue, it will not be formed on the basis of the holier-than-thou garbage you put out.

    3. SR,
      more serious than any threat posed by Canadian Thistle is the GMO wheat plants that are being found all over the country, including Oregon, Washington State, Idaho and Montana.
      Since most of the world does not want GMO wheat, this has led them to cancel wheat purchases from these states causing millions of dollars in losses. They are waiting for the US to solve it’s problem which goes against bilateral agreements with them.
      If anything should be labeled a “noxious weed” for the danger it represents to these states’ economy is GMO wheat and the roundup it requires for its survival. Spraying Azure with roundup will lead international sales of Oregon wheat (90% of which is exported) to a screeching halt. This is destroying that hand that feeds you.

        1. .Isabel,……cont….This area of North Idaho used to be one of the most productive wheat areas of the country. The C’DA Indians and homesteaders grew vast fields of native sonora and other hardy wheats..Now those fields are dependent on chemical fertilzer, as well as continuous applications of weed killers. Furthermore, few alfalfa fields now use GMO free seeds, and roundup is also used on that staple crop as well. If you stop and pick up the earth in one of these fields, the earth is dead in appearance…it has a pathetic dryness and lacks the odor of healthy, living earth.

    4. And that is the point on the nail head
      Thank you for wanting both sides of the story

    5. When I relayed that organic farming is not a viable solution to feeding the nation, an Azure representative said maybe more farms should go organic and hire more people as the alternative to herbicides and pesticides.
      If they controlled THEIR weeds with more people, there would be no need for the county to take action!!!

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