Oregon Organic Farm Threatened With Forced Herbicide Use Reaches Settlement With County

Last weekend we featured two articles (HERE and HERE) describing a controversy involving the forced use of chemical herbicides on an organic farm that according to County officials was out of compliance in controlling noxious weeds that were threatening neighboring farms and crops.

The 2,000 acre organic farm in North Central Oregon is facing what could be an existential threat to its operations after county weed control authorities sent notice mandating that the farm use chemical herbicides to eradicate weed growth.

I attended the public hearing held at the Sherman County seat located in Moro, Oregon. Due to a very high volume of interest expressed by residents and those outside the community, the venue was changed from the County Courthouse to a gymnasium at the Sherman County High School. There was a great deal of uncertainty manifest in this hearing with strongly held opinions on many sides and one can say with near certainty that the publicity generated caused turmoil in this small community. In fact, the concern was so great, that a number of law enforcement officials were dispatched to the area to provide security to address a worry that things might get out of hand. But in the end the two sides reached an agreement that precludes the forced use of herbicides–and offered both a carrot and stick for both parties to strongly consider.

I arrived in Moro about three hours prior to the meeting which was scheduled for 4 PM last Wednesday. Moro is a small town, having its greatest economic factor being agriculture. There are a few small businesses in the community. Since I had a few hours I walked around the small downtown and talked to a few residents. I informally asked them what they thought of the controversy that had descended upon Sherman County. It seemed quite clear that there was considerable upset at the quiet community being drug into a form of national crisis as it seemed to some. There was a degree of empathy for the organic farmers in question however there was also considerable animosity directed at them for being essentially the cause of a weed problem that affected both commercial farms and even that of residents’ yards in Moro. The belief was that Azure Farms, the operators of the organic farm, were since 2006 completely ignoring their responsibility to control noxious weeds. In fact, the social media campaign caught the community off guard and many believe that they were made pariahs by the Internet backlash.

I later drove to the high school where the forum was to be held and found seven patrol cars stationed outside the school with sheriff’s deputies directing traffic. There was also an Oregon State Police patrol car and a Sherman County Department of emergency management pickup truck outside.

I spoke with one of the deputies and asked him why there was such a police presence outside the school. He informed me that the County was concerned that things might get out of hand. As you can imagine, it is not usual to see police officers outside of a county meeting, much less one dealing with weed control.

According to the deputy I spoke with, when the social media campaign reached its peak after Azure Farms made their plea to the Internet for others to help them with their plight, the County received over 57,000 emails from all parts of the country and several other nations; one as far away as New Zealand. While most were quite civil a distressing many made threats against County officials for their perceived hostility towards organic farming in general. One in particular penned by an Internet hooligan claimed that he would be traveling to Sherman County with a shotgun in his hands and blow away any “Hick” County officials who threatened organic farming. Several death threat telephone calls were made to various officials. He indicated to me that they took some of these threats seriously and there is a possibility of further investigation against those making these alleged threats.

The deputy stated that they were unsure as to the level of response needed for this hearing, but they wished to have officers present as a safety precaution.

As a background leading to the events of this hearing, I invite you to read the following letters sent between the county and the farm’s owners and operators. While protracted, it does offer clarity as to what has occurred.

SHERMAN COUNTY WEED DISTRICT STATEMENT

Weed Ordinance Violation Update
May 17th, 2017

It Weed Control Ordinance violation was sent to Ecclesia of Sinai at Dufur on March 2, 2017 415 properties in the Moro area encompassing 1922.44 acres. The weeds known to occur on these properties include Rush skeleton weed, which is an A Listed weed, Canada Thistle, morning glory, and white top, which are all B Listed weeds. The violation required a Weed Management Plan be submitted within 30 days of receipt and, if not, fines would be levied and the Weed District will take action to find and destroy all noxious weeds, using herbicides as necessary. The letter was received by them via certified mail on March 6, 2017.

On approximately March 29, I received a response dated March 27 from the Ecclesia of Sinai at Dufur signed by Alfred Selzer. The letter stated ‘they are not subject to our direction’, ‘they have always instructed the tenants of the ground in Moro to control the spread of weeds at their expense and possible loss without the use of toxic chemicals’ : they do not give any jurisdiction to any federal, state or county employees to trespass on Ecclesia ground to spray any toxic or poisonous substance at any time,” “ please remove Ecclesia of Sinai at Dufur from your Weed Control District,” as well as many other things. This letter was forwarded to the County commissioners for their review.

On April 19 the County Court met and discussed the weed ordinance violation. At that time, some of the properties had been mowed, but this was seen as a poor method of control as the weeds will grow back, and the root systems will flourish continued and continue to spread, as they have done over many years. The meeting was attended by many local residents who expressed deep concern about the weeds growing unchecked over the years. The court decided to send one more letter to Ecclesia of Sinai at Dufur stating options other than herbicides that might work in an attempt to get compliance. Many in attendance were skeptical that other methods could be effective. The court also decided to send a letter to the Oregon Department of Agriculture informing them of the situation and that the County may request quarantine.

On May 1 a second letter was sent in a letter to the state on May second. This letter stated that if no action is taken by may 22nd the County will take immediate remedial action including requesting a quarantine from the state.

On May second the County weed advisory board met at a regularly scheduled meeting and I updated them on the situation. The four members present agreed to defer to the County Court on this matter since they are an appointed, unelected advisory board.

On May 5 I received a message from Nathan Stelzer and met with him and Nathaniel Stelzer on Friday morning. Nathan stated quote he was unaware of the weeds were such a big problem. “His neighbors had not talked to him,” and “they had tried many methods over the years to control the weeds.” He was also considering getting additional equipment that could help to control the weeds. We exchanged phone numbers, and I asked him to come to the County Court meeting on May 17. I informed him that any decision on this matter would be up to the County commissioners. After that conversation, I thought we had made a lot of progress in working together in the future.

On May 11, I was sent a link to a social media campaign and watched and read a presentation by Azure Farms that clearly misstated the situation. My thoughts of progress in working together in the future were dashed. If you would like me to address the social media campaign, I have another statement prepared.

I have viewed their properties multiple times this season, only from the road, to see if any progress has been made. I stated earlier, many areas were mowed in March, but the thistles are growing faster than the grass and in thick clumps in at least one field in particular. One fallow field looks to have been bottom plowed, but I am concerned with the root mass, specifically on Rush skeleton weed and Canada Thistle which is known to spread exponentially one plowed. One field on Sayrs Road is so overrun with purple mustard that I cannot detect the listed weeds, specifically Canada Thistle, which has historically been taking over that piece of ground since 2006. I suspect that a closer look would reveal multiple dense patches.

Social media response statement

Sherman County weed control ordinance has not been changed or reinterpreted. Was passed by the Sherman County court on March 14, 2001, after two public hearings on two separate occasions. Replaced existing weed district policy that had been in place for many years to give more authority, is a lot compared to a rule. Both were modeled after Oregon Revised Statute 569.

The Ordinance does not require “eradication.” The text states:

8.1 upon the service or posting of the notice provided in section 7.0 of this ordinance, any owner or occupant of land shall destroy or prevent from seeding or spreading the weed or weeds specified in the notice. Such application shall be a continuing obligation throughout the remainder of the then current growing season, seeding or spreading season, unless terminated by discontinuation of ownership or occupancy, or upon dissolution of the Weed District.

Mowing Canada Thistle in July or August is not prevent it from seeding or spreading, in fact, it worsens prop, and certainly mowing or plowing through rush skeleton weed is the worst possible idea! It’s seed can travel for miles in the wind, and a root fragment as small as 1 inch will reproduce a new plant.

The ordinance does not require spraying with herbicides. Refer to section 8.0.

Roundup was never mentioned in either weed violation letter sent by the Weed District, but it was mentioned multiple times on the social media post. Roundup, or Glyphosate, would not be a good choice at t this time of year. It is a nonselective product with a short half-life. An application of glyphosate would exterminate all competition, including the grasses, encouraging the new weeds to grow back. The first weeds to come back are usually the noxious ones because they are more aggressive.

Milestone and Escort were mentioned in the first letter. Milestone, oropyralid, is a selective product and can give up to 18 months of control. My personal experience has seen an estimated nearly 95% control the second year after treatment on both rush skeletonweed and Canada thistle. Escort, ormetsulfuron, is one of the few products I’ve use with any success on white top. Both of these products have very low use rates: 7.0 ounces and 1.0 ounce per acre respectively.

Trespass: ORS 569.380 Weed inspector right of entry; negates the charge of trespassing. I make every effort to contact the landowner or operator before I go on their property and have not been off the County right-of-way near any Ecclesia lands this year.

Quarantine: The County does not have the authority to quarantine land under the weed control ordinance. The state Department of agriculture does have the authority under ORS 569.400. The County has the ability to request a quarantine be imposed.

***************

Sherman County Weed District

To: Ecclesia of Sinai at Dufur

March 2, 2017

The A Class noxious weed Rush Skeleton Weed (Chondrilla juncea) and B Class noxious weeds Canada Thistle (Cirsium arvense), Morning Glory (Convolvulus arvensis) and White Top (Cardaria draba) have been found to be growing rampant and unchecked on your properties in Sherman County. Primary areas of concern include properties on Sayers Road, Erskin Road and Harris Canyon Lane, west and south of Moro, High School Loop Road and Highway 97.

All of these noxious weeds are perennial plants that reproduce by seed AND roots and therefore required by the Sherman County Weed Control Ordinance No. 15-03-2001 to be destroyed (Section 8.1).

The weed control ordinance also requires that the destruction is an obligation throughout the growing season (Section 8l.3).

The weed control ordinance allows for a weed management plan to be submitted within 30 days of receiving this notice (Section 8.3). Weed management plan is hereby required to be submitted within 30 days of receipt of this notice. The plan must state your intentions for destroying these weeds must be approved by the weed district personnel.

If no plan is submitted or approved within a given timeframe, you will be in violation of the Sherman County weed control ordinance and subject to fines up to $500 each, per noxious weed [species], found on each individual lot. The weed district will also take action to find and destroy all noxious weeds stated above on all properties, using an integrated vegetation management, best practices approach. This will include the use of herbicides such as Escort (metsulfuron methyl) on White Top and Milestone (aminopyralid) on Canada Thistle, Morning Glory and Rush Skeleton Weed. Multiple surveys and assessments will be needed throughout the growing season as the best timing for treatment varies. All costs associated with these actions will be billed to you levied as a lien on your property taxes.

The Sherman County weed district, weed advisory board, County commissioners, County legal counsel and the citizens of Sherman County take noxious weeds very serious. The potential damage and economic loss caused by noxious weeds to an agricultural base community can be substantial.

The County we district personnel are available to help in this matter including plan identification, recommendation on control methods and herbicide products and rates. We also have a spray crew for hire, if needed.

Please call with any questions.

Thank you for your cooperation in this matter.

Weed District Supervisor

*************

March 27, 2017
From: Ecclesia of Sinai at Dufur
To: Sherman County Weed District

Re: Weed Management Plan

Ecclesia of Sinai at Dufur is not a person, firm, or corporation (ORS 570.535), therefore it is not subject to your direction. It is nonprofit. It is not farm for profit otherwise it would be spraying everything. For what food the church wants grown, we are dedicated to growing chemical free food for all those people who are intolerant of chemicals or glyphosate will need to eat. We also have instructed those who leased the ground that all growing practices have to be free of toxic chemicals.

We have made a covenant to keep the Common Law of the Bible, wherein includes Numbers 35:34 which states that the land must not be defiled or polluted, referring to the shedding of blood. From Adam to the 20th Century, Skeleton weed, Canada Thistle, Morning Glory, and White top have never killed or jeopardized one’s life or safety. Yes, it could hurt the pocketbook economically, if one farms for profit, as far as we know, these noxious weeds have never affected the health or safety of the citizens of Sherman County (14.0 Emergency Declared).

From the late 1940s (introduction of chemicals for agricultural use) until now, millions of people have become sick and thousands have died from chemical poisoning each year! These statistics appear to increase each year as more and more chemicals are used. (see Interdisciplinary Toxicology report). That’s a lot of shed blood that has defiled the ground. 1 Thess. 5:15 says we are to see that no one does evil to other men, but to do what is good to all men. We as a church are committed to Matt. 22:37-40, “Thou shalt love Yahwey (God) with all thy heart, and with all thy should, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like onto it, “Thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments handles all the law and the prophets. “ All food grown for “our neighbors” should bring forth life, not sickness and death due to toxic chemical residues.

As consideration to the County, we have always instructed the tenants of the ground in Moro to control the spread of weeds at their expense and possible loss without use of toxic chemicals. The ground has been dedicated to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God’s Law, the law of the land, was given to Moses on Mount Sinai Construction.

The ecclesia of Sinai at Dufur has not and does not give any jurisdiction to any federal, state, or County employees to trespass on Ecclesia grounds to spray any toxicity or poisonous substance at any time.

We are happy to work with neighbors in the weed district, as long as it is in line with Yahweh’s Word (Matt. 22:37-40), where it will not be killing our fellow man, but bringing forth life.

Your advice of using harsh, toxic chemicals (see attachment on Escort and Milestone Herbicides) would disannul a contract made. The ground is certified organic by Oregon Tilth and has met standards of the USDA organic criteria. Everything you suggested does not mean that USDA organic standards or Oregon Tilth standards. Spraying Escort and Milestone would be breaking contract with Oregon Tilth. You will be held accountable to deal with USDA organic decertification. Ecclesia of Sinai at Dufur has no contract with Sherman County weed district.

To meet the growing demand of organic food and animal feed,” between one and 5 million US acres would have to be transitioned to organic production.” See Sustainable Pulse article). Much of the food has to be imported to meet the growing demand, because there is just not enough organic ground in the USA. If Ecclesia of Sinai at Dufur ground becomes decertified due to unallowable chemical sprays, two large companies in Oregon will be affected as well. Grain Millers in Eugene, OR and Bob’s Red Mill in Milwaukee, OR depend on organic grain grown on this land.

Spray killing every square inch of Sherman County is destroying the grain market as well. Wheat allergies are one of the largest growing diseases right now(see interdisciplinary toxicology report and Sustainable Pulse article). Wheat has no value when no one wants to purchase wheat, when the glyphosate levels are so high that a significant amount of people get seriously sick when they eat it. When before dangerous chemicals were applied to the ground, bread and grain were people’s main staples in their diet. Now, wheat is considered a toxin, not a food by a large percentage of people. Are the farmers and the Weed Board, who spray toxins every year, thinking of the children and future generations? Yahweh’s Word and Law talks of 1000 generations. Exodus 34:7 says “keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that by no means clear guilty: visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and fourth generation.” We, as a church, think generationally. In everything we do today, how will it affect our children to the third and fourth generation?

Their corporate entities that write statutory laws pretending to do good and protect people and use their judicial courts to four statutory law, but in the process, they are killing thousands of people. There is a stink in Yahweh’s eyes. That is why we form a church, or ecclesia, so that we can serve Yahweh and worship him with all our heart, soul, and mind. We do our best to follow God’s word which he set up in the beginning, to bring life and blessing to all the world and not be forced to disobey Yahweh by killing our fellow men by corrupt and debased governments.

We know the good people on the Weed Board and the citizens of Sherman County would never want to intentionally kill people or destroy their health. I’m sure they want to join the fight to save the lives of our fellow man and to not use the statutory laws for destruction. “If my people, which are called live my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (2 Chr. 7:14)

We never signed up or volunteered to be on your Weed Control District. We don’t need any of your benefits or privileges. Please remove Ecclesia of Sinai at Dufur from your Weed Control District. A dissolution would be pertinent in this matter. (8.1 Duties of Owners and Occupants and 15.0 Severability)

Thanks for your cooperation.

Sincerely

Alfred. Stelzer

**************

From Sherman County Weed District
To: Ecclesia of Sinai at Dufur
Re: response to Weed Violation #01-17

Your response to weed violation number #01-17 has been reviewed by Sherman County weed district personnel, County commissioners and County legal counsel and has been found to be unacceptable. The County Weed Control Ordinance No. 15-03-2001 and Oregon State Statute 569.360 through 569.415 (copy enclosed) clearly give the County authority to control noxious weeds and when a land owner does not.

Your control practices are not destroying the weeds, specifically the root systems that continue to flourish after mowing. Acceptable control measures could include:

1) Heavy deep tillage that would rip up and bring the root up to the surface. This method would have to be done frequently throughout the growing season, probably every 10 to 15 days.
2) Covering the weeds with a dark barrier, such as plastic or rubber, to block out the sunlight. Any escaping shoots would have to be be cut periodically throughout the growing season and the coverage maintained for multiple years.
3) Treatment with organic herbicides that are available commercially. I’m not familiar with any of these so I cannot make a recommendation.
4) Treatment with traditional herbicides.
5) Intense burning.
6) Any other method that can effectively destroy the entire plant and root.

If no action is taken by May 22, 2017, the county will take immediate remedial action including requesting the Oregon Department of Agriculture to quarantine the uncontrolled noxious weed infested land as outlined in ORS 569.400.

Any questions or comments can be directed to the weed district office.

Weed Control Supervisor.

 

While I know that readers of our website are above such base practices as making threats, I elected not to name any of the County officials or persons speaking to the hearing board in this article. With the amount of hostility generated, I don’t want to cause this community any further consternation.

When the hearing began I estimated there were at least 250 individuals in attendance. Presiding over the hearing were two county commissioners, the County’s Circuit Court judge and the County Counsel. Addressing the hearing were two representatives of Azure Farms and opposed by an officer of the County Weed Board.

The first to speak was the County weed board officer, who read an open letter directed toward the “Ecclesia of Sinai at Dufur”, a church entity that owns the 2,000 acre farm that is in partnership with Azure Farms to produce organic crops. In summary the weed control officer stated that it was a falsehood in that Azure Farms represented that the county was misinterpreting the weed control statutes where eradication was to be enforced rather than simply control. He stated that the law was enacted in 1922 and further modified by the county in 2001. The county had been enforcing the law as codified before 2006 when the county alleges that noxious weed violations began occurring on the organic farm. He stated that the county required a 30 day weed plan be created by Azure Farms and forwarded to the weed board for approval and that Azure Farms had not complied with that order and instead performed bad practices such as mowing which exacerbated the problem. He warranted that the county had tried to gain compliance by the land owners without the use of pesticides but their noncompliance had forced this into a probable action.

A spokesman for Azure stated firstly he wanted to offer his apologies for the misunderstanding, stating that they had every intention of living peacefully and harmoniously with their neighbors in that they wanted no harm to be generated. And, importantly, they vowed not to engage in harm which would include harming the earth as a result of herbicide use. Made promises to use non-herbicide noxious weed control measures such as bio control methods and that they had hired a full-time employee to better address the problem and to work in conjunction with the County towards a successful resolution. Furthermore, they offered to use acetic acid and tools to keep down the weeds and that they would retain experts to assist in using control and covering and to work in an integrated fashion with the agricultural departments of the OSU Cooperative extension as well as agricultural research centers of Washington State University and the University of Idaho. Furthermore they endeavored to foster working in closer partnership with neighbors.

When the hearing board opened the forum for public input the true heart of the matter began to beat. One rather odd caveat that was imposed upon the public was that there was to be no mention or debate about the use of pesticides or herbicides by speakers from the audience. On the contrary, I thought, it is the primary reason for the controversy.

The first speaker was the neighbor to the farm in question, stated that he believes that the organic farm was being managed improperly without regard to the plight of its neighbors, and that it had been 10 years since the beginning of this problem. It has only become worse and is now affecting not only the immediate neighbors but the county in general. This farm crew needed to expend extra effort in order to abate the weed problem that was caused by drifted weeds from the farm. But rather than solve the matter as neighbors, Azure instead resorted to social media in spite of everything else.

Other sentiments expressed by the other farming community were common. The prevailing opinion was that the “commercial”, meaning non-organic, farmers did not necessarily want to force chemical herbicide use on an organic farm, but that Azure had neglected the weeds so badly that a forced compliance was warranted.

A few commercial farmers did not see the harm in a once or twice application of indicated chemical fertilizers, especially in that it could eliminate the problem and that three years later the farm could then reapply for certification.

There were some speakers on the pro-organic side who made heart-felt appeals to the county to avoid the mandate of chemical herbicides.

A member of the extended family who is affiliated with Azure Farms and the church that owns the land brought forth the plight of a nine-year-old daughter, sickened from a bone cancer sarcoma. She stated that doctors have found high levels of the chemical herbicide glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s RoundUp herbicide, in her body tissue. She attributed the loss of her daughter to the use of herbicides. She posed the question, “are there any weeds worth the loss of my daughter?”

It seemed that this grieving mother had exceeded her three-minute time allocation in expressing her experience with chemical herbicides because she was abruptly cut short by the County Counsel. I suppose we can’t have any of that kind of emotion in such a public forum.

One of the other speakers was the CEO for the Oregon wheat growers Association. He said that Sherman County was a key producer of seed wheat and that he strongly supported enforcement. He believed that it was of paramount importance that seed producers have the ability to export clean wheat and that if the product is contaminated with noxious weeds, it affects the ability of all wheat growers to sell their product at a better market. He hoped that the County would continue to enforce effective control standards whatever it takes.

Another speaker was president of the Sherman County Farm Bureau he said that he supported various efforts to control noxious weeds and that many control methods exists whether they are organic or not. He made a valid point: that if one particular grower was reckless with his application of pesticides and herbicides and that the drift of these chemicals encroached onto a neighboring farm that they could be sanctioned or sued for allowing these strips. And that for him and many others would agree that if his constituents were prohibited from allowing chemical sprays onto an organic farm that the organic farm should be under the same mandate to prevent noxious weeds from encroaching on commercial farmlands.

Another speaker stated that he traveled from Bismarck North Dakota to advocate for organic farming. He said that in 1985 after having been a commercial farmers for many years he develop symptoms of a medical condition that seem to elude detection from various healthcare professionals. It wasn’t until he consulted an expert on pesticide use in the human body that it was determined that his body was so contaminated with pesticides that he needed to remove himself from an environment that contained such poisons. He said that at that point he eliminated the use of chemical herbicides and pesticides in his farming practices and that over the years his condition improved greatly. He hoped that more people would adopt organic farming practices because the public health risk was something that could not be overlooked. He lamented his wish that the County could give these organic farmers a break and that the matter could be resolved peacefully.

An organic farming consultant stepped forward to offer his analysis on what could be done to resolve the matter amicably. He stated that weed management and control on an organic farm is a complicated issue often requires greater attention to control noxious weeds. He offered to work with the farm at achieving bio control measures that have been developed at Colorado State University as well as reaching out to the Oregon State University team that could help organic farms toward viability. Oregon State University was willing to come out to help but this was not going to be an overnight fix to burn down these noxious weeds but a comparable pensive plan could be developed to successfully address the concerns of the community.

At the conclusion of the hearing, which lasted about two hours, the County Weed Board officer came forth to recommend that instead of an immediate enforcement action being levied against the farm, he offered to for a last time work closely with the organic farmers to settle the matter in a satisfactory manner. Provided, that complete compliance with the abatement plan be adhered to and that if compliance is not achieved then the county is within its option to recommend the seizure of the lands by the state Department of Agriculture. He believed sincerely that they would be able to arrive at a long-lasting agreement.

For their part the two representatives of Azure Farms stated that they welcomed the opportunity to work with the County and that they would be their promise to be better neighbors and to achieve success in abating the noxious weeds. He was steadfast in his conviction that no chemical herbicides are to be used on farmland. Though I will say that he did not exactly allay some of the concerns that most in the audience expressed that he will in fact meet his agreement to abate the weeds. He seemed to focus on the fact that he couldn’t control all the weeds but I would hope that he would take such matters to heart that if the farm does not perform on this agreement that his organic farm will be in jeopardy in some form.

I think one of the benefits that is to be found in this distressing controversy, as it was at least to the residents of Sherman County, is that it exposed the legal question as to what can be done to enforce a noxious weed ordinance upon a noncompliant organic farm. The application of chemical herbicides on organic farm is not something to be taken lightly with regard to the proportionality of such enforcement between an organic farm and a commercial farm. On a commercial farm, an application of chemical herbicides is just part of doing business from their perspective but for an organic farm a single application of chemical pesticide or herbicide mandates a three-year prison sentence and in some cases perhaps a death sentence levied against a farm producing certified organic produce.

The controversy also exposed a due process concern that potentially could affect organic farmers in general. I certainly do not believe at this point that Sherman County officials were bent on denying the due process rights of Azure Farms or the church’s property, but it shows that there is the possibility that weed control boards could use the specter of noxious weed propagation to essentially curtail organic farms operating within their jurisdiction under the rubric of controlling weeds, and that such measures could be use as proxies by the chemical agribusinesses and corporations.

But I did note a couple of issues relating to the use of social media and the ensuing controversy and uproar that developed on both sides. While I am certain that the CEO of Azure Farms / Azure Standard genuinely meant no harm by appealing via social media for assistance, the use of social media does have the potential for harm when used at the hands of the unscrupulous; especially in the threats that were made. Several speakers before the hearing stated that they knew members of the community and of public officials whose family received threats because of perceived actions assume by others. And the division was not just within the community itself but Azure Farms itself. One woman who identified herself as being an employee of Azure farms said that her husband who worked for the County had received so many threats via email that it caused her and her family great distress, and she proceeded to declare quite assuredly that she was “ashamed to work for Azure Farms” due to the social media campaign it instigated.

But as an aside, we certainly cannot overlook the fact that the social media campaign did have an effect. One can only guess at whether or not Sherman County was truly motivated to compromise and work directly with the organic farm to avoid the use of herbicides if there wasn’t the possibility of an even more intense backlash to be suffered.

I also believe that this farmland could serve as a test bed for further research into how to rehabilitate an errant organic farm into responsible husbandry and that perhaps it is incumbent upon state legislatures to enact law to best address sanctions without resorting to scorched earth poisons that are in nobody’s interest, especially since Organic Farming is becoming increasingly prominent in the diets of the people.

By Darren Smith

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.

32 thoughts on “Oregon Organic Farm Threatened With Forced Herbicide Use Reaches Settlement With County

  1. Thank you for the update and in depth information on Azure Farms.

    On the one hand, I am heartened by the organic farming consultant willing to volunteer to help. On the other, that section on the possible seizure of lands was grim.

    It appears that Azure Farms does not know best practices to organically control pernicious weeds. Mowing after seed set just distributes them, and plowing will distribute root cuttings which can regrow. You have to continually knock down the new shoots before they have a chance to store any energy. That will exhaust and kill the plant.

    The original name of Canada Thistle, “Cursed Thistle”, implies we’ve been fighting it for a while. And, in fact, there are centuries of literature from the battle front in Europe against thistle. It is not, actually, native to Canada, but spread there from Europe, probably contaminating seeds. This is why the concern of the wheat seed farmers is entirely justified.

    There are now efforts to turn it into a pasture plant, as its nutritional value is comparable to alfalfa, the hay gold standard for cattle. Somehow, they can eat it without being harmed by the spines. However, it can be toxic to ruminants if it is eaten exclusively. I cannot comment on the safety or viability of thistle as forage. But there may be many different avenues of approach to the plant.

    http://onpasture.com/2013/03/19/canada-thistle/ (Don’t follow that advice at the end of eating raw thistle. It has spines, and “smashing” them won’t help. If you want to eat any edible plant with spines, such as nettles, you have to correctly identify it and cook it properly. Do so at your own risk and with proper education.)

    I believe that weed eradication regulations need to catch up with the times. There should be weed abatement plans that address organic farms. It is a big deal to spray an organic farm. It’s not like they can go into cryogenic hibernation and wake up 3 years from now whole. Organic is a small world. Word will spread if you spray, and you will not be judged the same, having just come out 3 years after spraying, as a farm that has been organic for generations. And if you’ve been forced to spray once, you can be forced to spray annually. No more organic farm.

    Clearly Azure Farm had room to improve its knowledge on organic weed control. Even the experts on organic weed abatement learn something new every year. It’s best if they connect to the community on organic pest control, organic weed control, soil tilth, pollinator health, and all of the other related fields, pardon the pun.

    I am saddened to hear that yet another kind intention, the preservation of Organic farming, was used as an excuse for threats of violence by a few SJW. That falls under the real of Stupid but Dangerous Stuff.

    Obviously, you can control weeds organically, even persistent ones such as Cursed Thistle. And obviously threatening to either spray or seize organic farming land is not a suitable or even legal answer. Nor is merely letting the weeds flourish and spread. So figure it out.

      • Thank you Darren for this comprehensive news brief, one of concern to all farmers-organic or not.

        A farmer who resides on his land (and fences and posts his lines) would, I believe, have substantial standing under Natural Law to protect his right of no entry onto his private property, With a county ordinance voted by county elected officials (and established over time by precedent,) a wise organic farmer would set his own weed control precedent on his own land by diligently documenting that he is not been harming his neighbor’s crops.
        Azure having large tracts of leased farm land, quite likely assumed ” best practices ”were ”religiously” practiced, rather than supervisingSocial media and the likely fact this incident was not a ”test case” by Monsanto, was quite fortunate.

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