On a patio overlooking a barbera vineyard off Dark Hollow Road, the state’s highest agriculture officer took note of issues facing local wine growers.
While smoke-filled summers remains a burning issue, Oregon Agriculture Director Alexis Taylor heard how herbicide and pesticide drift from neighboring properties can damage vineyards, about the perils of red blotch disease, and about the desire of Willamette Valley growers to limit the pinot noir and chardonnay grapes used in northern vintages.
Crossbow herbicide is highly effective on blackberries and poison oak, but just as detrimental to grape vines.
“For us, it’s not a problem with the commercial hay growers or the wheat growers, it’s the little homeowner that goes down to the grange and buys some spray,” said John Pratt, speaking for the Rogue Valley Winegrowers Association. “In both the state to the north and south of us that product requires a pesticide license; in this state it doesn’t.”
In some cases, Pratt told Taylor, vines have borne the effects of the herbicide eight years later.
Southern Oregon growers are more at risk, he said, because they are frequently surrounded by homeowners who are attempting to beat back poison oak.
Taylor said the Rogue Valley AVA’s issues are timely.
“Years ago we talked to the stores who sell to homeowners and some have been really great,” Taylor said. “More national brands are harder to work with.”
The ag director said the state’s 2,4-D Task Force is being revived to examine recent effects from 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic.
At some point, farmers using products such as Crossbow might be forced to obtain certification.
“It’s not a bad thing for somebody to learn more about what they’re doing,” Pratt said.
Taylor said ODA is providing the wine industry a block grant to market its blossoming tempranillo wines.
“Everybody knows Oregon for pinot,” she said. “But as different varietals are coming in, we are also looking for ways to continue to support the diversity of Oregon wine.”
Pratt agreed that the state shouldn’t be “pigeonholed” by its pinot reputation and is looking for expansion of the state’s malbec production.
Oregon’s farmers and ranchers face plenty of challenges, ranging from the weather and pests to market demands and regulations. During her two-day swing through Southern Oregon, Taylor also met with the Douglas County Livestock Association, toured Abacela Winery outside Roseburg, met with the Oregon State University Extension staff, and discussed organic food markets at Fry Family Farm.
During a noontime gathering with Fry family members, Taylor talked about identifying markets that can support smaller farms and the role ODA can play in supporting family farmers.
She began her day meeting with scientists and project leaders at the Southern Oregon Research & Extension Center, and with state Sen. Alan DeBoer.
Bee projects, small farm programs, grapes and cannabis were discussed by the extension staff.
The voter-approved GMO restrictions in Jackson County changed crop structure, SOREC Director Richard Roseberg said.
“There are some crops that are no longer here, sugar beet seed for example,” he said. “There were companies that leased space here that have gone elsewhere. There are other growers that use the GMO-free label to market their products.”