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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Stink to resume in Idaho

Field burning is back in action in the Spud State. A touchy-feely truce, of sorts, has between declared, for now, between the farmers who make more money taking the easy way out of their waste problems and the segment of the population that enjoys breathing. They'll be back at each other's throats within a couple of years, we're sure.

One bright light: The field burning permit process has been taken away from the state Ag Department and placed where it belongs, in the DEQ. Oregon should have done that a long, long time ago. Still could, if the people in the Legislature had any guts. Ha! Ha! That's funny.

Comments (20)

Field burning revitalizes the soil and leads to lower use of herbicides and pesticides. It's a longstanding agricultural tool used around here ( can't speak for Idaho ) Just because people from New Jersey aren't used to it doesn't mean it's wrong.

If you're going to try and take tools away from farmers and ranchers, please don't bitch about high prices at the stores that carry their products.

I won't. Now can they stop poisoning people?


Field burning revitalizes the soil and leads to lower use of herbicides and pesticides. It's a longstanding agricultural tool used around here ( can't speak for Idaho ) Just because people from New Jersey aren't used to it doesn't mean it's wrong.

I have lived here for 30 years, probably longer than you have lived anywhere. Field burning is illegal in Washington State. When the practice was drastically curtailed in Oregon following the I-5 Massacre caused by a careless dimwit farmer and incompetents in the Ag Department, we were told that food prices would soar, and Oregon farming would die off. Those were blatant lies, as history has clearly proven.

Field burning is a major health hazard to neighboring communities. Ask any doctor. It needs to be stopped as soon as possible.

And you need to learn some manners.

I am just curious about how many people upset by a few days of field burning go camping sit in the smoke of a campfire, stoke up a fire in their open fireplace, have an outdoor fire pit or chimonea or burn wood in their woodstove. Just curious.

To compare the damage done by smoke from one woodstove (benefiting one family) to that caused by a major grass burn (also benefiting one family) isn't too meaningful.

First, city folk come up with land-use crap like M37 to "save farmland", then they want to tell farmers how to farm it too. Classic.
Maybe they should keep their turned-up noses out of the farming communities, and they wont have to smell the smoke.

Moving to Eugene Oregon in 1972, driving from Queens, NY...I'll never forget driving down I-5 to my new home, fires burning to the sky to the right and left of me.

Was Oregon under attack?

Later, when the winds would change and you couldn't see the sky in Eugene, and the radio warned us to stay indoors...I realized we were. Under attack, that is. Leaving the foul skyline of Manhattan for the filthy air of farmers growing grass seed on the cheap. Like the "wigwam" burners that used to to burn the timber debris in the countryside, field burning was (and remains) stupid and irresponsible.

To assert that field burning only benefits one family is just the least bit unfair - not to mention that smoke gets in your eyes from far less productive endeavours. Not that that excuses anything, I'm just sayin' that a bit of perspective might be in order here.

After all, our predecessors in the Willamette valley burned stuff regularly.

In re: "telling farmers how to farm." I know its "fresh week" and for this, I apologize. The short version: Garrett Hardin, Tragedy of Commons, Airborne Pollution = Externality, Externalities = Bad, Farmers should bear true costs and pass on to buyers.

New Material: It's not telling farmer's how to farm, its requiring farmers bear their own costs. I don't WANT to pay for trash service, but I do. Should I take my trash to the farmers and dump it on their property because I want to externalize my waste output? Its the same as their waste-smoke invading local property.

More New Material: Of all the money you spend on agricultural produces, very little actually makes it to the farmer. It's eaten up by the profit margins of all the middle-folks; one more reason to frequent your local farmer's market.

Jon: First, city folk come up with land-use crap like M37 to "save farmland"

I'm not sure which M37 you're talking about, but it's certainly not the one of recent memory, which wasn't at all about saving farmland, and lost big time in the populated areas.

cc: After all, our predecessors in the Willamette valley burned stuff regularly

Refer to your previous sentence: That doesn't necessarily excuse it.

To assert that field burning only benefits one family is just the least bit unfair

No it isn't. A typical grass burn, which often affects thousands of people, benefits one farm. Overall, this practice is basically a couple of hundred farmers at most, screwing with the health of hundreds of thousands of people.

I'm not sure which M37 you're talking about

Sorry, I meant M49...

I'm not sure which M37 you're talking about, but it's certainly not the one of recent memory, which wasn't at all about saving farmland, and lost big time in the populated areas.

Oh, and IIRC, M37 passed in all but one county.

As an ex grass seed farmer DEQ regulations is what caused those huge smokey fires. When we could burn a field right after harvest it went up fast, burned hot and produced very little smoke.

Unfortunatly most the time we had to wait for the "perfect" burn conditions according to DEQ. This was typically much latter giving grass time to regrow and the straw to get wet from summer rains. These conditions meant the field fire was hard to start, burned slowly and produced a lot of smoke.

These regulations were in place long before the big accident which got people riled up and demand the end to field burning.

For the enviro readers of this blog. Field burning meant using a lot fewer chemicals on the field, or in todays buzzwords. It was a lot more organic then what we do today. Burning is used to help control weeds and insects. Without burning the farmer has to pour chemicals on the field to reach the same effect.

You probably don't care that pouring chemicals on fields seriously drives up the cost of operation. But, you might care that increasing the use of chemicals does have an impact on the environment as it leaches into our water ways.

I have a unique perspective on this particular situation.

My Great Grandfather was one of the unofficial "founders" of the "grass seed capital of the world."

He originally got the land under the Homestead Act, between Junction City and Eugene, back when Eugene was just a stop on the railroad. They were trying to figure out what to grow there, and noticed that some breeds of grass really worked well.

Since that time, the family farm has grown, through different land purchases, leases, trades, etc. When the State wanted to build a prison in the area, half of it was going to be on the farm's land, and half on a neighbor who didn't want it. My Grandfather managed to get that land from the neighbor and sell the whole parcel to the State at the meager price they were offering before they decided to eminent domain the whole thing, angering people statewide.

Why? Well, when I asked him, he thought for a second, and said "Well... prisons make great neighbors for farmers. They don't complain about dust or noise." You wouldn't believe the crap that farmers have to put up with in order to do what they do - make their living, employ people in the area, and contribute MASSIVE property tax funds to the state.

Field burning was just what farmers in this particular industry did - part of the cycle. You plow, disc, harrow, plant, irrigate, windrow, combine, bail, burn, start over. My grandfather did it, and my dad did it through summers while getting his degree from Oregon State. Everyone did.

Some of the land acquired by my Grandfather could not be burned, due to proximity to the Eugene Airport. In fact, the family farm's most profitable field is one that is directly adjacent to the airport, which is used as a parking lot for the airshow (after a rental fee is paid). He found that by cutting off the hay as close to the ground as possible, and then plowing under what was left, it was just as effective as burning, without the safety issues. (You really don't want to hear some of the stories about field burning my dad has.)

The average farmer is pretty smart. They can figure out how to make the most of very little. Some people here might remember the Columbus Day Storm - I don't because I wasn't born yet. However, through a bit of thinking and dealing, my grandfather harvested another farmer's ruined corn crop that was knocked flat by the 90 mph wind with his windrowers and combines, and used it for cattle feed. Both guys made out pretty good even though the crop was "ruined."

Due to the revelations learned from the fields not burned, the family farm stopped field burning altogether. Yeah, it probably takes a bit more fertilizer to get the same soil chemistry, but it works.

Some people take the easy road. Others innovate.

"The field burning permit process has been taken away from the state Ag Department and placed where it belongs, in the DEQ. Oregon should have done that a long, long time ago."

My understanding is that because of the same largess in the legislature there's not much going on over at the DEQ, which suffers from lack of funding and low moral.

Jon: First, city folk come up with land-use crap like [M49] to "save farmland"

OK, now it's more clear what you meant. And to this I would reply that M49 would not have been necessary had M37 not been passed, which itself replaced (for some) protections in place that were saving farmland.

Oh, and IIRC, M37 passed in all but one county.

Yes, which is why I said "populated areas", not "populated counties". Lane County is pretty big.

"Field burning is illegal in Washington State"??

Several large columns of smoke are heading straight up as wheat stubble is burned in the Walla Walla Valley today. It must be a "burn day!"

Oregon is one of the few western states that still allows’ field burning. Washington State completely abolished the practice in 1998. Since that time the amount of acreage being farmed and yields of grass seed have increased.

Guess it's only grass burning that's illegal in Washington? Beats me. It still stinks, literally and figuratively.


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