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Oregon House approves bill to ban canola crops in Willamette Valley

By Harry Esteve, The Oregonian

SALEM — A bill that would prohibit farmers from planting canola crops in some parts of the Willamette Valley passed the Oregon House on Tuesday, over objections by some lawmakers that the Legislature is overstepping its authority.

“We should not be overruling the Department of Agriculture and picking favorites of crop types,” said Rep. Brian Clem, D-Salem.

But a majority agreed with Rep. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, who said the seed threatens other specialty seed crops that are important exports for the state.

“This is a clear threat to a $50 million industry,” Gelser said. She recited comments from Japanese importers who said they would look elsewhere for grass seed and other products if canola is allowed to be grown in the valley.

Canola is grown primarily for its oil, which is used for cooking and, increasingly, biodiesel production. Gelser and other supporters of the bill said canola can cross pollinate with other seed crops, however, diluting their value.

House Bill 2427 bans growing canola in the valley until 2019. In the meantime, it provides money for a study of the crop by Oregon State University.

“It is a brief time out” for canola, and only in specified areas of the valley, Gelser said.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

Published 6/25/13 in the Oregonian