Monday, December 31, 2007

Organic should be banned?

Organic is out.

So say the word watchers at Lake Superior State University.

The school released its annual List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness today (read the AP story here).

Organic was nominated for inclusion on the list because it is "overused and misused to describe not only food, but computer products or human behavior, and often used when describing something as 'natural,'" according to Crystal Giordano of Brooklyn, N.Y.

Rick DeVan of Willoughby, Ohio, called organic "another advertising gimmick to make things sound better than they really are."

Or how about this one: "The possibility of a food item being inorganic, i.e., not being composed of carbon atoms, is nil." – John Gomila, New Orleans, La.

Or this: "You see the word 'organic' written on everything from cereal to dog food." – Michael, Sacramento, Calif.

Or this: "I'm tired of health food stores selling products that they say are organic. All the food we eat is organic!" – Chad Jacobson, Park Falls, Wisconsin.

Hey, we don't make up the news here at Blogriculture and the Capital Press, we just bring it to you.

You can find the full list of banned words and phrases here, and remember, "it is what it is."

Oh, wait, I can't say that, phrase was banned too. So much for my "wordsmithing" skills.

More storms coming...

It looks like another round of storms are targeting the Pacific Northwest and California later this week. While wintry weather is expected to be challenging this time year, it’s always good to let people in agriculture know as much in advance as possible when bad weather is coming.

Heavy rains, high winds, low temperatures: Farmers need to know what might affect their land, livestock and even greenhouses.

Check our Capital Press website for updates and how big are the storms being predicted.

We also invite people to let us know how weather affects them — send us anecdotes and pictures, and we’ll post them online.

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Look, I is on the News!

Whenever my local town of Maupin makes the Portland news, it is because something bad has happened. Whether it’s a flood, fire, river drowning, earthquake, or a piano falling from the sky, it’s never a good thing.

They say the best thing about living in a small town is how everyone knows everyone. They also say the worst thing about living in a small town is how everyone knows everyone. With those two statements, I would agree.

What amazes me is how the television media, during a local crisis, can manage to find the most obscure, spooky, backwoods hermit of a person to interview. Even more amazing is how nobody in town will know the person they are interviewing. How do they find these people?

“When the rain started tinklin on the window I knew right den and der we was gonna have a flood. Back in ’81 we had a 8- foot wall a water come down the river and I watched four deer get picked up out of the meadow and swept out to sea. That’s how the mule deer got bred to the blacktails from the valley, because of that der flood. Funny thing was that my great aunt Ethel was at the coast when she saw four deer walking down the beach. It had to be them four I seen in the flood.”

My town is not the only small town to face the phenomenon of the media’s mysterious interviewees. I asked a friend from a neighboring town who the funny buck-tooth guy was on the news and he had never seen the man. These people seem to just show up during the crisis long enough to be caught by the media.

I’ve always wanted to know what the media hoped to gain by finding people like that. It would seem simple to find anyone even remotely normal to interview, but seldom is that the case.

I was reminded how badly the media can distort things when the man wanting to put a natural gas pipeline through our place was astounded we had e-mail out here. My response to that statement went something like this:

“Yep, we do have e-mail, and I also heard there is this big truck with a large crane on top that spins which can dig down hundreds of feet enabling us to maybe get running water someday soon. Just think, we might not have to run outside to go in the middle of the night much longer and I won’t have to bathe in the creek anymore.” He wasn’t thrilled with my response, as I wasn’t thrilled with his elitist attitude either.

A second so-called infraction was when the federal auditors were sent to investigate our new buildings for the fire department. The fire chief received a phone call asking if the investigators would require an SUV to successfully navigate to the fire station. Keep in mind this was June, and snowy roads were unavailable.

The chief’s response had something to do with a horse-and-buggy and how an SUV would be the first automobile to come by since the Model T was introduced. It appears the disconnect between urban and rural centers always involves ignorance and mistaken preconceptions.

I suppose this is true with anything. Taking the media’s word for something and developing an idea based solely on that information would be dangerous. As for the pipeline guy and the federal auditors with their SUV, perhaps the fault does not lie completely with them; however I am shocked they haven’t made it out to rural areas at least once in their lifetimes.

Today there is a television crew wanting to do a story on the recent earthquakes in the area. The news lady is waving at me to do an interview. Perhaps they want to interview a normal person in the area; or, maybe I’m the nearest obscure, spooky, backwoods hermit.

Kevin Duling is a wheat farmer from Maupin, Ore. His stories will be posted on the Capital Press blog every Friday. Comments are welcomed at

Copyright, December 2007, Kevin Duling.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A burning question

Some news stories just don't answer the real burning questions behind the story. Take, for instance, this story from the Idaho Statesman about firefighters in a firehouse in Boise, Idaho, catching their own kitchen on fire with a pan of tater tots.

Aren't you just dying to know if the tater tots were made with genuine Idaho potatoes? Or is it just me?

Time for top lists

You always know it must be near the end of the year when all the lists come out.

Top 10 news stories. Top 10 weather disasters. Who died. Who won awards. Who were the best dressed, worst dressed, best movies, worst movies, which celebrity marriages fell apart, which famous people got married.

In this week's Capital Press, we give the top ag stories. You can see them online at on Dec. 28, or check out this week's issue of the newspaper. We also have 12 editorial cartoons, done by Rik Dalvit, that reflect some of the biggest ag stories.

In our case, we published a list of stories and asked our readers to rank them so we got our top list. Other publications have also asked their readers to help figure out which stories were the most important.

Other places use their own staff, or outside experts, to select the top stories of the year.

As someone who pays attention to the news — whether online, in newspapers, on the radio, or on television — how do you want your news to be ranked for the year? Do you want to have a chance to vote, or do you prefer the news organization (or its experts) do the ranking? Which lists would you trust more — the ones decided by the media, or the ones decided by the public?

And perhaps the biggest question of all: Do you even pay attention to these lists? What do you think of them? Are they meaningful or amusing to you, or a waste of time?

Perhaps one of the lessons to be learned is that lists can be influenced by so many things. For example, what a farmer thinks should be in the top 10 might most important events of the year might not make a list for someone who lives in a city. Or what we in America think is big news might be ignored in other parts of the world.

And sometimes some of the biggest stories might happen at the last moment during the year, and not make the list just because of deadlines, a voting process held earlier, or other reasons.

In the case of our newspaper, we were already voting on our top stories at the time the big winds, heavy rains, and resulting floods were creating havoc in Washington and Oregon — so we didn't have it in our list of choices.

Or look at today's political assassination in Pakistan — it might have huge ramifications internationally, but how many lists will it make in this weekend's special Sunday editions of newspapers? And where?

We're curious to hear your thoughts — whether or not you voted on our news list or any other one out there.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Want to get better at ag trivia?

As you begin to search for calendars for the new year, why not support a good cause and have fun learning agriculture facts when getting your next calendar.

Oregon’s Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation is selling its school-year calendar that shows artwork by students from around the state. The calendar is great for several reasons: It showcases some terrific artwork, it supports important ongoing activities of the AITC organization, but most importantly it educates and promotes agriculture.

The artwork shows images of agriculture, but also each day of the month includes some facts or trivia about agriculture in Oregon and the rest of the country. Anyone getting one of these calendars will be intrigued by the information, and not just to be better prepared for the next game of Trivial Pursuit.

Some of the facts in the calendar (one for each month):

  • 100 percent of all U.S. grown hazelnuts come from Oregon.
  • The average American eats 21 lbs. of onions per year.
  • Turkeys have 3,500 features at maturity.
  • Pig fat is used to make crayons, cosmetics and chalk.
  • Bees must fly 55,000 miles to produce a pound of honey.
  • FFA Officer teams may travel 30,000 miles during the year.
  • Rhubarb is a vegetable.
  • Earthworms have five hearts.
  • Americans spend 7.1 percent of the income on food.
  • Dairy cows can produce 125 lbs of saliva a day.
  • The first ice cream parlor in the U.S. was opened in 1776.
  • An acre will produce enough wheat for 2,500 loaves of bread.

The calendar contest is one of the most popular events held by the AITC Foundation. This year, more than 1,500 students in 24 counties entered the competition. During the State Fair in Salem, the winners of the contest are recognized for their accomplishments and given a chance to talk about the pictures they submitted. Their parents and teachers are also invited to speak.

The students talk about why they like to do art, but also what agriculture means to them. For some students, they’re inspired as they look out their house window — and see family members operating farm machinery in the field. For others, their teachers have given them lessons about agriculture that help.

One of the young artists who really made an impression during the awards ceremony this past fall was Tyler S., who attended Grade 6 at Brooklyn Elementary in Baker City, Ore. His entry, published for December in the calendar, showx a logging operation with the machinery used to extract the trees and place them on the truck. On the side of the truck, a sign says Baker County Logging.

Tyler did more than just talk about his art when he accepted his award. He explained how important logging is to his county, and how it gave jobs to people in the community. He also talked about the impact of what happens when environmentalists or others shut down logging operations, and how it can hurt families who depend on logging.

It was clear that this was more than just an art contest to Tyler: To him, this calendar contest was a chance to explain to others why logging is such an important economic activity to his area of the state.

To see Tyler’s art as well as the work of other students that appears in the calendar, see:

To order a calendar for $5 each, contact Oregon Ag in the Classroom at or Phone: (541) 737-8629.

Here are links to websites for the national Agriculture in the Classroom program and programs in other Western states:
(Elaine Shein is executive editor of Capital Press, and also the president of Oregon Ag in the Classroom Foundation).

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Snow is a matter of perspective

When Salem and some other parts of Oregon received snow yesterday, it was a rare occurrence. While other parts of the country may be used to a “white Christmas,” the last time it snowed here for Christmas was 17 years ago — and the last time it received more than an inch of snow was 70 years ago.

For any of us who have grown up in more wintry climates, it was a reminder of what winter is like in other places.

For those who grew up in the Willamette Valley, or other places with similar mild winter temperatures, the snow seemed more like a miracle.

When I had moved here in 2003, my neighbors had laughed when I unpacked snow shovels from the moving truck. They explained those wouldn’t be needed, and few people owned a shovel around here.

A few months later, after Christmas, we received a big snowstorm and an ice storm that toppled trees. I was one of the rare people on the block that could dig out the neighbors’ sidewalks, driveways and the street as various vehicles and even a UPS truck with chains on its tires got stuck that time.

No matter where you live in the country, one thing is for certain. Whenever there is unusual weather, it brings neighbors together — we meet in the street to talk about the odd weather and we support each other if needed.

In the countryside, after big storms, neighbors would check on each other and offer to help. A lot of the farmers — included my family — always wanted to go for a drive to see how everyone else had fared.

While we were under a snow advisory from the weather office, we didn’t have enough snow here yesterday to trigger the need for emergency help; in fact, most of us didn’t even have enough snow on the ground to roll up a snowman.

But at least it was enough snow to create a few fond memories for people, especially kids experiencing their first white Christmas.

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Aren’t you glad you’re not in Iowa?

A television report this morning showed how much Iowans are being bombarded with political messages during this holiday season.

As Jan. 3 nears for presidential caucus voting in that state, people are receiving more candidate literature than Christmas cards. Phones are buzzing with calls from volunteers urging people to support their leaders.

For example, one of the television networks visited a home where the guy showed he had received 20 pieces of mail in two days — and his phone showed 60 calls since Dec. 1. All of these were attempts to sway his vote.

As the victim — I mean, potential voter — noted, this is the time of year when people are more interested in the Christmas cards than the political flyers, and you think more about Christmas than elections.

Unfortunately, political campaigns are influenced by polls, and obviously the polls have shown politicians they need to do more to sway people to support them.

Perhaps the date for that caucus meeting needs to be changed, or politicians need to come to some sort of joint agreement to “cease fire” and give people a break from politics for at least two weeks around the holiday season.

Wouldn’t that be refreshing?

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas past

I consider myself blessed when I think of my childhood Christmas memories. I remember the many sleepless Christmas Eves when I would lie awake wondering what gifts might be under the tree. I remember the arguments between us (the kids) and my folks determining when the waking hour would be.

We would always push for 6:30 at the latest, while the folks would try to make us stay in bed until at least 7:30. A compromise of 6:38 was usually the result. After the gift opening ceremony, a large feast of fry bread, scrambled eggs, bacon, and fruit would satisfy the body, as well as the soul.

For my siblings and I, there were two events that never failed to prep our spirits for the Christmas season. One was gathering around the television to watch the annual showing of A Charlie Brown Christmas. The other was the Christmas production the grade school would put on.

Each class, consisting of 15 to 30 students, would either sing, play instruments, dance, or perform a play for the crowd of teachers, students, parents, grandparents, and family friends. With the stage lit only with black lighting, the evening was topped with a mass song of Silent Night.

I attended grade school in the 1980s. I am saddened how today’s generation, only 20+ years later, is not allowed to have Christmas specials like that. They can have a holiday special, but not one that represents Christmas. Having the group sing a song like Silent Night together would result in someone getting fired, or perhaps end in a lawsuit.

As an adult, Christmas has evolved somewhat since my earlier years. I’ve found myself trying to bargain with my nieces and nephews hoping to get to sleep until 7:30, though usually receiving a rude phone call at about 6:38 telling me to hurry up and get to my folks house. I’ve also found myself excited about my gift to someone, not from someone.

We still gather around the television and watch A Charlie Brown Christmas, eat a low-fat fry bread breakfast (you mean fry bread isn’t low fat? Even with canola oil?), and go on a long walk with everybody to help the food settle.

As my fiancée and I gear up to be married, one area of concern is the Christmas tree. Last year, I pushed her into the pickup on an 18-degree day and made her search the forest with me looking for the perfect tree. She thought the tree was too vacant and needed to be much fuller.

Her idea of a great Christmas tree is to go purchase one from the nearest tree-lot. I explained how I didn’t want to spend $30 on a dried up, dead piece of shrubbery. Also, the romanticism of going to a tree-lot is just not there.

“Kevin, last year you lost the Thermos of hot chocolate, you got the pickup stuck in the snow, and the Forest Service guy gave you a warning because of the size of tree you cut down,” she argued.

“It wasn’t all my fault. You were the one who wanted the top 8 feet of that 50-foot tree, and then you had the nerve to complain about it once we brought it home!”

After a compromise this year, we agreed to have her store-bought tree (shrubbery) put in the house. I got to decorate the little pine tree in the corner of my yard. I’ve never been too fond of the compromising process.

Remember, the spirit of Christmas is about giving. If you’ve been given something freely, freely give back. If you know of someone who needs comfort, give them comfort. If you know an elderly person who would just like to visit, give them a visit.

The world may try to take Christ out of Christmas, but the world cannot take Christ out of us. Merry Christmas to all.

Kevin Duling is a wheat farmer from Maupin, Ore. His stories will be posted on the Capital Press blog every Friday. Comments are welcomed at

Copyright, December 2007, Kevin Duling

Political ads at Christmas

Yesterday morning, Fox TV showed some of the advertisements created by the political frontrunners that have been airing in different places across the country. The ads were tied to the holiday season and ranged from just the politician, to showing the politician's family and including them in saying greetings to the public.

What really jumped out was which ones were saying Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays to the public, or thanks for supporting them, and which ones thought this was a good hook to just push more of their election platform. There was an attempt to include some humor, too — in some cases it worked, in some it didn't.

Has anyone seen any of these ads? If so, what did you think? Did it influence you in any way? Or did it turn you off any of the political contenders?

Bonus question: Which person promised to send fruitcake to everyone?

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Missing mail

This time of year, sometimes our luggage and mail travel a great distance more than we do — and not necessarily to the destination intended.

For example, this week our batch of paychecks didn't go from point A to B within the state of Oregon. Instead they went to point L — as in Louisville, Kentucky.

One can imagine the reaction here and how everyone felt about a certain courier company.

But one has to feel sorry for the post office, the courier companies, and everyone else being trusted to deliver our goods — as well as us — during this holiday season.

It's extremely busy, and mistakes do happen.

Too bad us customers can't get extra frequent flyer points for our travelling luggage when the bags does extra trips without us, or maybe get some postcards that show us where our mail temporarily diverted its journey along the way.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Looser media ownership rules would impact public

Should there be looser media ownership rules in the country?
On Dec. 18, after a 32-year ban, the Federal Communications Commission voted to loosen the rules, and will allow media companies to own a newspaper and a radio or television station within the same market.
This will apply to the top 20 markets in the country.
According to a story in the Wall Street Journal, “in order to do so, there must be at least eight media outlets in the market, and if the transaction involves a television station, it can’t be one of the four largest stations in that market.
“In smaller markets, firms can apply for a waiver from the rule, although they will have to prove under a new test that it would be in the public interest,” said the WSJ article.
Large media companies such as Gannett Inc. and Media General Inc. are expected to benefit from the changes.
While 25 members of the U.S. Senate, including Sen. Barack Obama have threatened to block changes, it’s up to the public to make their voices heard.
So where does your small local newspaper or niche publication fit in to this changing media world, and why should you care what the FCC decides?
Be prepared — it doesn’t matter what community you live in, you’ll see the impact of these FCC changes if they go through.
Whether it’s big markets or rural areas, the move by FCC opens the doors to how media will serve communities as a whole.
Newspaper companies emphasize their profits have fallen as advertising has dropped, and may point to the Internet and broadcast stations as having more profit potential.
It will probably be bigger companies with deep financial pockets that can afford to have the cross-ownership in these desirable markets.
If the same company owns newspaper and broadcast facilities within a community, expect changes.
If anyone wanted to see an example of what can happen, just look north to Canada. After so much consolidation and cross-ownership was allowed there, Canadians now have one company — CanWest Global Communications Corp. — that controls the largest newspaper chain in the country, as well as the No. 2 private television network, and it is still hungry for more ownership.
An example of how such power could be bad is that the company has at times directed what editorials could run in its major newspapers across the country — and what stories can’t.
So what can be expected here?
It is the right of the owner to cut expenses, and what better way to do it than to start to consolidate the news departments.
Expect to see more cross-use of what’s in the newspaper and what’s being broadcast, so fewer stories or reporters may be needed; expect fewer hard news stories on the front page of the papers and probably more entertainment news as newspapers will be the vehicle to promote what is happening on the television station’s primetime television programs; and for those in the rural areas who depend on the nearest big city to supply their television news or newspaper, there will probably be less interest in covering news outside of the city’s boundaries.
After all, the news budgets can only go so far — and the media owner will be most interested in suburban audience and getting the maximum exposure for each inch of newsprint and minute on air.
Also, when the same company has television and newspaper ownership in the same market, there can be censorship on certain news: If a company doesn’t want certain political, financial or other stories to run, it now can cover a wider swath of shutting down that story so it doesn’t reach the public.
Then there is the advertising aspect. When an owner has a newspaper as well as broadcast stations, this can be a mixed impact on advertisers depending on how the rate structure is set up. There may be packages that allow advertisers to cross-advertise their products in newspapers as well as on the air; however, there might be fewer opportunities to get a break if there isn’t the competition anymore and the company can set whatever rate it wants and can expect to get it.
In places where cross-ownership could be allowed, the big companies can come into the market and apply pressure against any of their competitors, whether a small company or family-owned operation, and played hardball. The big companies can reduce rates far below what the smaller companies can afford to give up from their profit margin, and eventually the smaller companies give up. This leads back to the bigger companies doing then whatever they want with rates — and the community suffers.
Having the cross-ownership in the media can also affect who reports the news. No longer will the best print journalists be desirable to hire unless they also have a good voice, nice face and good broadcast presence. After all, today’s writers might be tomorrow’s television commentators as they discuss the stories they did for the newspapers, or they might be summarizing their stories for radio, television or even Internet podcasts.
When a reporter is expected to do so much more with a story, it could impact how well the story is done if the reporter has less time to research or write it, and needs to rush to get the story broadcast in this increasingly interactive, info-hungry, multi-channel, Web-connected universe.
Is this fear-mongering? No. These are just some of the actual examples of what happened in Canada — and could happen here.
True, even smaller newspapers have already been making changes. The newspapers have their print product, their online version, their ventures into audio, video and other multimedia options. They might even work with other newspapers, radio or TV stations, offering news feeds or have their staff serve as commentators on stories.
But the difference is the staff at these smaller newspapers or local broadcast companies have roots in their communities.
They’re not run by some giant corporation with offices across the nation.
They’re not being influenced to run entertainment news to support the programs created by a television network.
They care about what happens and is important to their audiences.
They know how important a local rodeo is, report extensively on a local weather catastrophe, and will cover subjects like agriculture, town meetings, or local school politics when no big media company would think twice on that news.
They try to avoid sensationalism, and pride themselves on serving their customers.
In these smaller communities, it’s not just another reader, or viewer, or potential Nielsen Ratings triumph.
For these reasons, people should be aware what these media ownership changes could mean — and fight to protect the independent and smaller media companies that still exist in this country.

(Elaine Shein, executive editor of Capital Press, spent several years on the Canadian Association of Journalists board of directors during the time it was reacting to Canadian media going through considerable media concentration and cross-ownership.)

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Beware of unfamiliar foods

As my esteemed colleague Gary West ventured forth from our office to search for a hamburger for lunch, I decided I should also hunt down some nourishment.

I went to the Jack-in-the-Box restaurant for lunch. First time. Didn't trust it since I heard about E.Coli in that restaurant chain years ago...

Anyway, I learned a valuable lesson. When ordering food for the first time in a new place, be careful. I wasn't. I was adventurous. I thought I would try the "Sample Trio" of some sort of battered food mix. I didn't even ask what might possibly be in the box. Sometimes I think I am too trusting. Or an idiot.

I got back to the office and carefully glanced at the various blobs of battered foods in the container. Different shapes, but with so much batter it was difficult to guess if it was even meat, vegetable or some inedible object a disgruntled employee might have tossed in there for first-time customers like me.

Without thinking, I popped one of the food blobs into my mouth.

Two things then struck me.

First, my tongue was suffering from burns. (I glanced at the box, and in small letters near the bottom it stated, "Careful, the food you are about to enjoy is very hot!")

Note the exclamation mark. Ah, a warning. Ah, a great revelation. Ah, ah, ah.... where's water????

For the second thing that struck me, the second great revelation, was that there might be a dual meaning to the word hot.

I realized my mouth was now on fire from ... the battered jalapeno I had chomped down on.

I swear flames were shooting out my ears as I grabbed quickly for something to extinguish the burning sensation in my mouth. Water. Pop. Fire extinguisher. NOW I understand why the restaurant employee tried to convince me to order the extra-mega-monster-grande sized drink instead of my pathetic medium size pop.

As I write this, I believe my body temperature has returned to normal.

As someone who usually steers clear of any food that ventures past "mild" on the spices, I silently vowed to next time be more wary of new foods and restaurants — or at least drag along someone else as an official "taste tester" to sample the foods first.

I wonder what Gary is doing for lunch tomorrow...

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PETA protesters: They're what's for dinner

So, do you think it's a requirement to be a protester with the organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals that you be willing to bare all for your beliefs?

Check out this video from the Associated Press while I go grab a hamburger for lunch.

And I wonder what would happen to all the livestock of the world if PETA was to be successful in its effort to make everyone a vegetarian? Maybe every PETA member could take home cows, chickens, pigs and turkeys as pets. I can't imagine keeping a cow in an urban apartment would be very ethical treatment though. But thinking about such things isn't nearly as sexy as half-naked, or full-nude protests.

Bloggers sound off on farm bill

The final details of the 2007 Farm Bill are not going to be hammered out until early 2008, but at least now the House and Senate have passed their individual version of the bill. The final version of the bill will be worked out in conference committee after the holidays.

But based on what we know now, is it a good bill?

Wheat growers, who are currently enjoying a record price for their crop due to low global supplies, like the bill because it include price supports for those down years. Karl Scronce, a Klamath Falls, Ore., wheat rancher and second vice president for the National Association of Wheat Growers, put it this way:

"If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times – the direct payment is essential for wheat growers and other agricultural producers. It is predicable from year to year, which provides essential stability for growers, their bankers and their communities; reliable in times of disasters that affect an individual operation or spread to the larger economy and raise prices; and the most World Trade Organization-friendly program we’ve got, which is vital for an industry that exports half its product."
You can read Scronce's full statement by clicking here. And click this link for more from the National Association of Wheat Growers.

Since the Senate passed the bill late last week, some commentary on the bill and its myriad provision have been posted online on blogs and other websites. For example, Jordan J. Ballor on the Acton Institute's PowerBlog, refers to it as "A Fruity Farm Bill" in the headline of a post. I'm quite sure if the reference to funds for specialty crop growers is intended as a good thing or not.

Betsy Newmark, a teacher in North Carolina, is not a fan of the bill. On her blog, Betsy's page, she inclues a post with the headline "Let's give money to the really rich! As long as they're farmers."

Kisha Lewellyn Schlegel points out that the bill passed in the Senate by the largest margin in more than three decades in a post on the NewWest site. That a bit ironic, given that a couple of weeks ago, it wasn't even certain the Senate would vote on the bill at all this year.

Whether or not it is a good bill depends on what you grow and where you grow it.

If you are interested on more farm bill comments from the blogosphere, you may (or may not) find these links via Technorati and Google's blog search helpful.

Feel free to share your comments on the bill here in our post comments or let folks know where your comments may be posted elsewhere. Also look for additional commentary and news coverage on the farm bill in upcoming editions of the Capital Press and online at

Monday, December 17, 2007

Getting caught up on odds and ends

I've been on vacation and haven't posted anything for a while, so I wanted to mention a few things to get myself back in a posting mode and share information that may be of interest to Capital Press and Blogriculture readers.


Kudos to fellow Capital Press staffer Steve Brown (and fellow Blogriculture blogger too I might add) for getting his recent video story about Christmas tree harvesting by helicopter mentioned in a post on the Oregonian newspaper's website earlier this month.

The boost in traffic to his YouTube video from that post has made it the most popular of the videos we've posted at Capital Press in our short video-posting history.


Speaking of Christmas tree video stories, the Associated Press recently posted a video about the debate over whether real or artificial trees may be better for the environment. You can check out the video here.

Or read a recent guest commentary piece published in the Capital Press on that issue by Joseph Sharp, president of Yule Tree Farms at Aurora, Ore., and chairman of the Coalition of Environmentally Responsible Growers.

Staff writer Elizabeth Larson also did a story on this issue in the Nov. 23 edition.


And, on a more personal note, the reason I was playing hooky last week was because I was down in Las Vegas for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Last year, when I went to the NFR I took a laptop along and posted some blog updates from Las Vegas on the rodeo.

We don't really cover rodeo at the Capital Press, but there is an obvious link between the sport and agriculture, and farming and ranching news in the West is what the Capital Press. Rodeo grew out of the skills needed in ranching and working with livestock. The people who compete in rodeo largely come from ranching backgrounds and maintain farms or ranches in addition to their competitive lives. The stock contractors are specialized ranchers. And I would be willing to wager that the core of the rodeo fan base comes from the greater agriculture community. Rodeo is not only part of the Western lifestyle it is also a part of the agribusiness economy.

So, needless to say, it was difficult not to think about work when I was surrounded by farmers and ranchers from Umatilla County who make the annual trek to Vegas for the NFR.

But if you are craving some Wrangler National Finals Rodeo news, check out columnist Butch Thurman's dispatch from Las Vegas. Capital Press print readers will get the column in their paper Friday, but you can read it online now on the Capital Press website. You can even read more of Butch's columns there.

Postal ponderings

At times like this, I really miss my small town post office from the past.

Mind you, my hometown was so small it technically wasn’t a town: it only has 11 people when I was growing up, and even fewer people reside there today.

The post office was connected to a general store that handled mostly groceries. The family that operated the store would occasionally excuse themselves from adding up or packing groceries so they could get the mail quickly for people who might have popped into the post office.

On the day the farm newspaper arrived, that was always the busiest day. Farmers couldn’t wait to get their favorite paper to read the news and classifieds. Sometimes the farmers sat in their half-ton trucks later outside the post office, faces already buried into the newspapers.

Yet no matter what the season, how close was the biggest holiday of the year, there was never a long line-up at this rural post office. If there was more than one person waiting, it just meant there would be a conversation opportunity with one of the neighbors. Everyone knew each other. They even knew each other’s box numbers since there were so few there.

The post office is now closed back home, replaced by a large metal contraption of mail boxes for the community. It stands forlornly across the street from where the other post office once stood.

Instead of having chats with the post office workers about family, weather, roads, crops and anything else that came to mind, farmers instead drive up — dig their little keys out of the truck glove compartments — and take a few seconds to unlock the boxes and retrieve their mail.

It all seems so … sterile.

Today I visited the post office in the city to mail off Christmas packages to friends and family across the country and internationally.

My first clue that this wouldn’t be easy was the 40 minutes it took to make the turn into the post office parking lot and find a parking space.

In small towns, we never have that problem — unless the snowdrifts were too deep.

I managed to get into the post office and started to figure out which way the line-up weaved to fit in the maximum amount of people from protect them from the rain outside.

Inside the main post office room, people were tighter than sardines in a can. The rest of us were in the lobby, hallway, extending past the mail boxes and almost out the back of the building. And still more people kept coming. And coming.

We all came bearing gifts for loved ones. Most of us who work during the day came the only time we could — lunchtime. The line-up barely moved. Snails could have set a faster pace. As the time kept ticking, and minutes began to be measured into quarter-hours and beyond, I realized I had moved … less than a yard.

Counting the amount of people in line, the number of staff at the counter, and the number of packages per customer, I realized the shocking fact that it would take another hour and a half minimum for me to reach the counter. That is in a line-up of increasingly frustrated, agitated people who worried about missing work and were torn with the desire to still try to meet family expectations of gifts for the holidays somewhere far away. Very few of the strangers talked to each other. Usually they just grunted as someone new entered and queried where was the end of the line. Cavemen probably had longer dialogues.

I glanced at my watch. My lunch hour had already passed. I now was up to a yard and a half of moving from my original spot. The victory of slam-dunking my packages on the postal scales and demanding postage still seemed a distant goal.

Gathering my packages, I finally gave up and headed out the door, deciding to return to the post office after the line-ups finally die down.

I hope everyone who knows me will enjoy the pleasant surprise of receiving their holiday gifts — in March.

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Oregon pitches strong examples of what baseball should be

When George Mitchell came out swinging with his 409-page report on performance-enhancing drugs used in professional baseball, he struck out on the most important point that should be made.

He did not recommend punishment for the 85 past and present players named as guilty.

If he's going to name that many players who have ties with teams from coast to coast, and so many past Cy Young and Most Valuable Player winners (15 out of 36 from between 1996 and 2004), then he needed to sternly declare they must be punished.

Instead, he leaves the choice to Commissioner Bud Selig who deserves blame himself for doing so little to clean up baseball in the last few years, even as evidence grew there was a problem.

Sadly, even if something is done it appears players will not be disciplined for their actions prior to Sept. 30, 2002. That was when baseball's management and union drug policy was introduced. Also, Human Growth Hormone wasn't banned until January 2005.

Perhaps the biggest blow to baseball will be what happens to its image among fans and more importantly, the next generation of potential players.

Mitchell's report listed Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Miguel Tejada, Andy Pettitte and so many others who have been seen as heroes for their accomplishments in batting, pitching and overall performance. Will people, especially kids, become disenchanted with baseball? Or worse, will these young players believe the only way they can compete and become stars some day is by finding ways to cheat in the future?

At a time when committees in Washington, D.C., and the baseball organizations themselves will be going through Mitchell's recommendations and attempting to deal with controversy, Oregon will stand out as a place of hope for others across the country.

Here we have some great examples of what baseball players can accomplish with hard work, solid skills, good sportsmanship, pride and most of all love of the game.

We have the Oregon State University Beavers baseball team which earned back-to-back national championships, with players from all over the state. They didn't do it for multi-million dollar contracts: Anyone watching the games could see these players love baseball and they played as a team supporting each other.

Then there's a brighter example of what Oregon can offer baseball's future: Jacoby Ellsbury of Madras.

Ellsbury, Navajo in ancestry, played with OSU's baseball team and was drafted No. 23 in 2005.

This past season, he became a World Series hero as he played for the Boston Red Sox. He fought with heart, determination and amazing skills as he became only one of three rookies in World Series history to smack four hits in a single game.

Forget Clemens, Bonds and others who have cheated their fans, shamed their teams and hurt the image of baseball forever.

We have heroes among us who will continue to show up on ball diamonds each season and demonstrate to the world why baseball deserves to be one of America's most popular sports - and earn back fans' respect and trust.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

The Purse Caper

By Kevin Duling

Certain things in life have to be done, regardless of a man’s will or needs. One of the things a man has to do is keep his woman happy. We’ve all heard the equation that a happy wife means a happy life.

A short time ago, my fiancée found an opportunity to purchase some blingy purses from a wholesale dealership. My fiancée has one of these blingy purses and she always receives many compliments and inquiries about it. To her, it made sense to introduce these purses to north-central Oregon.

What better place to start selling purses than the county fair. She was the first in the vendor line to purchase the perfect booth where everyone attending the fair would have to walk by her large, shiny display of women’s accessories.

Not expecting much of a sales impact right away, I was pleased to hear she had sold 25% of her inventory the first day. She was correct in her assessment; north-central Oregon was ready for the world of blingy purses.

Friday morning of the fair, my day started with the normal phone call from my fiancée to check in and plan the day.

“Kevin, I guess I have to ride my horse in the rodeo tonight, so there won’t be anyone able to sit in the booth. Also, tomorrow from 9 a.m. till about 2 or 3 pm, my mom and I will both be gone, so I really don’t know what to do with my purses. You aren’t busy, would you mind sitting in for me during those times?”

Long pause.

“So, you are saying that you want me to go and sell your purses for you?”

“I know it’s a lot to ask, but it’s your slow time and there is no way I can make it and I have about twenty ladies who are really close to buying purses. Please?”


“Oh, thanks Kevin! I will owe you for this and don’t worry; mornings have been really slow so you probably won’t even see anybody.”

After the first ten minutes of sitting in the purse booth, I realized it takes a big man to sit in front of thirty blingy purses. At least that is what I told myself to make me feel better. On Friday night, I only had to look tough a few times as people walked by glancing at the man and his purses.

As the door opened on Saturday morning, I was met with fifteen women wanting to finalize the deal on their purses. Some of the ladies had questions. My fiancée had warned me to keep my mouth shut if someone asked me an apparel question.

One brave lady asked if her purse went with her blouse. I told her she should probably find someone a little more knowledgeable than me for the answer. I tried to just sit in my lawn chair and focus on my book about staying alive in avalanche country.

As the morning moved on, the people just kept coming. The people I knew would always stop and laugh at me with statements like, “What happened Kevin, did the wheat market fall apart so you have to sell purses now?” It takes a big man to sell purses.

With record purse sales at hand, I began to understand what the women were looking for in a purse. I found myself rearranging the display, in hopes of having a better curb appeal. I thought it would be better to have the pink and green purses intertwined with the brown and black ones, creating a broader, brighter display.

As my fiancée arrived back at the booth, she was shocked to find record sales and a rearranged display.

“Did my mother come in and do all this?” she asked.

“No, I just thought it would look better this way.”

“I have good news. I got accepted for a booth next weekend at an even larger rodeo!” she gleamed.

“Great! What time do we leave?”

Kevin Duling is a wheat farmer from Maupin, Ore. His stories will be posted on the Capital Press blog every Friday. Comments are welcomed at

Copyright, September 2007, Kevin Duling

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hot-button cotton

In other "subsidies are bad" news, former president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Jimmy Carter has an op-ed column in the Washington Post today decrying the current state of U.S. agriculture protections:

Tragically, in its current form [the Farm Bill] does not fulfill its original purposes [of sustaining family farms] but instead encourages excess production while channeling enormous government payments to the biggest producers. This product of powerful lobbyists now punishes small-scale farmers in the United States and is devastating to families in many of the world's least affluent countries.
Referring to an Oxfam report, Carter says the U.S. spends more to subsidize domestic cotton production than it does to fund development in all of sub-Saharan Africa, then dumps the excess cotton at below-market rates that further depress world cotton prices, adding injury to insult to small poor farmers in that region.

But after making a case for how freer trade could improve the lot of the world's poor, he does an abrupt about face and reaffirms the need for protection:
Cotton production costs 73 cents per pound in the United States and only 21 cents per pound in West Africa, so American farmers do need protection in the international marketplace.
Perhaps, as much of America faces dire water shortages, U.S. farmers might be better off planting other crops and letting better-watered lands raise thirsty crops like cotton. Cheaper T-shirts might not be the only payoff.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Today's vocab word: Agflation

The Economist takes an in-depth look at the rising costs of key agricultural products (wheat, corn, beef and the like) and what it means for the world economy. As for causes, the magazine — never a big fan of subsidies or trade barriers — doesn't hesitate to take U.S. policy to task:

With agflation, policy has reached a new level of self-parody. Take America's supposedly verdant ethanol subsidies. It is not just that they are supporting a relatively dirty version of ethanol (far better to import Brazil's sugar-based liquor); they are also offsetting older grain subsidies that lowered prices by encouraging overproduction. Intervention multiplies like lies. Now countries such as Russia and Venezuela have imposed price controls—an aid to consumers—to offset America's aid to ethanol producers.
The surge in income for farmers is good, the magazine reports, and is the perfect time to end subsidies and price supports in America and Europe, for the benefit of all:
Cutting rich-world subsidies and trade barriers would help taxpayers; it could revive the stalled Doha round of world trade talks, boosting the world economy; and, most important, it would directly help many of the world's poor. In terms of economic policy, it is hard to think of a greater good.
What do you think?

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