Agency pushes new Willamette Valley canola plan

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PORTLAND — The Oregon Department of Agriculture is pressing ahead with its plan to allow canola production in the Willamette Valley, but the agency now proposes sharply limiting the amount that can be grown.

Clean-energy advocates and some farmers are eager to expand production of canola, but it has been banned from the Willamette Valley for years. The yellow-flowering plant produces seeds that can be pressed for oil to use in renewable fuels, but they also bring new pests and can cross-pollinate with sensitive plants that produce organic vegetable seeds.

The Agriculture Department sparked controversy last year when it cut in half the region where farmers are prohibited from growing canola — a plan that was ultimately halted by an appeals court.

The latest plan, outlined in proposed administrative rules filed Friday, would allow canola plants on up to 2,500 acres in the Willamette Valley if the fields are at least three miles from vegetable seed fields. Canola fields must be 25 acres or larger, under the theory that a smattering of small fields would be tougher to manage than large ones.

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