by Darren Smith : jonthanturley – excerpt
Last weekend we featured two articles (HERE and HERE) describing a controversy involving the forced use of chemical herbicides on an organic farm that according to County officials was out of compliance in controlling noxious weeds that were threatening neighboring farms and crops.
The 2,000 acre organic farm in North Central Oregon is facing what could be a be an existential threat to its operations after county weed control authorities sent notice mandating that the farm use chemical herbicides to eradicate weed growth.
I attended the public hearing held at the Sherman County seat located in Moro, Oregon. Due to a very high volume of interest expressed by residents and those outside the community, the venue was changed from the County Courthouse to a gymnasium at the Sherman County High School. There was a great deal of uncertainty manifest in this hearing with strongly held opinions on many sides and one can say with near certainty that the publicity generated caused turmoil in this small community. In fact, the concern was so great, that a number of law enforcement officials were dispatched to the area to provide security to address a worry that things might get out of hand. But in the end the two sides reached an agreement that precludes the forced use of herbicides–and offered both a carrot and stick for both parties to strongly consider…(more)
How much damage can the government do before the public reacts? It appears we had two good outcomes in two states this week that prove when the public protests buildings casting shadows on parks and forced use of poisons on organic farms the government sometimes still listens.
The controversy also exposed a due process concern that potentially could affect organic farmers in general. I certainly do not believe at this point that Sherman County officials were bent on denying the due process rights of Azure Farms or the churches property, but it shows that there is the possibility that weed control boards could use the specter of noxious weed propagation to essentially curtail organic farms operating within their jurisdiction under the rubric of controlling weeds, and that such measures could be use as proxies by the chemical agribusinesses and corporations.
But I did note a couple of issues relating to the use of social media and the ensuing controversy and uproar that developed on both sides. While I am certain that the CEO of Azure Farms / Azure Standard genuinely meant no harm by appealing via social media for assistance, the use of social media does have the potential for harm when used at the hands of the unscrupulous; especially in the threats that were made. Several speakers before the hearing stated that they knew members of the community and of public officials whose family received threats because of perceived actions assume by others. And the division was not just within the community itself but Azure Farms itself. One woman who identified herself as being an employee of Azure farms said that her husband who worked for the County had received so many threats via email that it caused her and her family great distress, and she proceeded to declare quite assuredly that she was “ashamed to work for Azure Farms” due to the social media campaign it instigated.
But as an aside, we certainly cannot overlook the fact that the social media campaign did have an effect. One can only guess at whether or not Sherman County was truly motivated to compromise and work directly with the organic farm to avoid the use of herbicides if there wasn’t the possibility of an even more intense backlash to be suffered.
I also believe that this farmland could serve as a test bed for further research into how to rehabilitate an errant organic farm into responsible husbandry and that perhaps it is incumbent upon state legislatures to enact law to best address sanctions without resorting to scorched earth poisons that are in nobody’s interest, especially since Organic Farming is becoming increasingly prominent in the diets of the people… (more)