NEWS / FEATURES

OVS Takes Stand

Willamette Valley business quits carrying suspect herbicides

By Molly Walker

Frustrated with the slow pace of action on drift issues associated with a class of growth-regulator herbicides commonly used in agriculture, McMinnville-based Oregon Vineyard Supply has decided to do its part and quit carrying them.

The announcement was made by CEO Matt Novak, who cited “the glacially slow pace of anything concrete happening in trying to fix the issue.” He said it’s all “talk, talk, talk,” with nothing ever actually getting done.

Wine grapes are particularly susceptible to drift damage. Other crops grown in the area are also sensitive, including blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, hazelnuts and nursery crops. What’s more, herbicide drift poses contamination risk for organic farm, vineyard and dairy operations.

“We decided to work from within to see if there was anything we could do, large or small,” Novak said. From that discussion arose the decision to discontinue sale of 2,4-D and other problem products.

In addition, the OVS sales force has pledged to educate others on the problem. Novak said the staff is well-versed on the issue and prepared to recommend alternatives.

Finally, OVS has agreed to help distribute cautionary signs created by the Oregon Winegrowers Association, warning against spraying.

Novak said OVS has decided to quit stocking more volatile forms of growth-regulator herbicides.

He said farmers have been using them for decades because they work and are relatively cheap. However, he said there are many, equally effective alternatives available for 20 to 45 percent more, and argued it’s worth the tradeoff.

Novak said it doesn’t take much carelessness to cause damage to a neighboring vineyard, nursery or dairy. Over the last 10 years, between 5 and 10 percent of his customers have reported issues caused by accidental drift, he said.

“The people that are affected can be affected dramatically,” he said. “It’s more than an annoyance if you’ve gotten hit by it. It can be a dramatic loss.”

Effective immediately, OVS will cease all sales of ester formulations — or pre-packaged mixes containing such formulations — of 2,4-D, 2,4-DB, 2,4-DP (dichlorprop), MCPA, MCPB, MCPP (mecoprop) and dicamba. Additionally, the company will cease sales of the branded herbicides Crossbow and Garlon 4 Ultra.

“It is our position at OVS that this is a problem that Oregon agriculture needs to address first and foremost through self-regulation and farmer awareness,” Novak said. “Regulation by governmental agencies might ultimately be helpful or even necessary, but for now, OVS feels that Oregon agriculture should first endeavor to fix its own issues instead of turning to government to fix our issues for us.”

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