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6-Regulation: Timothy (USA) growers want to be heard on genetically-altered alfalfa hay

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TITLE:  Growers want a say on hay issue
        Timothy growers want to be heard on genetically-altered alfalfa hay
SOURCE: Daily Record, USA, by Mike Johnston
DATE:   15 Nov 2005

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Growers want a say on hay issue
Timothy growers want to be heard on genetically-altered alfalfa hay

Editor's note: This is the first installment of three stories on the
Ellensburg Chamber of Commerce's Legislative Day conducted on Monday.

Kittitas Valley timothy hay growers on Monday said if state legislation
crops up in 2006 banning the growing of genetically-altered alfalfa hay,
they want to know about it and will oppose it.

Kittitas County's state lawmakers heard from officers of the Organization
of Kittitas County Timothy Hay Growers who said the altered alfalfa is
resistant to the herbicide Roundup and would be a good rotation crop on
the valley's timothy ground.

Craig George, president of the group, said the special alfalfa seed could
be planted and Roundup could be used to kill other grasses, thus cleaning
the field of stray grass species to prepare the field when it comes time
to replant the field with higher-value timothy hay.

"We don't want to see a state ban if such a bill comes up," George said.
"There are a lot of timothy growers locally who want to use the new
alfalfa seed."

The comments came during the Ellensburg Chamber of Commerce's annual
Legislative Day with state Sen. Joyce Mulliken, a Republican from Moses
Lake, and state Representatives Bill Hinkle of Cle Elum, and Jan/a
Holmquist of Moses Lake, both Republicans.

The three represent all of Kittitas County, three-quarters of Grant
County and the northern portion of Yakima County.

The 60-day 2006 legislative session begins Jan. 9 in Olympia.

George said alfalfa growers in the Columbia Basin are opposed to allowing
the seed's use because Japanese buyers of their hay don't want to allow
it into their country at this time, though Japan allows in other
genetically modified crops.

George said talks are under way with Japanese officials to allow the
altered alfalfa into Japan and approval could come by the end of the year.

"If the Japanese, in the end, don't want it, then we won't plant it,"
George said.

Timothy hay is the single-largest cash crop in Kittitas County with most
shipped to the Japanese race horse and dairy cattle industry.

In other discussion between lawmakers and farmers on Monday:

Mulliken said she has a bill ready for the 2006 session that will
eliminate the sales tax on so-called red diesel that is only used for on-
farm equipment. Road taxes are not levied on diesel used only on farms,
and not for vehicles using roads.

Mark Hansen, vice president of the Organization of Kittitas County
Timothy Hay Growers, said the sales tax should also be eliminated on
other items used to produce local agriculture products, including baling
twine, gated irrigation pipe and fertilizer.

George asked lawmakers to do what they can to change a proposed state
Department of Agriculture rule that would require notification of
schools, hospitals, day cares, nursing homes and other institutions 48
hours in advance of the application of pesticide sprays on lands within a
half-mile of those buildings.

George said the vagaries of wind and weather in the Kittitas Valley don't
allow farmers to know what the weather will exactly be in two days.

"There is no way I can predict what the weather is going to do two days
from now, let alone a few hours from now," George said. "The wind can
pick up and cancel your plans or the wind can die and you scramble to get
the job done. Why do we need more rules that don't work?"

As long as the sprays are applied according to the product label and by a
certified pesticide applicator, there should be ample safeguards for
nearby institutions, George said.

Hinkle said he has been told by legislative leadership not to expect
controversial water-right bills to come out of the new session because
2006 is an election year for state lawmakers.

Hinkle, Holmquist and Mulliken said they will continue to fight for
passage of bills that strengthen irrigation water supplies to farmers,
despite the election year.

Holmquist said she will introduce a bill that requires all gasoline to be
10 percent ethanol and all diesel to be 2 percent biodiesel. She said
this would be an incentive for farmers to grow seed-oil crops used in
biodiesel and receive a return on other crops used for ethanol.

Holmquist also said the state Attorney General is close to issuing a
formal opinion that will likely strengthen the right of cattlemen to use
water-right exempt wells to water livestock. A preliminary opinion was
favorable, she said.


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