Oregon Officials Threaten To Seize 2,000 Acre Organic Farm, Spray It With Roundup

Tyler Durden's picture

Authored by Mike Shedlock via MishTalk.com,

Sherman County Oregon believes the 2,000 acre Azure Farms is not doing enough to control Canada Thistle, a noxious weed. In this case, not doing enough means not spraying weeds with herbicides.

To remedy the alleged problem, the county proposes seizing the farm and spraying everything with Roundup and other herbicides. Azure Farms is certified organic. Of course, organic farms cannot by definition use herbicides, so the farm would be forced out of business by the county government.

Adding insult to injury, the county would place a lien on the property forcing it to pay for the herbicides.

Details of the proposed takeover can be found at Keep Azure Farm Organic

An Organic Farm Under Threat

Azure Farms is a working, Certified Organic farm located in Moro, Central Oregon, in Sherman County. It has been Certified Organic for about 18 years. The farm produces almost all the organic wheat, field peas, barley, Einkorn, and beef for Azure Standard.


Sherman County is changing the interpretation of its statutory code from controlling noxious weeds to eradicating noxious weeds. These weeds include Morning Glory, Canada Thistle, and Whitetop, all of which have been on the farm for many years, but that only toxic chemicals will eradicate.


Organic farming methods – at least as far as we know today – can only control noxious weeds—it is very difficult to eradicate them.


What’s Happening?

Sherman County may be issuing a Court Order on May 22, 2017, to quarantine Azure Farms and possibly to spray the whole farm with poisonous herbicides, contaminating them with Milestone, Escort and Roundup herbicides.


This will destroy all the efforts Azure Farms has made for years to produce the very cleanest and healthiest food humanly possible. About 2,000 organic acres would be impacted; that is about 2.8 times the size of the City of London, England, and 1.5 times the size of the city center of Philadelphia that could be sprayed with noxious, toxic, polluting herbicides.


The county would then put a lien on the farm to pay for the expense of the labor and chemicals used.


Take Action Now

If you are concerned about where your food comes from, enjoy Organic and non-GMO food grown in the United States, and support organic farmers, contact Sherman County Court before May 22, 2017 (and preferably before May 17 when the next court discussion will be held).


Contact info:

  1. Via email at lhernandez@co.sherman.or.us or…
  2. Call Lauren at 541-565-3416.


Raise your voice and speak up for you and your families and communities.


This proposed action is completely unreasonable and would destroy an organic farm and pollute a massive area. If enough voices that benefit from organic produce speak up, the county will understand that there are people that care about their food NOT containing toxic chemicals. And if the supporters of healthy food can have a louder voice than the supporters of toxic chemicals, every politician will listen. PLEASE take action today and share this message. Overwhelm the Sherman County representatives with your voice.



Nathan Stelzer
Azure Farm Manager

Agricultural Scientist Responds

Alos consider Will There be Mandatory Herbicide Spraying on Organic Farms in Sherman County, Oregon? by Charles Benbrook, PhD.

He sent a letter to Lauren Hernandez (email above).

Dear Ms. Hernandez et al:


I live in Wallowa County. I learned today of the recent, dramatic change in the Sherman County noxious weed control program and the plan to forcibly spray a 2,000-acre organic farm in the county.


Over a long career, I have studied herbicide use and efficacy, public and private weed control efforts, the linkages between herbicide use and the emergence and spread of resistant weeds, and the public health and environmental impacts of herbicide use and other weed management strategies.


I served for six years, along with fellow Oregonian Barry Bushue, past-president of the Oregon Farm Bureau, on the USDA’s AC 21 Agricultural Biotechnology Advisory Committee. Issues arising from herbicide use were a frequent topic of discussion during our Committee’s deliberations.


I have published multiple scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals on glyphosate, its human health risks, and the impact of genetically engineered crops on overall herbicide use and the spread of resistant weeds. In a separate email, I will forward you copies of my published research relevant to the use of herbicides, and glyphosate in particular.


The notion that Sherman County can eradicate noxious weeds by blanket herbicide spraying is deeply misguided. I cannot imagine a single, reputable university weed scientist in the State supporting the idea that an herbicide-based noxious weed eradication program would work (i.e., eradicate the target weeds) in Oregon, or any other state.


There is near-universal agreement in the weed science community nationwide, and surely as well in the PNW, that over-reliance on glyphosate (Roundup) over the last two decades has created multiple, new noxious weeds posing serious economic, environmental, and public health threats.


In fact, over 120 million acres of cultivated cropland in the U.S. is now infested with one or more glyphosate-resistant weed (for details, see http://cehn-healthykids.org/herbicide-use/resistant-weeds/).


The majority of glyphosate-resistant weeds are in the Southeast and Midwest, where routine, year-after-year planting of Roundup Ready crops has led to heavy and continuous selection pressure on weed populations, pressure that over three-to-six years typically leads to the evolution of genetically resistant weed phenotypes, that can then take off, spreading across tens of millions of acres in just a few years.


Ask any farmer in Georgia, or Iowa, or Arkansas whether they would call “noxious” the glyphosate-resistant kochia, Palmer amaranth, Johnson grass, marestail, or any of a dozen other glyphosate-resistant weeds in their fields.


It is virtually certain that an herbicide-based attempt to eradicate noxious weeds in Sherman County would fail. It would also be extremely costly, and would pose hard-to-predict collateral damage on non-target plants from drift, and on human health and the environment. But even worse, it would also, almost certainly, accelerate the emergence and spread of a host of weeds resistant to the herbicides used in the program. …


if Sherman County is serious about weed eradication, it will have to mandate widespread spraying countywide, and not just on organic farms, and not just for one year. The public reaction will be swift, strong, and build in ferocity. It will likely lead to civil actions of the sort that can trigger substantial, unforeseen costs and consequences. I am surely not the only citizen of the State that recalls the tragic events last year in Malheur County.


Plus, I guarantee you that the County, the herbicide applicators, and the manufacturers of the herbicides applied, under force of law on organic or other farms, will face a torrent of litigation seeking compensatory damages for loss of reputation, health risks, and the loss of premium markets and prices.


I have followed litigation of this sort for decades, and have served as an expert witness in several herbicide-related cases. While it is obviously premature to start contemplating the precise legal theories and statutes that will form the crux of future litigation, the County should develop a realistic estimate of the legal costs likely to arise in the wake of this strategy, if acted upon, so that the County Commissioners can alert the public upfront regarding how they will raise the funds needed to deal with the costs of near-inevitable litigation.


If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call me.



Charles Benbrook, PhD

Troy, Oregon

Canada Thistles in Sherman County

Ther above image from Eddmaps.

Even if someone thought this action would eradicate the weeds, it would have to be applied to the entire county if not the entire state. Then what? The nation?

Farmer vs Farmer

I always want to know the other side of the story.

In this case, the story is farmer vs farmer. Neighboring wheat growers say weeds spreading from Azure Farms threaten their crops.

Capital Press reports County May Press for Quarantine of an Organic Farm.

Local wheat farmers say weeds spreading from Azure Farms, on the outskirts of Moro in north central Oregon, cost them money in the form of additional herbicide control. Most critically, growers of certified wheat seed say their crops will be worthless if contaminated by Rush Skeleton Weed, Canada Thistle, Morning Glory and White Top spreading from the farm.


Spraying the weeds with Milestone or other herbicides, however, would cause the farm to lose organic certification for three years. Azure Standard, which operates Azure Farms, is a major distributor of organic products.


Sherman County gave the farm until May 22 to respond with a weed management plan. If not, the county will ask the Oregon Department of Agriculture to quarantine the farm.


The issue has blown up on social media.


The manager of Azure Farms, Nathan Stelzer, urged supporters to “Overwhelm the Sherman County representatives with your voice.” A video posted on the farm website called for people to express their outrage reportedly has resulted in hundreds of phone calls and thousands of emails to county officials.


The issue may come to a head Wednesday when the county’s Board of Commissioners takes up the issue. The county is expecting such a crowd that it moved the session from the courthouse to the Sherman County School gym, 65912 High School Loop, Moro, at 4 p.m.


“The school gym is the only site in Sherman County big enough to hold the expected crowd and we received permission to use the gym only if we delayed our meeting until after the students are dismissed,” Commissioner Tom McCoy said in an email.


Wheat farmer Bryan Cranston, who grows certified seed next to Azure Farms, said its weed problems have gotten progressively worse over the years. Cranston said he spoke to Selzer and told him, “I don’t drift chemicals on you, I’d appreciate it if weeds don’t drift on me.”


Cranston said he told Selzer, “I grow seed wheat to garner more out of the market, you grow organic to garner more out of the market — we have a lot in common here.”


But he added, “You’re messing me up.”


The county warned that it would spray if the farm didn’t, and the cost for multiple surveys throughout the growing season would be billed to the farm as a lien on its property taxes.


Asher said the county could help identify weed, recommend control methods and herbicide products, and had a spray crew for hire if necessary.


David Stelzer said Azure is attempting to improve its ground through crop rotation and “companion planting” of various crops.


“Bio-diversity, a few weeds in the field, does not make a bad farmer,” he said.


Responding to comments he said have been made about the farm, he said it is not affiliated with a religion although they are a “family a faith.” He said Azure properly pays its taxes and provides a $6 million payroll. He said the farm’s wheat yields nearly meet the county average and is of high quality. Eventually, organic farming methods will be “dominant,” he said.

Both Sides

That’s both sides of the farming story.

But there is a medical issue as well. Some patients claim Roundup gave us cancer as EPA official helped the company.


  1. Are the increased used of herbicides on neighboring farms caused by Roundup resistant plants or seeds from the organic farm?
  2. Is Azure Farms responsible for blown seeds?
  3. Realistically, how far do these seeds blow? Miles? Thousands of acres?
  4. Is the remedy a lawsuit against Azure Farms by other farmers or action by the County?
  5. Is it possible to create a buffer zone of some sort?
  6. Is Roundup a carcinogen?

Whether or not you buy and eat organic foods, the proposed action (property seizure)  is extremely controversial, and it likely will not do much about the weeds either.

Widespread overuse of herbicides (I admit I use them on my lawn and garden), has created Roundup resistant weeds that are near impossible to get rid of.

Thistle is one weed I have a very difficult time with myself.  Some plants turn brown in a day or two, but thistles stay green for quite a long time even if they wilt and look sick.

I sprayed thistles four times over the course of a week this year hoping to get rid of them.


If you care to voice an opinion, you can do it here: lhernandez@co.sherman.or.us

I recommend being polite.

My opinion: Spraying will not work. More importantly, the proposed county action of property seizure steps well over the bounds of reasonableness.

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DaveyJones's picture

good to see u CD. Monsanto is one of the most evil, destructive, invasive thing to have ever walked the earth. Allowing companies to PATENT food was insane and against 170 some odd years of legal and constitutional principle and beyond common sense . GMO forms of medications have been traced directly to deaths and the CDC has helped to cover all that up. There is a large revolving door between Monsanto and all the relevant regulating agencies. Hard to believe this would all come from a company that started imaking things for war.  

NurseRatched's picture

I missed the part where the government went first and said "every square foot of federal, state, county, municipal, and city property is 100% weed-free. And so too is every square foot of all property belonging to every employee and contractor working for us. Please follow our lead."

That did happen, right?

whatamaroon's picture

Depends on who is the biggest doner.

HRClinton's picture

I'm no biologist or horticultural ist, but if Roundup would work against the Canadian Thistle on Azure Farms, why isn't it working on the neighboring farms who allegedly complain about it? 

Is that too CSI or Sherlock Holmsian of me?

SilverRoofer's picture

Shit they have all these illeagle farm workers that have invaded the us why don't they just send a million or so for a week end and pull the shit up?

TheGardener's picture

When I started out organic it did not take long for my place to becoming a weed and parasites sanctuary.

You can either uses herbicides or remove the weeds manually, there is no middle way.

Spray that organic scam company`s fields to death.As the article says they could start over as organic in just three

years after 18 years of weed control failure.

Organic means organic, manual labour will have to be applied for weed control as in the old days.

Doing just nothing abourt the weeds but pocketing organic markup premiums is nothing short of criminal

so let`s shut the place down.


froze25's picture

DDon't want to eat that poison,  too bad 

Dane Bramage's picture

Long time Azure customer.  Got this in an email earlier in the week.  I should be incredulous but.... tyranny fatigue?

HelloSpencer's picture


Three words.



SgtShaftoe's picture

charge the state with war crimes of biological warfare. The organic farm probably needs a propane weed burner.

land_of_the_few's picture

Yeah but is that organic propane and metal tubing? :) I used to scare people by telling them my Granma had a flamethrower ... technically, absolutely true!

GatorMcClusky's picture

Not sure about Whitetop, but 2,4,D should kill the rest! See, no need for Roundup after all.

HRH Feant2's picture

This is insanity. I have paid my landscaper EXTRA to not use roundup in my back yard and to have someone pull out the weeds. Which weeds? Mostly dandelion and thistle. I have to go back there soon and pull them out before the damned things flower. God help me if the flowers go to seed and spread all over!

Roundup is vile. I don't use that crap and never will. There are worse things than thistle. I can't think of anything worse than roundup, also known as glyphosate, one of the ingredients used to defoliate Vietnam and Laos, also known as Agent Orange.

GatorMcClusky's picture

Sorry, agent orange used 2,4-d, and 2,4,5-t. The former is a strong derivative of a plant growth hormone. Don't know about the latter.

HRH Feant2's picture

My bad, thank you for the correction :)

Nekoti's picture

Eat the dandelions. Every part is edible.

Kprime's picture

maybe the organic farmer could eat his way out of this problem


HRH Feant2's picture

I actually buy the upright ones at the grocery store! My yard has flat ones but I think I did notice a few that were upright.

What about the thistles? Can I eat those too?

I have found that a quick blanching of the dandelion takes out the bitterness (15 to 30 seconds in hot, boiling, salted water) and then I do a quick sauté with chopped garlic, olive oil and mushrooms. A bit of butter and malt vinegar on top and voila! a quick side dish.

DaveyJones's picture

and dandelion is one of the oldest and most nutritionally dense food sources on the planet. All of the plant is edible with plenty of protein as well. The root is a great and healthy coffe substitute

ebworthen's picture

Typical.  Any number of weeds considered "invasive species" that .gov can use to punish the citizenry.

Never-mind that they will never be controlled because of motor cars, trucks, and airplanes.

Where do these numb-nuts think the Norway Rat and German cockroaches came from?

Can we sue the State or Federal Government for weeds on their land?

How about Boeing and Wilbur and Orville Wright?

Of course not!  This is Mother Nature, dopes.

More insanity, World gone mad.


SgtShaftoe's picture

The problem is that the government and legacy agriculture views nature as a machine to be tweaked.

We permaculture people view nature and plant systems as highly complex systems with many intelligent interactions. Thistles are a symptom, so are many "weeds" or otherwise known as pioneer plants. They do hard work of decompaction, mineral accumulation, nitrogen fixing, phosphorus accumulation, soil stabilization, etc. Learn to use those plants as indicators and helpers towards your goal. Most "invasive" species are nothing of the sort and can be controlled with biological controls such as insects, chickens, ducks, or simply burning/digging them where they are a problem such as on roads (where it's always a battle to keep the road weed free).

techpriest's picture

Thanks for posting this. This is my 3rd year gardening, and the first with an actual yard (first two years were in an apartment). I just started reading about permaculture, and each day in the garden I realize how much more I have to learn.

Currently, its weeds and ants (neem oil is keeping the inchworms off, though next year I'm looking at chickens), and when you mention "decompaction" I did notice that my yard is mostly clay soil, and the weeds do a much better job of penetrating the ground. What should I do with them after pulling? After the previous owner left, it seems that the yard was ~70% weeds, but the lawn company simply mowed and let them sit established. I cut the grass now, so I've observed the dozen or so species of plants, another 3-4 grasses (including the "main" grass), and a few species of ants among many other bugs and critters. I'm going to have to see why each is finding a place in my yard.

I'm also getting the hang of the yard's water movements: there's a nearby stream, and it seems that water is generally moving up and out of the ground, which can be captured if I put something over it. Otherwise, it evaporates.

SgtShaftoe's picture

lawns are tricky to keep in balance naturally. We have a small lawn that doubles as geese salad bar which also maintains it. We have domestic geese that mow and fertilize.

If it were me and you were allowed, I'd keep a small bit of lawn and dedicate the rest to perennial food garden. You could also put down a cardboard weed barrier if you're dead set on lawn, and put some compost or composted manure on top the cardboard and re-seed. The cardboard or thick (several layers) of newspaper will slow the weeds long enough for your grass to establish.

Many trees manage moving water between soil horizons. There was a scientific study measuring just that in NM on trees there, Mesquite I think. Trees move water deeper after a rain and bring it up during drought.

Generally plants with a long taproot are decompactors. When they die at the end of the season, their roots rot and create carbon pathways into the soil. Dandelions are natural decompactors (and delicious too). You can decompact mechanically with a lawn aerator machine, or you can wait for nature to do it (she's in no particular hurry though).

Watch some of the Geoff Lawton videos on youtube and others' permaculture videos to get some ideas.

DaveyJones's picture

Ill second that. Permaculture is the only thing that will work in the end. "Modern Ag" has been some of the most destructive, poisonous, economically stupid adventures of modern man. All primitive people understood they had to work with and enhance the natural diversive sytems, not clear cut and pour poisons. It's comically insane when you think about it. Always enjoy our posts Sgt S

directaction's picture

2,000 acres is a lot of Roundup
Or a lot of weed pulling/killing.

Dane Bramage's picture

They have photos of their fields on their website.  In a word: pristine.   They're not farming milk thistle.  Maybe there are some weeds along the perimeters but imagine the number of weeds in vacant/unmanaged land compared to this massive organic farm?!  Hey - guess we gotta spray the world.  "Earth = Round Up Ready!"

serotonindumptruck's picture

"I recommend being polite."

Or what?

USDA is going to send their SWAT teams to your house for saying unkind things about them?

Here's something unkind that you can quote me on.

Fuck you USDA and all of the us marshalls that you can conjure up in your war against sustainable, organic farmers everywhere. Take your Roundup and feed it to your illegitimate children.

Mr.BlingBling's picture

Actually, the USDA might do exactly that. They have the weapons--"submachine guns" if you think CNN knows what it's talking about; AR's if you don't--and a tool unused . . .

Liberty2012's picture

Civilization works because of politeness.

Otherwise, you're headed down the road to savagery.

Someone is more likely to stop and think, and act favorably, to politeness. Not so much with stomping and yelling

Snaffew's picture

You gotta love America!  Just take what's not yours in the land of the free.

Duc888's picture



Yaayyyyy!  Go Gov! Go Gov!.   I want Moar Government.

luckylogger's picture

Well, they better go out and clip the weeds.

They just have to controp them and make sure they do not go to seed.

Spend a little money and hire some illeagle mexicans for 2 bits an hour and have them cut the tops off of the thistles....

Cheap fukers want the big buks of organic without the work....

Bullshit if you ask me.

sinbad2's picture

A bit hard to hand weed 2000 acres, and quite often you leave some the root, and it regrows.

But you are right, they are being slack, you can control those weeds without pesticides, but it takes persistance, and a tractor. 

SgtShaftoe's picture

For 2,000 acres, yes you'd need a tractor, but probably not on the weed's account unless they made some mistakes. I would guess their weed problems are on the edge of roads. If they're using good farming practices and not overgrazing they will probably only have weeds on the edges of farm "hardware" like driveways etc, and thistles where the soil is heavily compacted. Thistles are a decompacting plant - also an indicator of compacted soil. They could rip it with a Yeomans plow.

County people don't get out of their trucks. They sit on their ass drinking mountain cancer dew.

sinbad2's picture

We have weed inspectors here, they walk your land, or use a chopper. If you have listed weeds, you have to get rid of them. They will give you free chemicals to do it, which you can use if you want, but you have to get rid of the weeds, or get fined. Killing the neighbours stock, or make him work harder, because you are slack, is not the way to treat your neighbour.

SgtShaftoe's picture

We have a pasture full of native "toxic" weeds, but they're only a problem if the ground is overgrazed and the farmer leaves his stock starving.

We have listed "noxious weeds" including some very beneficial nitrogen fixing tree species. You aren't allowed to plant them. We happen to have low nitrogen soil - wonder why they thrive... they're busy working.

Though we had some puncture vine problems along a drive that we solved with an insect (weevil species that sterilizes the seed). No problem. It's far easier to treat the problem than the symptom. In this case the problem is the driveway and everyone has to maintain that. Weeds are just a symptom and aren't a problem if you approach the problem with the right mindset.

"The problem is the solution" Geoff Lawton

man from glad's picture

I like to cut the back section here once a month to save fuel and wear and tear on the tractor. But those thistles are tough. You can scalp 'em right down and days later fresh shoots are coming right up. They grow FAST.

sinbad2's picture

Yes they do, but if you disc them once a month, then plant a quick growing ground cover, and disc that in eventually the roots just give up and die.

It works, as long as your neighbours aren't running weed farms.

luckylogger's picture

It is what they hire the kids to do around here.

Send them out on a 4-wheeler with a weed cutter and one kid can cover 200 acres easy in 8 hours.

Just need to knock the tops off, not a big deal, farmers around here do it all the time.

Don't cry over spilled milk dudes....

Dane Bramage's picture

You're assuming they actually do have a weed "problem".  If they did wouldn't their own product(s) be especially contaminated? (I buy them personally.  They are not).  What about wildlands?  Do farmers have a right to spray round-up all around beyond their own property lines even if it borders parks, preserves, etc.,? 

Trouble Code's picture

The big myth - illegals work cheap. Ha! 

Cabreado's picture

What a conundrum.

First, protect the rule of law. 

bshirley1968's picture

The law is the right to PRIVATE property.  

Neighbor got problems with weeds......let him tell God about it.

Cabreado's picture

Strange comment.

So then, you know that the rule of law encompasses private property rights.

Or do you not? 


bshirley1968's picture

Life and liberty are not possible without property.  The idea of America IS the freedom to own property with no regards to bloodline or nobility.  The ability to benefit from the fruits of one's labor........that "fruit" being manifested in property of some kind.

Cabreado's picture

No, life and liberty are entirely possible without property.