Breaking News as of September 24
This is the article that appeared in the Daily Courier on 9/22/17
‘Unenforceable: Appeals court upholds ruling that
threw out county’s GMO ban’
By Chris Bristol of the Daily Courier
It was never enforced. Now it’s unenforceable.
The Oregon Court of Appeals this week upheld a lower court ruling that overturned a 2014 voter-approved initiative banning genetically engineered crops in Josephine County.
Without comment, the appellate court affirmed a decision by Circuit Court Judge Pat Wolke, who previously ruled that a 2013 state law forbidding local action against GMOs, short for genetically modified organisms, took precedence over the county’s subsequent ban.
Wolke’s ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by farmers Robert and Shelley White of Cave Junction, who once grew GMO sugar beets for the Swiss corporation Syngenta.
John DiLorenzo Jr., a Portland attorney who represented the Whites, said the appellate decision effectively rendered the county’s ordinance unenforceable. In fact, the county never tried to enforce it and did not defend it in court.
“Lots of jurisdictions have unforceable codes on the books,” he said. “This is now one of them.”
Mary Middleton, leader of a group called Oregonians for Safe Farms and Families that defended the ban in court, conceded defeat.
“I don’t believe there’s another next step in Oregon,” she said. “There’s not another court to go higher with this. We’ve come to the end of the road, in terms of litigation.”
Even so, she vowed to continue to seek change at the legislative level, saying lawmakers are ignoring the will of the people.
“We are not giving up, we are not giving in, we are going to continue to work on behalf of our farmers who have asked for protection in this beautiful seed-growing region,” she said.
Josephine County’s initiative, known as Measure 17-58, easily passed 58 to 42 percent in May 2014, a surprising margin given the county’s conservative bent.
GMO crops make up the vast majority of corn, cotton, soybeans, canola and sugar beets grown in the United States, and smaller percentages of alfalfa, papaya and squash.
Backers argued GMO crops, which included plots of sugar beet starts, can contaminate non-GMO crops through cross-pollination. The campaign was also formed on a belief of increased pesticide use with GMOs.
Opponents of a ban called it bad public policy and a victory of ideology over science and common sense.
Fearing a toehold anywhere in Oregon, a consortium of bio-chemical companies led by Syngenta and Monsanto spent $800,000 in an attempt to defeat it.
The county’s ban was challenged by the Whites the day it took effect in 2015. They said the ban conflicted with a 2013 state law that forbid local bans on GMOs.
Jackson County was the only county exempted from the state law, because it already had a ballot measure in the works.
Middleton’s group and fellow intervenors Siskiyou Seeds, a Williams-area seed farm, countered that the state’s attempt to block local bans was illegally backdated and that Josephine County’s initiative process therefore was valid. They also argued the Whites were mere hobby farmers in a “manufactured lawsuit.”
But Wolke disagreed, brushing aside complaints about the standing of the Whites and siding with DiLorenzo, the Whites’ attorney, who argued that state law was intended to make GMO policy uniform in all 36 Oregon counties instead of letting each county make its own rules in a piecemeal fashion.
The lone exception was Jackson County, which started its initiative before the state law was approved and therefore was exempted.
Voters there approved a ban on GMOs during the same election as the ban in Josephine County.
The litigation that followed was less likely to succeed and has since been settled to allow farmers there to continue to grow GMO alfalfa for eight more years.
Despite the setback in court, the fact that a ban on GMOs passed in a conservative county like Josephine suggests the issue could eventually gain traction in the Legislature.
Meanwhile, Josephine County Legal Counsel Wally Hicks said that if the Legislature ever changes course to allow a ban on GMOs, the county’s ordinance is technically still on the books.
“If the Legislature were to change that statute at some point … it might make it enforceable again,” he said. For now, he added, it’s “on the books — unenforceable and unenforced.”
Update as of June 5
We’d like to thank everyone for the wonderful success of our recent fundraiser, And The Beet Goes On!
This success was made possible because of the support of our community!
We extend our gratitude to all who purchased tickets, to those who bid in the silent auction, to our wonderfully loyal volunteers, and to all of the generous business supporters who donated auction items.
A very special Thank You to Hollis Peach for their delightful performance at this benefit!
Also, a warm Thank You to our venue Plaisance Ranch for their hospitality and wonderful wine options, and our caterer The Vine Restaurant for a delicious GMO Free dinner, and Ambrosia Natural Bakery for the delectably awesome dessert!
Special Thanks is extended to our legal team, Melissa Wischerath and Stephanie Dolan!!
Updates as of May 7 –
Thank You everyone! We have Sold Out! We are so very grateful for all your community support!
We have more than 100 guests coming to the ranch for an evening of inspiring music, gourmet food, wine, dessert, a fabulous silent auction and more!
Tickets are NOT available any longer; please keep an eye open for our next event.
April 17 – Click this picture for more information and updates about . . .
And The BEET Goes On
Concert & Gourmet Farm-to-Table Benefit Dinner
for a GMO Free Rogue Valley
April 1 – The Event You Have Been Waiting For….
You are cordially invited to attend our gala event of gourmet food, award-winning wine, amazing music and more!
And The Beet Goes On!
Sunday, May 7th, from 4pm to 8pm at Plaisance Ranch
Your ticket purchase includes a gourmet buffet dinner catered by The Vine Restaurant, award-winning wine options from Plaisance Ranch Vineyard, a Silent Auction, plus live music featuring the beautiful harmonies of Rogue Valley band, Hollis Peach!
Our host, Plaisance Ranch, a working ranch since 1858 is located in the heart of the Williams Valley, in the shadow of Greyback Mountain. For many generations, the Ginet family has been growing grapes and cattle and producing grapevines among the mountains of Savoie in eastern France. Today, they continue this tradition in America, in beautiful Southern Oregon; creating award-winning wines is their specialty. We are happy to present their organic beef as one of the featured entrees for this event, and a hand-picked selection of their wines is also included in the price of your ticket.
Our caterer, The Vine Restaurant, is a locally-owned ‘Italian fusion restaurant with Northwest conscience.’ With 30 years combined restaurant experience from both U.S. coasts, the Myers family believes in utilizing whole foods to create meals made from scratch using organic produce and GMO-free ingredients. Also, as original members of The Food Integrity Project, The Vine is devoted to providing deliciously healthful dining options for the community.
Hollis Peach, a local Rogue Valley folk duo, have a long history of supporting the GMO Free Movement in the Rogue Valley, and their music is often described as “musical arrangements that are lush, intricate and often hypnotic in their elegance.” You won’t want to miss this special performance in this unique setting.
Silent Auction! You’ll have the opportunity to bid on an array of items that will delight you, including restaurants, farm baskets, wine, bodywork, handcrafted items and much, much more!
There are a few more surprises that we’re excited about and they will be revealed soon!
All proceeds from this event will go directly to Oregonians for Safe Farms and Families (OSFF) and GMO Free Josephine County, two non-profit, all-volunteer organizations working together to protect and promote the GMO FREE ZONE created in Josephine County, Oregon.
This GMO Free Zone was created in 2014 by an overwhelming vote of the people. Our current efforts include working in a statewide coalition on legislative action, and ongoing efforts to defend the win while also continuing to educate the public on the importance of creating seed sanctuaries to protect our family farmers.
Be sure to get your tickets NOW while they last!
Ticket Price: $75 for a single ticket or $125 for a couple
MUST be purchased in advance
Admission is Limited
Tickets may also be purchases in person
at these fine, local establishments:
in Grants Pass –
The Vine Restaurant – 1610 SW Allen Creek Road, #111
in the Williams area –
Whistling Duck Farm Store – 12800 Williams Hwy
in the Illinois Valley –
Diggin’ Livin’ Farm Store – 143 Redwood Hwy
Thank you for your support !!
CALL For LETTERS to our REPRESENTATIVES –
to see the Letter Writing Campaign
News from: February 23, 2017
Grants Pass, Oregon
Daily Courier Newspaper
Guest Opinion: Mary Middleton
Lawmakers Must Listen to the Voters
An Open Letter to our Representatives
Requesting Sponsorship of House Bill 2469
Rep. Carl Wilson, Rep. Duane Stark and Sen. Herman Baertschiger, please act today to sponsor House Bill 2469 and protect Josephine County farmers from the real threat of contamination from genetically engineered crops.
HB2469 was introduced into the Oregon House this session. This bill seeks to amend ORS 633.738, passed in a special session in October 2013, which took away local governments’ rights to regulate plants. HB2469 will provide Josephine County the legislative means to enforce its Genetically Engineered Plant Ordinance, which our voters approved in May 2014 with a 58.2% vote.
Why is this so important? This issue first came to our attention in 2012, when a Jackson County farmer discovered that genetically engineered (GE) crops were being planted close enough to contaminate his crops — open-air pollinated crops will mix DNA, and this causes patent infringement and a host of other economic and consumer demand problems for non-GE farmers.
Since February of 2013, I’ve been actively addressing the threat posed by GE test plots in Southern Oregon. Our region soon became a focal point for defending against GE contamination. With citizen-led initiatives on the ballots in both Josephine and Jackson Counties in May 2014, people around the world closely watched our local campaigns, the victorious outcome of that vote, subsequent court cases and legislative actions.
Our local farmers have been working, too. Josephine County is blessed to be located in a unique bioregion, with our rich soil, clean water, and weather that supports farming of a wide variety of crops. Many of our farmers take advantage of these positive attributes throughout the Rogue Valley by growing a diverse range of crops, and continuing to grow them out to seed that they then save and/or sell.
Since the voters enacted the Josephine County GE Plant Ordinance in May 2014, that ordinance has been tied up in the court system. However, the will of Josephine County voters to ban the genetically engineered crops in our county remains clear and unwavering.
The question that remains is this: will the legislature use its power to correct the regulatory void created by the ORS 633.738? When ORS 633 passed, then-Governor Kitzhaber promised that real regulation would be enacted statewide. While a task force was created, it has essentially done nothing.
Four years later, our farmers continue to be at risk of genetic contamination of their crops through pollen drift. The state has left the answer as to how to protect our farmers literally blowing in the wind.
Contamination happens. In Oregon, GE wheat was discovered in November 2013, costing farmers huge losses. Currently, GE bent grass contamination in Eastern Oregon has left counties bearing the expense for hundreds of thousands of dollars in clean-up efforts.
So I appeal to our representatives to sponsor this bill and support this effort for Josephine County.
In addition to asking our representatives to sponsor HB2469, I also turn to the voters in Josephine County to call on Rep. Wilson, Rep. Stark, and Sen. Baertschiger and ask them to stand with the will of the people. It’s time for Josephine County citizens to once again make their voices heard on this issue and for our representatives to know that we have their back.
If you are one of the more than 16,000 people who voted yes for the Genetically Engineered Plant Ordinance, now is the time to make your voice heard once again. If you are new to Josephine County, appreciate our beautiful and unique geographic region and understand the benefits of a GMO Free Zone to the economy and food future of our citizenry, please let your representatives know. The will of the people is currently being denied in our County.
Your letter, email, phone call can help to change that. Our representatives would like to know how you feel. NOW is the time to write and clearly state that you want them to SPONSOR HB2469, so that Josephine County will have the ability to enforce the ordinance we need to protect our local family farms.
Contact your state lawmakers at:
Rep. Carl Wilson 503-986-1403, 541-476-7896
900 Court St. NE, H-390
Salem, Oregon 97301
Rep. Duane Stark 503-986-1404, 541- 237-9851
900 Court St NE, H-372
Salem, OR 97301
Sen. Herman Baertschiger Jr. 503-986-1702, 541-787-1702
900 Court St NE, S-403
Salem, OR 97301
News from: February 10, 2017
GMO Free Community Potluck and Seed Swap
Join Us to Exchange Seeds & Ideas!
Friday, February 10, 6pm
Fruitdale Grange, 1440 Parkdale Drive, Grants Pass
Admission is Free
Everyone is Welcome!!
Farmers, gardeners, and GMO-free food lovers alike, join your fellow community members for a midwinter potluck gathering and seed swap!
For the potluck: Bring a GMO-free dish to share. Let’s do our best to make this a zero-waste event: Please bring a serving utensil and your own table settings.
For the seed swap: If you have farm or garden seeds to spare, bring your abundance and take home some of what others have brought to share, so all who want to can get growing! Envelopes will be provided.
If you don’t have any seeds to share, come anyway! It’s not necessary to bring seeds in order to take some away.
Share conversation, meet our newest board members, hear how we’re working to protect our valley, and find out how you can be part of the effort!
We look forward to seeing you there!
GMO Free Josephine County
Oregonians for Safe Farms and Families
News from: January 23, 2017
Attend a local Town Hall
and tell State Representatives Stark (Grants Pass) & Esquivel (Medford) to Support HB 2469
Wednesday, January 25th
Eagle Point City Hall
17 S. Buchanan Avenue
We are urging state representatives to support HB 2469, which would restore counties’ rights to protect local farmers’ crops from harmful effects of genetically engineered crops. These rights were stripped in the 2013 special session with the passage of SB 863 in the Grand Bargain, which created a statewide preemption without corresponding protections for farmers.
Passage of this bill will provide a legislative fix for Josephine County and protect the will of the people in our county. When that is in place, together Josephine and Jackson County can protect their farmers and this unique seed growing region with more than 3300 square miles of a GE Free Seed Sanctuary!
The Legislature needs to act to:
- Restore the ability of local farmers to address their diverse agricultural needs at a community level.
- Allow farmers to determine what will work best in their agricultural communities, such as creating GE-free zones or other solutions.
- Allow communities throughout Oregon to protect high-value agricultural crops, such as wheat, alfalfa, and specialty seed.
Please show up in support of the 9th GMO FREE ZONE in the US and let these representatives know that we care about this issue and our farmers in this region!
We will see you there!
News from: October 24, 2016
Our attorneys have taken the next step! We have filed the Appeal!
We are moving forward with our three-prong approach to uphold the crop ban in Josephine County.
This three-prong approach is being developed to include:
- an appeal to our case,
- a political strategy to obtain a legislative change for Josephine County, and
- a statewide coalition to protect all of Oregon from the threat of genetic contamination via pollen drift.
You can read all of our legal briefs by clicking on Legal Filings & Public Notices
Thank you for continuing to support our efforts to protect the
9th GMO FREE ZONE in the US!
News from: September 15, 2016
Good News! Motion Denied!
A judge in Josephine County has denied a major Big AG political lobbyist his attorney fees seeking to recover more than $29,000 from local non-profit Oregonians for Safe Farms and Families (OSFF) and organic seed company Siskiyou Seeds.
In the outrageous motion, Plaintiffs attorney sought to recover his attorney fees for his efforts to overturn a democratic vote-enacted law that created the 9th GMO FREE ZONE in the USA.
Thank you Judge Wolke for this sound ruling which reinforces the will of the people of Josephine County and further gives merit to the defense on behalf of the Intervenors.
Their attorney’s goal was to create a ‘chilling effect’ toward voters of counties who may want to create GMO FREE ZONES where they live. GOAL DENIED!
With all of the recent bad news it’s important to celebrate the victories when we get them! This motion was ridiculous and without merit. Thankfully the Judge was able to see that and rule against it.
News from: August 26, 2016
Court Hearing Update
On August 24th, in the latest chapter of the lawsuit attempting to overturn Josephine County’s genetically engineered plant ordinance, our attorneys presented oral arguments on a petition for attorneys’ fees filed by the plaintiffs, Robert and Shelley White of Cave Junction. Plaintiffs seek attorney’s fees of $29,280, to be paid by the two intervenors in the case, organic seed company Siskiyou Seeds and local nonprofit Oregonians for Safe Farms and Families (OSFF). Included in the amount requested is $10,000 for “future fees.” Some of the requested attorneys’ fees were calculated at a rate of $625 per hour.
Plaintiff’s attorney, John DiLorenzo of Portland, attended the hearing by phone. DiLorenzo, a registered lobbyist for chemical and industrial agricultural group Oregonians for Food and Shelter and author of the state preemption bill at issue in the underlying case, alleged that arguments presented by the intervenors during the hearing on summary judgement in April were “without reasonable merit,” which he claimed would require the judge to take the unusual step of approving the petition for attorneys’ fees despite the fact that such fees are not usually awarded under Oregon’s Declaratory Judgment Act.
Attorneys for the intervenors, Melissa Wischerath and Stephanie Dolan from the Center for Sustainability Law, argued that rather than presenting frivolous arguments during April’s briefs and hearing, they had presented novel claims meant to challenge established law, and that the plaintiff’s petition was intended to deter just that type of challenge, an outcome that would harm Oregon’s democratic process.
“An award of attorney’s fees against citizens who assert their constitutional rights in a courtroom would have a chilling effect. These laws were written, bought and paid for by corporations, who now seek to send their legal bill to individuals who dare challenge the constitutionality of the law in court,” said attorney Melissa Wischerath.
Attorney Stephanie Dolan noted, “Attempting in good faith to challenge a state law that removes protections from local farms and families is the opposite of frivolous. It is serious and important work, and the ability to do so without the chilling effect of sanctions is a necessary function of our democratic process.”
Josephine County Circuit Court Judge Pat Wolke, who on May 16 struck down the voter-approved ordinance prohibiting the planting of Genetically Engineered Crops (a decision which is currently pending appeal) took the matter under advisement and will issue a written decision.
We will inform everyone of that decision as soon as we receive it.
News from: August 18, 2016
We have an important day in court coming soon! Please join us to show your support for our GMO FREE ZONE.
A Hearing is scheduled for
Wednesday, August 24th
11:00 am (please arrive early – seating is limited – courtroom attire is requested)
Josephine County Courthouse, Courtroom #3
500 NW 6th Street
As you know, plaintiff’s attorneys have filed a motion against us as intervenors in this case requesting payment for their attorney’s legal fees – nearly $30,000!
Our attorneys, Stephanie Dolan and Melissa Wischerath of the Center for Sustainability Law, will defend us in court on August 24th. We should not have to foot the bill for attorneys clearly working on behalf of biotech’s corporate sponsor in their attempt to silence the voice of the people!
This is especially egregious because one of the stated reasons for their motion is specifically to create a chilling effect and deter similarly situated communities from bringing legal challenges to unjust laws like SB 863, AKA Oregon’s Monsanto protection act.
Clearly, the motivation behind filing a petition for an award of attorney’s fees is to scare the voters of Josephine County and others across the state away from standing up to the largest chemical and agricultural corporations in the world.
News from: June 22, 2016
Our attorneys have taken the next step! We have filed a Notice of Intent to Appeal.
This is the first step of our three-prong approach to uphold the ban in Josephine County.
The three-prong approach is being developed to include: an appeal to our case, a political strategy to obtain a legislative change for Josephine County, and a statewide coalition to protect all of Oregon from the threat of genetic contamination via pollen drift.
Thank you for continuing to support our efforts to protect the
9th GMO FREE ZONE in the US!
News from: June 15, 2016
In addition to seeking court costs, plaintiff’s lawyers filed a petition seeking attorney fees for nearly $30,000. Our legal team has filed an opposition to that petition and are confident that the case law is in our favor and that we will prevail in defeating the petition.
One of the stated reasons for their petition is specifically to create a chilling effect and deter similarly situated communities from bringing legal challenges to similar unjust laws like the Oregon preemption law.
“I find it hard to believe that OFS (Oregonians for Food and Shelter) — a lobbyist group funded by the largest chemical and agricultural corporations in the world — needs the taxpayers of Josephine County, one of the poorest counties in the state, to pay their bill to undo a democratic voter enacted ordinance,” said Don Tipping, local farmer and business owner of Siskiyou Seeds.
This petition for attorneys’ fees is particularly egregious given the fact that attorney fees are not awarded to a prevailing party under the Declaratory Judgment Act. However, plaintiff’s attorneys seek to invoke a rare exception to award attorney fees claiming there was “no objectively reasonable basis” for certain affirmative defenses argued by intervenors in the litigation.
“It is clear that the motivation behind filing a petition for an award of attorney’s fees is to scare the voters of Josephine County, and others across the state from standing up to the largest chemical and agricultural corporations in the world. Clearly they do not need help paying this bill but are trying to stifle our growing movement from creating GMO Free Zones in the Rogue Valley and across Oregon,” said Mary Middleton, Oregonians for Safe Farms and Families Director.
News from: June 9, 2016
Thank you for your support to all who attended our recent community discussions!
The key points from the discussions have lead to the development of a three-prong approach to include: an appeal to our case, a political strategy to obtain a legislative change for Josephine County, and a statewide coalition to protect all of Oregon from the threat of genetic contamination via pollen drift.
As we move forward additional information will be sent via newsletter. So if you haven’t already signed up for our newsletter be sure to do it now!
News from: May 16, 2016
Court Hearing Results
Take heart and stay strong, Josephine County citizens and farmers.
News from the judge informs us he has ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit in which we have intervened. Our legal team has fought on behalf of Josephine County voters to try to maintain the ban on GMO crops here.
We are disappointed but we know that change can take a long time, especially when in a difficult fight up against the largest chemical company in the world!
We are pursuing all of our options and continue to be vigorously committed to protecting our farms and families in Josephine County and throughout Oregon! The 9th GMO FREE ZONE in the US stands on hold, for now.
We’ll continue to post updates here as things develop. Thank you for continuing to support our efforts to protect our GMO-Free family farms and the health of our county!
Watch this website for updates.
Thank you for Supporting the Josephine County
Genetically Engineered Plant Ordinance!
Protect Our GMO Free Zone!
Once again, ‘The Little County That Could’ needs all hands on deck.
Your contribution will help us continue our work
to defend the will of the people and uphold our ban
on genetically-modified crops.
Please contribute today via your credit/debit card or Paypal account….
Thank you for standing up with us today!
Oregonians for Safe Farms and Families (OSFF) is a non-profit organization working to support the restriction of GMO crops in Josephine County, Oregon in order to protect and promote safe farms and families.
Oregonians for Safe Farms and Families was founded in 2014, and has been instrumental in passing and supporting the GMO restriction in Josephine County. Located in Grants Pass, Oregonians for Safe Farms and Families is a volunteer-run nonprofit organization and along with its sister organization, GMO Free Josephine County, works tirelessly for the GMO Free community throughout the Rogue Valley.