- Grass seed producers in Oregon's Willamette Valley have
employed the cultural practice of post-harvest open field burning
since the mid-1940's for purposes of field sanitation and crop residue
disposal This practice creates environmental quality problems of
air pollution during the late summer Recent public concern over
the valley's environmental quality has focused attention on the grass
seed industry, resulting in measures passed by the 1971 state legislature
to ban open field burning in Oregon by January 1, 1975.
Several economic issues are raised by the prospect of field
burning curtailment. These include identification of: (1) alternatives
to open burning, and their associated costs; (2) income effects resulting
from possible increases in production costs, reduction in seed
yields and changes in seed quality; (3) possible loss of comparative
advantage now enjoyed by Willamette Valley farmers; and, (4) possible organizational adjustments by farm operators including prospects
for increased farm size and reduced farm numbers. This thesis
is designed as a base study to provide descriptive information and an
economic rationale as necessary precursors for evaluating possible
and probable' economic consequences of a burning ban to the grass
seed industry. The Willamette Valley was separated into five seed-production
regions, based on soil characteristics and urban.influences.
A ten percent random sample was drawn from the population of farm
operators raising grass seed. Major grass seed types studied include
Highland bentgrass, Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescue, tall fescue,
orchard grass, annual ryegrass, and perennial ryegrass. Descriptive
data includes farm family characteristics, income sources, age,
family labor, farm organization, and resource returns.
Analysis of data identified wide variability in resource use.
A significant component involved large differences in operating costs
for machinery, labor, fertilizer, and chemicals within each seed
type. This suggests internal adjustments in resource use efficiency
and cost management are necessary for high-cost farms to survive
in the short run regardless of whether or not a burning ban threat
exists. Some farms are successfully competing now and will continue
to do so with limited operating resource adjustments. Orchardgrass
and Kentucky bluegrass generally provided highest net returns, while
ryegrasses earned lowest returns of the seven seed types, suggesting
some adjustment opportunities for substitution between seed types.
Inter-enterprise adjustments will be determined by the number of
grass seed crops, other non-grass crops, and livestock choices
available. Cost advantages of complementary enterprises were
evident, with adjustments in this direction determined by market
accessibility, soil limitations, and managerial constraints. These
limitations suggest limited adjustment, in general, toward non-grass
and livestock enterprise choices.
Pronounced cost advantages occurred to farms over 300 acres
in size, suggesting that long run adjustments will likely include
farm enlargement and reduction of farm numbers. Farm location,
topography,-, and proximity to urban areas are also expected to
affect direction and magnitude of adjustments. Farms in Region 1,
Clackamas and Multnomah counties, faced with topography limitations
and urban pressures, will likely shift resources to more intensive .
farm and non-farm uses. Linn, Benton, and Lane county grass seed
producers are expected to intensify specialization in grass seed production
with an increase in average farm size. In Washington and
Yamhill counties where grass seed production serves primarily as
complementary and/or supplementary enterprises, the trend toward
production of proprietary grass seed varieties is expected. In Polk
and Marion counties where soil and topographical characteristics
dominate resource use and enterprise choices, probable adjustment
impacts are less obvious and are expected to vary widely from farm to
Imposition of a burning ban, felt primarily in the form of increased
production costs, will undoubtedly hasten the farm organizational
adjustments specified above.