Field burning phaseout: Overdue -- or an environmental disaster?

Field burning phaseout: Overdue -- or an environmental disaster?

HARRISBURG, Ore. - By the slimmest of margins, the state legislature has voted to ban most open field burning in Oregon by the summer of 2010.

"It's crazy that we're even considering not doing it," says co-owner Danuta Pfeiffer of Pfeiffer Vineyards near Junction City.

On the other side, "I think the legislation was passed on emotion and not fact."  So says long time grass seed grower Nick Bowers.

Two sides of agri-business and two very different views on field burning.   It will essentially be a thing of the past by next summer in the Willamette Valley.

For Pfeiffer, the new law can't some soon enough.  "To try to be talking about your sustainable vineyard when you've got plumes of smoke overhead is a little antithetical," she said.

Bowers replies, "I don't think it's been a big problem for her business and she's probably not getting any smoke in that area anyway."

Nick Bowers and other growers say the field burning ban will mean a different type of cost to the environment.  They argue that instead of 6 to 12 days of burning in late summer, you'll see weeks and weeks of tilling.

He says that will mean dust clouds in the air and a much higher use of pesticides on the fields.      

"Environmentally I think field burning was a lot better than where we're going to go," Bowers concludes.

House member Paul Holvey of Eugene led the charge for the bill and told lawmakers Monday, "Experts have concluded that most grass seed species do not need to be burned.  Oregon will continue to be the grass seed capital but with improved protection of public health."