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Sherman County, Oregon is in the limelight because its leaders are threatening to spray the 2,000 acre organic Azure farm with toxic chemicals, thereby ruining their business.
People, including me, who are adamant about trying to detox their bodies and surroundings, are heating up social media and flooding the county commissioners with emails that protest the spraying.
Meanwhile, local good old boys and gals are siding with the chemical companies. Farmers and their representatives have taken their case to the Oregon Wheat Commission and state agriculture Director Alexis Taylor, hoping to enlist support.
But if chemicals like glyphosate are really bad for people, we should try to enlighten the citizens of Sherman County, not be mad at them, right? After all, if they are spraying toxic chemicals around in huge quantities, they must be sicker than most.
I thought I’d investigate the day-to-day health challenges of the folks in Sherman County, by googling around a bit.
“A good fisherman goes out of his way to bait his hook with what the fish prefer — which might not be a bad tip for those who wish to succeed in human relationships.” shermancountynews.com
How Are the People of Sherman County, Oregon Feeling?
The first thing I found was a US government cancer map that shows Sherman County beats every other county in the state for cancer cases. I looked into possible links between their cancer and glyphosate use. After messing around with the interactive database for quite a while, I was unable to determine the kind of cancer that seemed to be driving the statistic. There was nothing that justified the high overall figure and each form of cancer affected less than 3 people in 1,000.
Also, Medicare benefits for cancer are low there, when compared to other health problems. The biggest expenditure by far is for high blood pressure, followed by high cholesterol, arthritis, and type 2 Diabetes. Nevertheless, the incidences for all these problems are quite a bit less than state averages. Despite all the chemical spraying, the people of Sherman County are apparently healthier than average, so the cancerous dangers of glyphosate are going to be a hard sell there.
They Live Longer & Take Opiods
Data at healthdata.org reveals that life expectancy for males and females in Sherman County is slightly longer than state and national averages, despite more smoking, heavy drinking, and higher obesity levels. Men have higher rates of skin cancer, probably because they are farmers that work in the sun all day, but the people of Sherman County are less likely to kill themselves or others, and illegal drug abuse is much lower than state and national averages, especially among the men. Both men and women, take quite a bit of opiods, however, with 28% of the people in the county receiving 2,543 prescriptions of Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Morphine, Methadone or Hydromorphone in 2012.
Transport Injuries Cause the Most Deaths
Mortality from “transport injuries” is the main cause of death by far, and quite a bit higher than state and national averages, especially among the men, where nearly twice as many die from such accidents than in the rest of Oregon. The cause for this is not explained — whether it’s linked to the heavy drinking mixed with driving, drinking and driving on opiods, heavy equipment accidents, crazy divers coming through on the Interstate, good old red neck dare-deviling, or a combination of the above.
Crime in Sherman County
The second superlative I found when googling Sherman County is that the pastoral wheat growing area sends more people to prison per capita than any other county in Oregon. Okay, the entire county population is down to 1,710 these days, and five or six people a year go to prison from there. Nevertheless, that’s double the state ratio per 1,000.
The sheriff, in an article posted in 2013 at oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news, said Sherman County’s “high” prison rate is not the locals’ fault. It’s visitors like fishermen at local lakes who are “are up here drinking and having fun on the rivers and in the state parks. Those are the people we tend to deal with more.” So, take a lesson and don’t go drinking and whooping it up around Sherman County (unless you’re a local).
The sheriff also pointed out that he’s got a canine drug team that intercepts drug smugglers on U.S. 97. Don’t think you’re going to get away with smuggling dope through central Oregon.
In the same article, Sherman County District Attorney Wade McLeod, said the last person dispatched to state prison from Sherman County was a drunk driver who apparently lived in the area and had several priors. The other four cases resulting in state prison terms involved another drunk driver, a meth dealer, a man who shot his wife in the face, and a murdering pedophile. The citizens of Sherman County are less likely to carry out such behaviors, however, except perhaps the drunk driving, than people in other parts of the state. The amount of criminal behavior just seems worse because the county’s small population leads to a “statistical anomaly,” according to McLeod.
They’ve Got Drones & Chemicals, And Insurance to Cover Them
Back to the spraying issue, a year ago last May, Weed District Director, Rod Asher, reported to the Sherman County Court that a Drone Use Policy was being developed and the court authorized an expenditure of $250,000 for drone insurance coverage. At the same meeting, Matt McGowain of PayneWest advised the county to raise its spraying pollution policy to $1 million per occurrence and $2 million per year. The court approved both and authorized the Weed Dept. to pass the additional cost to consumers on their “spray bills.” Oh, as in the threatened bill for the forced spraying of 2,000 acres at Azure organic farm?
Upon reading Sherman County’s Weed Ordinance of 2001, I am not surprised at the county’s threatened actions against Azure or the feeling among the chemical farmers that they are the responsible ones and that the law is on their side. The problem is the ordinance and state law upon which it is based were not written to take organic farming into account and they need to be updated.
According to the existing ordinance, as I read it, the county should not be able to spray chemicals on an organic farm, since it is supposed to deal with the problem “in the most appropriate manner,” and spraying chemicals on an organic farm is obviously not appropriate, as it would completely ruin the business.
On the other hand, I would like to know if Azure has complied with presenting a Weed Control Plan and adhering to it, and creating a 200-foot weed free buffer along its borders. If the county did indeed recently change the interpretation of its ordinance from controlling weeds to eradicating them all over the county, it would be good to know how they intend to do that.
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