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Tumalo hemp farm’s plastic mulch blows onto neighbor’s property

Mulch can break down, turn to litter, endanger animals; farmer cleaned it up

TUMALO, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Due to its high return on investment, many farmers have begun growing hemp in recent years. There’s now about 500 hemp growing sites in the state, according to Oregon’s Department of Agriculture.

Many farmers use mulch wood chippings to help their crop grow by keeping the moisture in the soil and fighting off weeds. Some Central Oregon farmers have switched to an alternative: plastic mulch.

Once the crop is harvested for the season, the mulch is removed -- but sometimes, not fast enough. That plastic alternative can sometimes be broken down by high winds and other inclement weather, then spread onto people’s properties.

Plastic mulch from a neighboring hemp farm blew onto Stephen Newell’s property recently. Newell, who has 17 horses in his stables at present, said he spotted one of the horses chewing on the plastic.

Newell said if his horse had ingested the plastic, it could have been a very costly surgery to save its life.

“If you could afford a surgery, those types of surgeries could cost $25,000,” Newell said. “So sometimes it’s not a feasible option, and sometimes the horse may be euthanized.”  

The Bend Equine Medical Center is the only animal center in Central Oregon that does those types of operations, according to a local veterinarian.

Ted Wise is responsible for the mulch that blew onto Newell’s horse pasture. He’s been a hemp farmer for the last two years, and said the mulch he uses is biodegradable.

“What you saw on my particular field is a new product that I experimented and tried last season,” Wise said. "It’s an organic biodegradable mulch.”

Wise did clean the mulch off of Newell’s property.

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Jordan Williams

Jordan Williams is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Jordan here.


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