Regarding the Opinion page article "Key Results From Forest Conference," April 16: As a professional forester, I agree that important results may have occurred from the forest conference. However, I question the author's key points in regard to timber-dependent communities.
While the timber industry has increased automation, and competition from other regions has increased, the Northwest still grows the finest structural timber in the world. This, combined with the fact that the timber industry is one of the top three employers in Washington state, shows that the timber industry plays an important role in the Northwest's economy.
While the economy within the region has been healthy until recently, the region's economy has now turned sour. One only has to look at Washington's No. 1 employer, the Boeing Company. This employer has been laying off people at an ever-increasing rate, which severely hampers the state's economic recovery. The state of California also has some of the highest unemployment rates in the country, which suggests that there are few opportunities for reemployment outside the timber industry.
The author's statement that the economy is rosy and that the timber industry in the region is decreasing in importance seems shortsighted with the present economic woes.
I do agree with the author that value-added wood products are a way to maintain high-paying wages. However, for these products to equal the dollar amount raised by exporting raw logs (which is not allowed in logs from public lands), the federal government must open the door for exporting these products to our trading neighbors. Todd Merritt, Rochester, Wash. The vegetarian and the organic
The Food page article "Earth-Friendly Eating," April 15, states: "If it's organic it hasn't been cultivated with the use of pesticides and herbicides." An accurate statement would be if it is organic, it has been cultivated with the use of pesticides and herbicides certified for use on organic produce.
The article also implies that if more consumers demand organic products, they will be available at a more reasonable price. The idea that consumer demand alone will automatically create less expensive produce is naive. It is agricultural productivity that creates low food prices, not only consumer demand. In the tree fruit industry, culling in organic operations can run as high as 50 percent due to worm damage, necessitating higher prices to compensate for lower productivity.
There isn't a farmer today who doesn't realize the need to reduce farm chemical use and to operate in an environmentally sound manner, but as the article quotes one farmer, "You just cannot feed the world without some use of pesticides." Judy Schott, Wapato, Wash.
"Earth-Friendly Eating" might have included the facts of frugality without prejudice and also referred to the omnivorous nature of the human. True, cattle are often fattened (finished) in their last few weeks of life out of the public's unwise demand for fat in their meat. But cattle weren't born and raised at the grain bin. Many were raised in fields that do not lend themselves to economic cultivation.
As for ecology, cattle do a great job of controlling unwanted weeds and brush. And when one compares the amount of labor needed in raising a garden to the labor in keeping a half-ton animal in an area unsuitable for cultivation, the later wins hands down. This is not an argument against gardening, but rather an argument to use all of our resources, plus common sense, when setting the table. S. Berthelsdorf, Portland, Ore.