The Rogue River counties of Jackson and Josephine in Oregon were for years what they called “timber counties,” running their local public services with federal money paid “in lieu” of taxes. Drastic reductions in federal timber harvests were occurring about the time the whole economy tanked. So, Jackson and Josephine counties closed all their public libraries. A population that does not know much and loses its access to free information was ripe for last month’s votes to ban genetically modified crops. As soon as I heard about this one, I suspected it had to be an urban scare campaign, as neither of these two counties has enough going in either agriculture or organic agriculture for it to have been a “rural thing.” Not that the target of this voter-imposed destruction isn’t going to fall entirely on the rural population, which woke up on the losing side of the organic industry’s most recent campaign for more Lebensraum. The state’s biggest newspaper, The Oregonian, captured that with the story of 51-year old Bruce Schultz, who says that his family’s fourth-generation, 250-acre farm will likely go bust if they have to plow under its genetically engineered alfalfa. It’s not often that local voters freely commit economic suicide, but that’s what might have occurred in these two Oregon counties. Start with the fact that they were barely making it before the vote, if, as it appears, they’ve done enormous economic damage to a majority of their farmers and the Jackson/Josephine futures market doesn’t look so good. The irony is that it’s such an unlikely place to call in this kind of destruction. Jackson County contains 1,793,280 acres and Josephine County holds 1,050,880 acres, but less than 12 percent of Jackson and less than 3 percent of Josephine is dedicated to agriculture. Half the land is locked up by the federal government and pays nothing for local services unless federal timber is cut. The just-published U.S. Census of Agriculture containing 2012 data showing farming on 214,674 acres in Jackson County and on 28,256 acres in Josephine County. Only 1,722 farms are located in Jackson County and just 617 in Josephine County. Most are small farms like the one owned by Mr. Schultz. But there is not enough farming to really call the Rogue River country farm country. Farmers are part of the economy of these California border counties, but this is not Iowa. Indeed, it’s unlikely there was any dispute occurring between GMO and non-GMO farmers over contamination issues or whatever. No tort claims pending. Pretty much the same thing a USDA task force concluded — at the local level, farmers get along and work things out with their neighbors. There does not appear to be any statistical evidence of big rifts down on the farm in these counties that the voters would have needed to work out by executing one side or the other. The new U.S. Census of Agriculture says there are only 31 Jackson County farms enlisted in USDA’s National Organic Program, and only 26 in Josephine County. Another 11 farms in Jackson and an additional 12 farms in Josephine are involved in organic production that is exempt from certification. And there are 12 farms in Jackson and three in Josephine that were transitioning acres to organic production in 2012. In other words, the latest data suggest about 4 percent of the 2,339 farms in the two Oregon countries are organic. Now I know there are farms that are not organic but that do use GMO seeds. And while I don’t know what that number is in the two counties, there does not appear to be much sign of conflict between the various farming practices. Commercial fertilizers were being used on 466 farms in Jackson County and 185 in Josephine County, another sign of the dominance of non-organic in the two counties. Farmers of all kinds, of course, are a minority when it comes to various voting blocks. These two counties — there are about 200,000 people in Jackson and about 82,000 in Josephine — voted to shut down the agricultural practices used by most of their farmers. It should be noted that only Jackson County, which got its ballot question going earlier, is exempt from a new Oregon law asserting statewide jurisdiction over seeds. Perhaps Josephine, without enough money to keep its libraries going, can do as Vermont is doing by raising money with a tin cup for the inevitable lawsuits. The organic industry succeeded in voting conventional agricultural “off the island” with the usual scare tactics about GMOs aimed at city voters, not because of any “tipping point” occurring in local farming. In fact, it does not appear the farms had anything to do with it. We shouldn’t be surprised, however. Back in the day when they closed the libraries, the dark ages followed.