By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Whatchamacolumn: Brief user manual for readers of hazelnut story

Oregon’s second largest hazelnut processor called it quits this week — see today’s news — further muddling an already complicated story involving Oregon agriculture and local politics. As I’ve said often the past month, we’re all going to learn a lot more about (formerly known as) filberts.

Here’s a brief guide that might help readers understand parts of today’s story:

Oregon growers produce about 99 percent of the nation’s hazelnut crop, which is 3-5 percent of global hazelnut production. It’s an important Oregon agricultural crop valued over $100 million annually.

Oregon hazelnut processing companies, once numbering about 20, have dwindled to three or four, by far the largest being operations related to Yamhill County’s George Packing Co.


Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

> See his column

Annually, Oregon’s Hazelnut Growers Bargaining Association establishes a “guaranteed minimum price” that contracted producers must pay to HGBA’s 300-plus member growers. For the 2023 crop, those prices are 45, 50 or 55 cents per pound based on variety of hazelnut. Those HGBA contracts also establish how much money producers can keep for their services from eventual crop sales, and additional sales revenue becomes “bonus” or “profit share” payments to growers.

Bonus payment amounts can be altered by private contracts between growers and producers, and producer cost variations.

George Packing Co., with great size, efficiencies and market knowledge, has become the leading source of HGBA expectations for bonus money to growers. For the 2023 crop, HGBA announced expectations of bonus money ranging from 26-44 cents per pound among 14 hazelnut varieties, and $1.11 per pound for Jumbo/Giant Ennis nuts.

Here’s where things get more complicated:

Mike Firestone and spouse (County Commissioner) Lindsay Berschauer created Firestone Processing Co. in 2023, bought about 2% of Oregon’s hazelnut crop, and in December announced expectations of high bonus payments to growers. However, citing financial difficulties, they decided in January to dissolve the company. That official action occurred in March, accompanied by their simultaneous creation of Firestone Processing Co. LLC (limited liability company).

Firestone sold hazelnut crops to George Packing Co. He told the News-Register he paid all growers the guaranteed minimum plus some level of bonus payments, and met all contractual obligations.

Multiple growers, however, filed liens claiming a combined $802,000 due from Firestone Processing Co. LLC. Berschauer’s election opponent widely questioned her fitness for office based on what Firestone now says was a lack of knowledge about “what was happening in our company or across the entire industry.”

In Oregon, an “agricultural produce lien” protects growers’ receipt of the contract price for crops delivered to a buyer. Three of those liens, totaling about $681,000, specify demands for exactly the sum of bonus payments that George Packing Co. reported it will be paying its growers.

So, liens were filed against the new Firestone company, which did not exist when 2023 crop-buying contracts were inked with the previous Firestone company. The largest liens add up to bonus payments equaling exactly what George Packing Co. expects to pay its growers under different contracts.

Sounds like a potential legal nightmare to me. Good luck, readers, navigating this evolving story.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at or 503-687-1223.



Where is the commentary on the dissolution of the business in January, er March, and creation of a suspiciously similarly named business on the same day?

When did Firestone Processing (either of them) sell nuts to GPC? In March when they knew they weren’t gonna be able to market their inventory? In trade for a campaign contribution?

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