More on GMO’s and Special Session

30 Sep

***Sorry I missed Photo Friday…life sort of has gotten away from me and even while it was pouring rain we were trying to grab a few hazelnuts off the ground and from washing away into ditches.  We were successful on a few acres, but the blog went by the way side.  I promise hazelnut harvest photos soon, beware…it will be muddy!

I want to write again about the special session that has been called by the governor.  I have been getting a lot of questions about this issue and so I wanted to clarify a few things.  I will start by showing you my letter to the editor that ran in the Sunday Statesman Journal.

Oregon farmers strongly support the bipartisan effort by lawmakers preparing for Monday’s special session to protect our right to choose the best crops, tools and technologies to meet the needs of the markets we serve.  It’s disappointing to have special-interest activists make such a reasonable plan sound controversial.

I’m a third-generation Marion County farmer. The Oregon Farm Bureau strongly backed legislation earlier this year to shield farmers like us from aggressive efforts by activists to pass county-level ballot initiatives banning the growing of genetically engineered seed crops. Our family grows a number of seed crops — rye grass, wheat, clover, etc. While we don’t currently grow any genetically engineered crops, the technology may be important to us in the future, and we don’t want politics substituted for science in determining what crops farmers can grow.

Adding farmer protection to the special session package is good public policy. It keeps the regulation of seed crops in the hands of state and federal regulators, rather than threatening Oregon farmers with dozens of different regulatory schemes. Many Oregon farms operate in multiple counties, some with fields crossing county lines. Avoiding such a mess is well worth including in the special session agreement.

I realized though after I wrote this, the questions I was getting, I probably didn’t really address what this issue is and wish that I had more than a 200 word limit to do just that.  So instead I want to clarify it on here.

This issue is not a pro GMO stance, it’s not a anti GMO stance.  This issue, although the activists would like you to believe that this isn’t true, is truly that we don’t want individual county control of how we can grow seed in this state.  We want ALL farmers in Oregon to have to work under the laws and rules of ONE department of Agriculture.  We don’t want 36 different department of ag’s ruling over how we can farm.  I would think that organic farmers would be for this bill also, who wants 36 different definitions of “organic” as you farm across the state?

I went and testified on Thursday on this very issue and heard the Governor say just that.  He said that this was an important issue of state concern, and something that he believed was so important and so crucial to move forward now because we already have counties under threat of individual bans on certain crops.  The hearing was interesting to say the least, most hearings that involve GMO usually bring in all sorts.  The one thing that I realized though sitting there listening to all sides.  Those who were against this so passionately, could only lean on their emotional understanding of how GMO’s are “killing everyone”.  And how the state isn’t doing anything against GMO production so they had to take it in to their own hands.  There was no mention of any future plan as to how this was going to work, not forethought on how counties were going to fund such an undertaking.

On the other side, we showed time and time again that counties don’t have the resources to fund a department that would be so critical not only in the monitoring of crops, but also compliance and punishment if something wasn’t going right.  The GMO issue found in wheat this past year in eastern Oregon is a great example of how extensive investigations can get and how complicated this issue is.  It took weeks of information gathering, interviews of over 200 people, and they are still gathering conclusions as to what happened.  Can you imagine having a county agency taking something like that on? It would be a nightmare!  Not to mention that farmers often farm across county lines, which means your farm, your property could have drastically different regulations just because it’s across the county line.

If you have any questions on this issue I would be happy to answer what I can, it’s complicated I won’t deny that.  But it’s also very clear that what we want is a better system at the state level, not a complicated divided attack on how we farm, and this is the first step in protecting our future of growing seed here in Oregon.

6 Responses to “More on GMO’s and Special Session”

  1. illinoisfarmgirl September 30, 2013 at 8:13 pm #

    I testified two weeks ago at a labeling hearing in Illinois. After listening to the experts on both sides I thought, My goodness the apocalypse is coming. Honestly, I don’t know how to begin to get a grasp on the discussion. It really is out of control. The ‘aha’ moment came however when a woman who testified for the “other” side approached me afterwards and essentially said I’m tired of all the yelling and fear-mongering. Why can’t we talk like adults? Amen!

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    • Nuttygrass October 1, 2013 at 9:31 am #

      I agree Katie. I think a lot more can be done with calm conversation and compromise. I feel many times however that most who show up for the “other side” are too far gone and not willing to accept anything different. That’s been one of my frustrations from the beginning, they don’t want to work with us, they want to work against us until we’re wiped out. Thanks for your comments and hopefully we can keep these adult conversations going!!

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  2. Judy Hugenberger September 30, 2013 at 9:44 am #

    You make some sound and valid points. My extreme frustration with this issue at this time is that it was attached to the PERS reform discussion. The two issues have no connection as I see it.

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    • Nuttygrass September 30, 2013 at 10:07 am #

      Well it’s also attached to a small business tax break. PERS effects certain people in the state, small business effects a certain number of people in the state. And while not everyone is a teacher, retired state employee or small business owner I see all of these as issues that are important to the special session package. So where does agriculture fit? Well we employ 1 in every 8 people in this state for one, we also have $5.4 billion dollars worth of production in this state. Both of which sound to me like something that we want to keep around and are worth putting with this package. Thanks for you comment Judy!!

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  1. A Big Win for Oregon Farmers | nuttygrass - October 4, 2013

    […] More on GMO’s and Special Session […]

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  2. Why Farmers Need Lobbyists | oregongreen - October 2, 2013

    […] With the first two happening I did not have time to write to my legislators or go to Salem and testify about seed preemption.  Thankfully my friend Brenda has been covering the Oregon Special Session happenings on her blog and … […]

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