What Happened to the Ditch Bill??

12 Sep

I wanted to write a quick follow up because I have been getting a lot of questions regarding the ditch bill, House Bill 2437,  from last legislative session and what happened to it.  This bill allows us a way to legally clean our ditches to maintain drainage, a practice we have been doing on our farm for 118 years.

Here are the quick facts:

  • The process for us to do our jobs was broken, no one disputed this fact.
  • This bill was worked on for months utilizing the concerns and needs of farmers, environmental groups, municipalities, and legislators from across the state.
  • This bi-partisan bill passed the house and senate with vast majority supporting it fully.
  • August 4, 2019 The bill was put on Governor Brown’s veto list.
  • August 9, 2019 House Bill 2437 was signed into law!! (insert high fives here)

Here’s a little more detail:

This bill addressed a problem that needed a solution; the process we had was not working.  A work group was formed to bring all parties to the table.  We didn’t all get along at first; honestly at the end of the day no one who was at the table got exactly what they wanted either.  Everyone compromised and worked together to find a solution.  Because everyone around the table knew that if this wasn’t fixed, it would only kick the can down the road.

On August 4th when it showed up on the veto list, I was so disheartened.  I didn’t hear directly from the Governor why this bill was on the short list for veto, but I have my ideas.  I think possibly one extreme environmental group had her ear and was yelling loudly.  A group that was consulted on this bill and refused to give any feedback (they wouldn’t work at all through this bi-partisan process).  I also wonder if it was some sort of backlash because Cap & Trade didn’t pass.  These are my assumptions obviously, but what I can say is what I told the Capital Press when they called to get my opinion,

“Even with a positive outcome, it can then come down to political games, and I don’t think that’s fair.”

Obviously I’m overjoyed that in the end the Governor signed the bill.  For one thing as I have said before this was a real solution to a real problem.  But if I take a step back and look at the bigger picture, I’m glad because this is how democracy is supposed to work.  When politicians and citizens work together, their efforts cannot (or at least should not) go unnoticed.  They should not be silenced by the cries from one extreme uncompromising group.

As for the Governor, it’s her job to look out for the state as a whole, not lend her ear only to a select few.  As Governor, she should respect the process by which our legislature stands by, by which it MUST stand by.  When she signed this bill, I believe she did just that.

Political games aside; I’m just a farmer who found herself unable to do the work that has been done for around 120 years on my farm.  I worked through this difficult process with a lot of really hard working folks all with different goals in mind (across the aisle seems like an easy step when considering the hurdles this group overcame).  We found a solution.  We got it passed.  And Governor Brown signed it.  So in my book, this is going down as a win for our state, for farmers and environmentalists, and for democracy in Oregon.

 

One more article regarding this bill and what it means to farmers:

An Open Letter to Gov. Kate Brown on Ditch Cleaning

 

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