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Vote YES on Measure 104

29 Oct

I wrote earlier today about Measure 103 and why I’m voting YES.  Well the questions don’t stop at this measure, 104 has just as many folks wondering why we would want to change the constitution.  Here are a few misconceptions….

  • Measure 104 “changes” the constitution.
  • Measure 104 is going to clog up the legislature.
  • Measure 104 is redundant to what we already have in place.

This past March during the 2018 legislature session farmers came to the capital in full force.  It’s the most farmers I have seen show up, which means we were there for something very important.  House Bill 2859 was being proposed as a way to “clean up” exemptions and deductions on taxes.  Sounds harmless enough right?  Wrong….so very wrong.  There are many special assessments, deductions, and exemptions that farmers use every day to help them farm the very land that has been in our family for generations.  These deductions, if removed would close our doors the day that happened.  I wish I was exaggerating, but it would have cost our farm hundreds of thousands in NEW costs every year.  It also in turn would break the land use system that protects our farmland.  The repercussions are endless and scary.

You can read more about this awful bill here:

The point is, we don’t want to have to fight against something this awful every single year.  It’s frustrating that a simple majority can just decide on something that seems so small, yet makes a HUGE impact on our industry.  In 1996 voters decided to make “revenue increasing” have to be by a super majority.  It was a message to the legislature that you have to work together.  If something is controversial and is going to make an impact to Oregonians like that, it has to be bipartisan, we all have to be represented.  This just makes sense right?!

I was also interviewed by K12 last week about this very issue. 

So back to the misconceptions….

  • Measure 104 “changes” the constitution.
    Correction: Measure 104 CLARIFIES the constitution. 
    Like I said, voters voted for this idea of a super majority in 1996.  It takes away the loopholes that “Oh we are just looking to clean up the tax code.”  This just further clarifies what was meant all along. It takes away the ability of legislators to simply use loopholes as revenue raising opportunities, at the expense of necessary exemptions many of us rely on to stay in business.  If sensible changes are justified, they should easily be able to draw the then required 3/5ths support.  Also let’s not be scared to make our constitution better.  This is why we have the ability to work with our constitution and continue to make it something that works with our ever-changing and great state!  And voters have changed it over 240 times. 
  • Measure 104 is going to clog up the legislature.
    Now this I understand, because really the legislature isn’t exactly the most well-oiled machine. However I can’t get behind this as a reason to just push things through without really looking at the issues and repercussions.  What if you aren’t represented?  What if you don’t get a say and things like the exemption on our farmland is at stake?  As a farmer, I only represent about 2% of Oregon’s population.  How do I get a fair shot at protecting my livelihood if I never get represented?  A super majority is harder to get than a simple majority, it will cause some folks to be forced to work across the aisle, it will mean bipartisanship.  And all of these things are important to me when we are looking at increasing revenues.  So yes, it might be a little harder to get things “cleaned up”, but I think it’s necessary to be sure that what we are cleaning up isn’t shutting down good business in Oregon.
  • Measure 104 is redundant to what we already have in place.
    Ever since the constitution added the super majority language to the constitution loopholes have surfaced. This closes those loopholes so that the idea of removing special assessments, exemptions and deductions is revenue raising.  It’s creative, I’ll give them that, but it’s wrong.  And it goes against what the voters said they wanted out of their legislature.  Back in 2017 I was at a conference listening to Speaker Tina Kotek and she said, (I’ll paraphrase because I didn’t write down the exact quote) “We have made a lot of good decisions for Oregonians, now we just need to figure out how to pay for them.”  This is backwards and very concerning.  To me this makes it look like these loopholes are only just beginning at the capital to start to pay for all those “good things”.

For those of you not in the 2% of the farming population, think about things like your home mortgage deduction, DMV registration fees, or the cost of your hunting and fishing licenses.  These are all things that can be arbitrarily raised without a super majority.  Don’t you feel that  making sure most people are on board with the reasons behind these fee increasing would be a good thing?  I sure do.

Rep. Julie Parrish had this great post on Facebook:

I would like to share how I ended my testimony on Bill 2859 because I think it sums up why I feel so passionately about this issue…

I’m sitting here today humbled and overcome by the fact that you all have the power to shut the doors on our farm forever.  I am frustrated that at a time when agriculture gives so much back to Oregon, we have to show up at a hearing to defend our basic needs from this state.  How much does agriculture give?  1 in 8 jobs in this state are linked to farms, not to mention $22.9 billion dollars in sales.  To quote former Director of Agriculture Katy Coba, “Agriculture is a very important part of Oregon.  In terms of population, the number of farmers and ranchers in our state is small. Yet, when you look at the contribution they make to both our economy and our environment, things we pride ourselves on, agriculture has a tremendous impact on the state.” 

I have a passion for what I do, I have a business plan that leads this farm into not the just the 4th generation, but to the 5th.  I take care of our soil so that it’s better than when I first stepped on it and called it mine.  But that will all be wasted if this passes.  So I hope that you all take a long look at what you are doing here.  They say that it takes generations to build a farm to be successful, but only one generation to lose it all.  I have worked tirelessly and will continue to work as hard as I possibly can to make sure that is not my generation, I just never thought that I would have to be here today asking you, the legislature, to not lose it for me.

This is why I’ve voting YES on Measure 104!

Life Beyond the Farm & Having it All

12 Dec

I have found it a very common theme that farmers or those involved in agriculture have a reach that goes much beyond their own acres of land.  Maybe it’s because we are traditionally from smaller communities that have been built with volunteers, or maybe it’s because we have needed help at some point too and have always had a network to reach out to just over the fence row.  Or maybe it’s because we are bored…oh wait…nope…scratch that…it’s definitely not the reason. I have yet to meet a bored farmer!

I don’t often talk about my life outside of farming and family on here.  And probably a lot of it has to do with the fact that I never think of it as interesting or worth blogging about, because it’s just what I have always done and what has always been the norm for my life.  I grew up in a family that volunteered and gave their time where it was needed, and it’s something that runs as deep in my blood as the soil that I farm.  I, like many other farmers, volunteer as a firefighter and EMT in our community.  I also sit on many boards, mostly agriculturally involved.  I give a lot of time to these efforts of making things better for my fellow farmers, making things safer for my neighbors and overall helping where needed in the community.

This is a photo from the Woodburn High School Fire back in 2012, when I was still “Kirsch”

So all that being said, as many of you know I am expecting our third little baby this coming spring.  I actually headed up to the fire department just last night to have department photos taken and looked like this in my uniform shirt.  Which was hilarious but also made me a little sad.

A few months back I had to make a number of phone calls that I truly didn’t want to make, conversations about me stepping down, stepping back, and in some cases leaving all together.  Off boards with friends who have become family, folks who I have sat next to over years, in some cases over 10 years, at the local fire station, farm bureau board room or even coffee shop.  These meetings were more than just meetings, it’s where I learned some of the most valuable lessons of not only about how to be a good fireman, EMT or farmer; but a friend, a good colleague, and a solid person.

At a Marion County Farm Bureau Meeting, showing that “I Farm I Vote”

So last night when I tried (and really I did try) to button up that uniform shirt for what might be the last time in a long time, it was very bittersweet.  It was a blatant sign that I had made a choice, it was a sign that having it all doesn’t always mean you have it “all” and that decisions no matter how tough, have to be made.  I know I have made the right choice in moving back from my involvement, but it doesn’t make it any easier to say “see you later” to the folks who have made life here in this small town, and within the farming industry, so amazing.  I have no doubt that I’ll be back, remember it’s in my blood…and for now farming and having three kids under 4 (which yes I realize is still a lot) will take my time and focus.

I often have people ask me how I do it “all” and I often don’t really know what to say.  But I think now I’ll say that having it “all” doesn’t mean that you get to have everything you want right now.  It means to me that I have to be realistic and make choices that make what I can handle in the “now” all the more worth it.  Moving forward with life is not a choice, time will keep passing, but it does mean we get to make choices in the direction we head.  So for now, I’m heading back to the boys who are calling “mommy” (all the time!) and back to the fields to look for slugs.  For now that’s where my “all” is, and for now that’s all I need.

Ag Day is Everyday #AgDay365

10 Apr

A few years ago I was advocating for some pro-agriculture legislation at the state level.  I wrote a blog about how great it would be for Oregon’s farmers and for our industry as a whole.   A friend of mine reached out and told me that she was confused about why I was working so hard at getting this passed at the state level, she thought my efforts were wasted because,

“We should save these state level fights for things that effect everyone, not just for farmers.  This is not an issue of statewide concern.” 

To say I was shocked was an understatement, so I took a deep breath and asked a few simple questions…when she last had a meal.  I asked what her clothes were made of.  I asked her to look around her and told her that Oregon agriculture employs 1 in every 12 of the people she sees.  I wanted to help her see that while only 2% of the population might be a farmer…farming reaches everyone, statewide and beyond!

Which is why I was so excited to see the new campaign that American Women in Agriculture launched this year.  Ag Day 365, showing how Ag Day is Everyday! The goal of this campaign is to show everyone how much our lives, all our lives, connect to agriculture.  It’s not just for us farmers out in the fields, farming touches the lives of every single person every single day.  Even for all my friends from Loyola Marymount University in LA, yes to all of you who only know one farmer, your lives are constantly being affected by farmers from all over the world.

If you want to learn more you can check out the website AgDay365, or feel free to follow along with #AgDay365 to see the many posts from farmers all over the United States.  Here are just a few of my favorites from some great advocates for agriculture…

Allowing people a look into what farmers face each and everyday is not an easy task.  It takes time and effort that goes beyond just trying to make your business survive to the next generation.  But in the end, groups like American Agri-women and our local affiliate Oregon Women for Agriculture are always helping the effort.  Please follow along and encourage others to as well.  Because while farmers are such a small number in people, there are a growing number of us who are trying to reach out and let everyone know what we are up to out in the fields, how we raise the food you eat, and share in some of the challenges and successes that make up what we are proud to call Oregon agriculture.

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