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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

 

An Open Letter to Gov. Kate Brown on Ditch Cleaning

1 Aug

Dear Governor Kate Brown,

I know it’s been a trying legislative session, and I know that you’re work here in Oregon is never really on a break.  But today I’m writing to ask you to please sign HB 2437, the ditch cleaning bill that was passed this session.  This bill is so vitally important to farmers and landowners in Oregon.

My land is part of G.A. Miller Drainage District, district #1 in Oregon.  It’s been functioning since 1901.  This ditch was hand dug and runs about 5 miles in the St. Paul area.  We have been maintaining these drainage ditches to protect our farmland for 118 years.

Here is a short video of how we do this and why.

This past winter, after two years of working with Department of State Lands, I was asked, along with other stakeholders to participate in a legislative work group to find solutions.  The current system, it wasn’t working and I have yet to find anyone that will disagree with that.  So EVERYONE came to the table.  Environmental groups, fish groups, farmers, university specialists, legislators, land owners, EVERYONE!  And we all worked hours and hours and hours to find compromise, something that would work for everyone.  Not one group got everything they asked for.  Not one group walked out of those meetings thinking they nailed it.  EVERYONE compromised to find a SOLUTION that would help not only the problem at hand but continue to make solutions better for the state of Oregon and protect our lands; wetlands and farmland alike.

The bill that came out of all that work was on a path to success.  Because of all that work and support from Rep. Susan McLain, Rep. David Brock Smith, and Rep Brian Clem, it passed the House and the Senate with amazing bi-partisan support.  And now it sits on your desk Governor Brown.  So I’m writing today to ask that you please sign this bill.

This is good legislation that was put through a robust process in the Capitol.  We need tools to protect our land, tools that have been used for over 100 years here in this state.  I believe that by signing this bill you are assuring that more research will be done, we will learn even more about best practices for ditch cleaning and maintenance, and you will protect wetlands and farmlands in the process.  Please don’t take this tool away from us and please sign House Bill 2437.

Thank you.
Sincerely,

Brenda Frketich

 

***Please click here to also send a letter to Gov. Kate Brown.  She needs to hear how important this tool is for all landowners and farmers!  As always please share and if you have any questions just let me know!  Thank you!

Natural Resources Rally at the Capitol 2019

3 Jul

The rally will go down to some, depending on the article that you read, as a terrorist gathering, a group of mostly bearded men, a few tractors and trucks, a few hundred people.

But for those of us who were actually there.  Those of us who listened to the speakers and talked to the attendees, we are the ones who will remember what it was really like.

It was a peaceful gathering, one of the most respectful events ever held of that size.  There were men and women, families even, who came to show their support.  There were hundreds of trucks and tractors and thousands of people.  Signs saying, “If you bought it, a TRUCK brought it!”  People from the Natural Resource Industry were gathering to be heard!  There was respectfulness, there was impact, we were a force!  But also there was no trash left behind, no trace of demonstrators at the end of the day.   We showed true rural hospitality as we simultaneously STORMED the Capitol. We heard from loggers and farmers, men and women, who would have been devastated by House Bill 2020.  We heard from leaders in our natural resources industry, including legislators, who were so excited to see the rural population show up!  We were there to stand up for standing up!!  We showed our support our Senators who walked out, to tell them that we understand and we are with them.  11 Senators whose bold actions and courage extended to all of us, giving us the courage to do the same!I know I’ll never forget that Sunday I got a phone call from a neighbor telling me that “a few” farmers were heading to the capitol and they needed…honestly at that point we weren’t sure what was needed…but would I be willing to help?  My first answer was no; it’s harvest, we are all swamped and working 24 hour days.  But by Monday morning I found myself on a text thread with loggers, timber unity folks, farmers who wanted to do this, wanted to go big, wanted to show up and rally.  In just four short days this grass roots team mobilized and organized and brought together people from across the state to the Capitol steps.  This is just a brief preview of the rally taken from Farm Bureau. Search #timberunity for more great coverage of the rally.

Here is a full video of the entire program that day!

I’ve driven to the Capitol building probably at least a hundred times to come and testify in the past 13 years, but when we drove up early that Thursday morning, the streets of Salem already lined with log trucks and tractors, it was completely overwhelming.  Matt looked at me that morning and said, “Remember 4 days ago when you didn’t know if you all could ever pull this off, when your answer was no?  I mean look at this babe, look what you all have done in such a short period of time.” There are many of us who have waited for our industry here in Oregon to wake up and show up, and this became a moment that was more than we could have ever dreamed.  But I do hope it’s not just a moment in time, I hope the momentum of being involved continues.  This is what we need in order to be heard, and I know people see that now.  I still can’t quite believe we pulled it off.  And there’s too many people to thank to list them all here.  But you all know who you are and a true thank you for helping to make this all possible.

I’ll leave you with this….

“There is an undeniable and noble calling to take care of the earth, but this bill will not help the earth and only hurts all of us. I see fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers all around me. You all steward the natural world through farming, ranching and forestry. It’s time we stand up for each other and the earth.”

-Tiffany Harper, farmer and woodland owner from Junction City, Oregon.

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