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A Call To Action: Farmers, Ranchers, & Foresters against HB 2859

27 Feb

This Wednesday at 1pm I’m hoping to see the Oregon Capital building FULL of Oregon’s farmers, ranchers, foresters and woodland owners.  We have been hearing from our industry advocates all winter that they are going to need our help this legislative session and that time is now.

The Oregon Legislature has been scrapping for any amount of money they can get their hands on.  Our state is working with a deficit, which it seems like instead of working through the budget they have, many legislators are grasping at straws to fill the gap.  Silly ideas like a coffee tax, or old car tax have already come and gone.  But Wednesday there will be a hearing to take away tax exemptions that are so valuable to farmers in Oregon, I really can’t stress enough how it would make farming here basically impossible.

Without going into too much detail here, Oregon has a very unique land use system.  One that designates land around the state that is Exclusive Farm Use only (EFU).  This land is used to farm, and grow crops. Basically it disallows you from selling as industrial ground, or ground for housing, development, etc.  Because this limits our ability in what we can do on the land that we own, in turn the state has given us a reduced property tax on those parcels.  The state deemed that ground, because they value farm land, as the highest value being farming.  In my opinion I would have to agree, we have some of the best soil in the world here in Oregon.  So that means that I can’t turn around, sell by the square foot to developers, and make a fortune.  Because of the land use system, and the protections that have been hard fought in this state (and I believe rightly so) that ability is taken from us.

So here is the deal, if you as the state think that our farm ground is so valuable that you give us a special assessment in order to farm, why in the world would you take that assessment away, tax us the same as industrial ground, and then force us to keep it as farm ground?  It makes no sense, and you can rest assured that this gutting of farm assessments, is in turn a gutting of land use laws as they stand today.  This will break our system here in Oregon, one that has allowed me as the third generation on this farm to continue farming. The landscape in Oregon – both figuratively and literally – could change. Who really wants that?

final-112Meet the fourth generation on our farm.  These farm boys love hanging out in our fields, fields that will be too expensive to farm if HB2859 is passed.final-111

The other issue in this legislation is removing our personal property tax exemptions, which would end up driving farms into the ground, ending the legacy that is farming in Oregon.  Our industry by nature creates a significant amount of capital expenditure.  We have millions of dollars worth of equipment sitting in our barns, equipment that will only see the light of day for a fraction of the year.  Take a piece of harvesting equipment, like a combine for example, the cost of which could be anywhere from $350,000 to a half million dollars.  This essential piece of equipment will be used for only about 3 weeks on our farm.

So why bother to upgrade?  We update equipment on our farm as technology changes and equipment becomes more efficient for our farm, our soil, and the environment. Just like many households update appliances in their kitchens.  But how can you afford to update if every time you parked a newer piece of equipment in your barn your tax bill increased so significantly it never penciled?  I did the math, and this part of the legislation alone would take our average profit for the past 5 years.  We could never justify planning for the future on our farm, which is what we do every time we make business decisions.  My business plan is not for the next 5 years, or even the next decade, it’s what is going to be best for my grandchildren and their children.  Between land rent, land taxes and property taxes, I just don’t know how our farm would survive.

Our legislature has to take a hard look at their budget and work within their constraints.  I was at a meeting where Representative Tina Kotek spoke a few months ago and something she said made me realize how concerned we all should be this year.  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 goes against everything I believe to my core, everything that business, school, farming, and life has taught me.  No, you need to find what you can pay for and THEN and only then decide on what decisions are best for Oregonians.

We seem to be living in a backwards world here and it’s scary!  So please, come and stand up for Oregon’s farmers, ranchers, foresters and woodland owners on Wednesday!  Tell the legislature that they need to work within their budget just like the rest of the real world.  They need to stand up for farm, ranch and timber!

To write a letter to your legislator you can use the link below through Oregon Farm Bureau:
http://oregonfb.org/advocacy/?vvsrc=%2fCampaigns%2f50222%2fRespond

Checking on a Baby Field

10 Feb

I went out today to check on one of our most struggling baby fields.  It’s been a cold and tough winter for these young plants.  Baby fields are fields that we planted last fall and have not been harvested yet.

These little baby grass plants are slowly…painfully…growing up out of the ground.  final-48We planted right into the old stand of grass seed this fall, which is not how we commonly grow grass seed.  However as Mother Nature doesn’t always leave you options, this wet fall closed the window on conventional planting for us.  This is a risk for us, but we are hoping that once spring comes, this dead looking field behind me, look s a lot more green!final-49Come on little guys!  You can do it!final-47

Antibiotics in Milk

7 Feb

I don’t know much about animal agriculture on a personal level.  We are a crop farm, so when I started to get questions regarding the use of antibiotics in milk production I headed to the source for some good information.

And here he is…let me introduce you to Derrick Josi, also known as Tillamook Dairy Farmer! 16427705_1270168536364131_3185010092142991911_nTillamook Dairy Farmer has been on a mission to let people know more about the diary industry and milk (check out and like his Facebook page).  Derrick is a fourth generation dairyman in the heart of Tillamook, Oregon.  They raise their cows on 450 acres, milking 500 jersey cows every single day!  Much of the milk his cows produce is used for (obviously) milk in the grocery store, cheese (my favorite, Tillamook Cheese), and even coffee creamer. 

The photo below is one of this very dairy farmer getting his morning coffee creamer, straight from the source!  Now that is real cream!15826167_1243084212405897_9125355541175885199_n

I asked a few questions of this Dairy farmer specifically about antibiotics and their cows that they milk, here is what he had to say…

Do you use antibiotics on your dairy cows?
Yes we do. We use them sparingly when they are needed. For example if a cow gets mastitis or Pneumonia. 

This was shared on his Facebook page awhile back…

16002924_1253058034741848_1094932578939830172_n“I was excited to video how we handle cows that are on antibiotics for you tonight! Got in the parlor and looked at our white board where we write the girls number and treatment. Only to find out that on our farm of five hundred milk cows we have zero cows being treated. Which makes it really hard to video our procedure. On the flip side it’s a testament to our procedures. Usually we average 3-5 cows being treated.”

Do antibiotics show up in your milk, even in trace amounts?
Antibiotics do not show up in our milk. When we have a cow being treated her milk withheld and dumped. It is tested before we allow her to be milked into the tank. Our milk is tested by the milk truck driver before he allows it to leave the farm.  If our milk were to test positive the whole tank of 5000 gallons would be dumped. We would be fined and lose the revenue from the milk.

What is the best way for me to know that I’m getting the safest milk possible when buying at the grocery store? For example should I buy organic, hormone free, all natural, or just regular? 
All milk is safe and healthy at the store.  They are identical in taste and quality.  All types are tested and free of antibiotics (yes, even organic is tested).  Anyone who tells you there’s a difference is trying to sell you something.

So my answer to the “issue” of antibiotics in milk, is that there actually is no issue at all,  all milk sold at the grocery store is antibiotic free!

16143469_1253730421341276_5060694995467890626_o

So is it worth it to buy organic just because you don’t want antibiotics?

Not in the least.  Like was said before, yes antibiotics are used on cows that produce the wonderful milk that we all enjoy.  But that doesn’t mean that it gets in your milk, the milk is tested and safe.  I actually sat down and looked at the price difference between buying organic versus conventional and wow was I surprised!  Organic milk at my grocery store is $6.79 a gallon, regular milk is $3.69.  It’s almost twice the cost!  And when I do the math, it would cost my family $483.60 more a year in just milk!!! 

I hope this helps to clear up some misconceptions.  If you have any questions be sure to post them!  Also a big thank you to Tillamook Dairy Farmer for helping us all to see a little of the reality that is Dairy Farming.  Check out his Facebook page where you will get, in his own words, “…a live experience on the day to day activities on my dairy. Sometimes it will be sarcasm like the meme about the cold weather. Other times cute and heartwarming pictures of cows and calves (just wait till spring when they are back out on pasture).”

Here is another link that has some great information:
Milk & Antibiotics: What you need to know

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