Cap & Trade Testimony

Today I wanted to discuss Cap & Trade and the bill that is currently in the Oregon Legislature in Oregon, House Bill 2020.  While it’s an ongoing conversation in my world, it may not be on everyone’s radar.  Two weeks ago I was asked to come and speak to the Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction at the Capitol regarding this issue and how it would hurt farmers here in Oregon. 

My son Hoot got to come watch me testify, which was “really awesome mom!”

It’s a complex issue and I only had 3 minutes to speak to the problems that need to be fixed for us, but I wanted to share my testimony.  The video below is the Natural Resource panel from Feburary 11th.  It begins with Chris Edwards, lobbyist for OFIC, my testimony, followed by another farmer’s.  Then follows up with lots of questions.

https://oregon.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?clip_id=25756&starttime=849&stoptime=2578&autostart=0&embed=1

Tomorrow I will be posting a few things that I wish I had time to include in my testimony and in my answers.

There is still time to comment and have your voice heard on this bill!!  Comments are being taken until March 2nd.  I will post more information on how you can comment tomorrow in my blog.  Below though is my official testimony, if you’re not in the video watching mood….

Brenda Frketich, Oregon Farm Bureau
February 11, 2019

Chair Dembrow, Chair Power, Vice-Chairs Bentz and Brock Smith and members of the committee,

My name is Brenda Frketich.  I am third generation farmer from St. Paul.   My husband and I farm 1000 acres of filberts, grass seed, wheat, clover, vegetables and vegetables seeds.

I am here as a farmer and on behalf of Oregon Farm Bureau in opposition of HB 2020 as currently drafted.  

The first issue is that as farmers and ranchers, we must absorb the full impact of cost increases from fuel and natural gas under HB 2020. 

It’s difficult to assign the “cost” of cap-and-trade to the average family farm.  However Farm Bureau surveyed their members to get an idea of the indirect costs, those responses are summarized on OLIS…AND they are significant

My family farm would likely pay more than a $5500 increase in the price of fuel alone.  Which is a 15% increase in our total fuel bill for our farm, in just the first year!  I know other farmers would experience similar increases in fuel prices. Considering farms are natural sequesters of carbon already, this bill neglects to even touch the benefits that we already provide to the environment, only punishing us instead.

Those who use natural gas to operate peppermint distilleries, greenhouses, hop and hazelnut driers could see a 13% increase in their natural gas rates in 2021.  And what about 2035 and beyond? 

In December, the Carbon Policy Office presented an option to exempt ag fuels (or dyed diesel) from the cap to mitigate some of these increases.  This was a first step in helping to alleviate some of the price impacts but now it is NOT included in this bill.

Our family farm operates on slim margins and as price takers.  We can’t just pass on the increased costs of production to consumers.  So we are saddled with the full costs of cap-and-trade—making us less competitive with growers across the nation and world.  Without safeguards to keep farmers from absorbing these costs, it will be incredibly difficult to keep families farming in Oregon. 

This also makes it much less likely that the farmland stays in production, and much more likely that farms are parceled and sold to development that won’t have the environmental benefits associated with keeping it in farming. 

Our second issue is with how the incentive and offset programs are structured in the bill.

As written, I think you’ll see many farmers that could have participated in the offset or incentive programs will now avoid them.  We’ve talked to California Farm Bureau, and offsets don’t really work in dynamic agricultural landscapes, especially with how diverse Oregon agriculture is.

Oregon Farm Bureau worked for months with state and federal agencies to craft workable incentive programs with sideboards spelled out in statute.  Section 31 doesn’t reflect that work. I’ve participated in some of the federal conservation programs that offered incentives for soil health programs and irrigation water conservation, but I know that farmers are concerned that the incentives in HB 2020 won’t be accessible or affordable.  California Farm Bureau said that administrative requirements kept farmers from even participating.  My fear is we will see the same thing here in Oregon.

It’s important that any voluntary investments are made available to all of agriculture and don’t penalize early adopters.  OSU should also be a partner in this effort.

The bill doesn’t include any of the policy fixes that we worked on with the Governor’s Carbon Policy Office in 2018 and will result in unnecessary costs for family farms.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.

Life Beyond the Farm & Having it All

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.

Farmers, Ranchers & Foresters Crush Bad Bill

Many of you have heard this already, but the pieces of House Bill 2859 that included sunsetting some of the most important tax assessments for farmers in Oregon has been removed!

I’ll quote Representative Barnhart in saying,
“In other words, you win.” 

What an incredible day at the Capital!

17021431_1338033882902577_6820762043884180306_nA huge thank you to the over 100 folks who took the time, to come show up and stand up for our great industry here in Oregon!  You all made the difference on Wednesday.

We showed up, we were at the table, and we killed it!

For a more extensive recap check out these links:

And if you would like to read my testimony that I submitted you can find it by clicking HERE.  Mine is under “Kirsch Family Farms Testimony” by Brenda Frketich (half way down the page).  It’s pretty long, but if you’re curious why farmers should get or do get special assessments on their taxes, check it out.

Happy Friday folks!

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