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More on Cap & Trade

22 Feb

Yesterday I posted my testimony regarding Cap & Trade and House Bill 2020.  I drove away that evening feeling like I had missed a lot.  It’s hard to cover how something is going to effect your operation so thoroughly.  I probably wouldn’t have even gotten it all out if I had an hour!  But I wanted to get on here to include just a few things that I wish I would have included or explained better.  If something resonates with you, even just one small issue, your voice need to be heard.

Opportunities to testify are listed at he end of this blog.
Here are just a few things that I wish I would have included down at the Capitol...

  • How much this will cost me just as a person living in Oregon, never mind a business owner. – This is real folks. I said in my testimony that it would cost our business an estimated $5500 in additional fuel costs in year one, only to be increasing from there.  But what about my own personal vehicle.  What about those who use Natural gas to heat their homes?  That increase looks like it will be in the 53% range for home owners?  53%!!!  That is ridiculous!  Plus we just increased the price per gallon of fuel by 10 cents, now they want to add another 16 cents on top of that.  Making us the third highest fuel paying state.
  • Use of technology already –Farmers today are very innovative. We take so many things into account when we are working the land and running our business.  There are things that can work for us and there are things that don’t work as well.  But either way, all the innovations that we have put into place, with this new legislation would be completely disregarded.  These could not be a part of the incentive program that is supposed to help farmers so much.  A great example of this is our incredibly high investment in irrigation systems.  Hundreds of thousands of dollars were put into getting the right amount of water on the crop in the most efficient way possible for our cropping systems.  Yet in this bill, we would get zero credit for that.  Now if we wanted to put in hundreds of thousands of more dollars into programs, the state doesn’t want to work within parameters that have already been set up and working for farmers.  They want new administrative rules, —ones we haven’t been involved with—and there are concerns that administrative barriers will be so high that farmers won’t be able or interested in the new “sequestration” programs. That new tractor that we bought just a few years ago with new and improved better emissions.  Doesn’t count.  The carbon that we sequester over the thousands of acres of farmland.  Doesn’t count.  Nothing that we do today will count.  All the money that we have put into our business because it was the right thing for the environment, to do more with less.  Because we did it before this plan came to be, it’s as though it never happened at all in the eyes of the state.
  • More about the sequestration of carbon – Farmers create a vast amount of oxygen for this state. A 50×50 ft lawn creates enough oxygen for a four person family.  Now take a drive down I-5 and look around.  Let that all sink in.  Folks what we are doing with our land here in Oregon as farmers, as we protect it and continue to make the soil healthier and more viable, we are also not just producing food to feed your family, we are also creating oxygen to protect all our livelihoods.  Oxygen is produced by taking carbon from the air by plants and making Oxygen.
    Long term implications – This bill has the (very scary ability if not done right) to challenge how we farm viably in this state. See point 3 above, because I’m here to tell you in the midst of a housing crisis, in the midst of a population boom, I have very little doubt in my mind that if we go under due to regulations our of our control.  There will be a lot of land up for sale, not to the farmer down the road, maybe to the investment bankers from California, (but that’s a whole other issue) it will be to make solar farms.  It will be to concrete, metal, and unless it’s covered in plants, it will have a negative impact on our environment that I don’t think any legislation could fix in any small way.
    I don’t trust that we won’t get just ANYTHING passed – I do not trust our state to be on the forefront of such a large undertaking when only ONE other state has implemented this program. The science needs to be backed up to this, there needs to continue to be more thought put into this bill.  There needs to not be the mentality that “we just have to get SOMETHING passed” because that will in the end hurt us more than help us.  I also am so frustrated that they took out many of the “helpful” pieces that were agreed upon to be in there to help farmers.  When working in conjunction with folks to try to find a workable solution, then those solutions are just disregarded, it leave me little hope that we won’t be raked over the coals or forgotten in this discussion.

It’s not just a conversation about who or what we have to “save”.  It’s a conversation about who we are hurting and balancing that against true information about what this will really do in the long term, or even in the short term to change the amount of pollution that we have.  I hope I’m wrong on a lot of this but I just don’t think that I am.

Representative Shelly Boshart Davis said it perfectly, “As written, HB 2020 will change Oregon’s economy while have a minuscule and insignificant effect on climate change and carbon emissions.  I am not willing to risk good-paying family wage- Oregon jobs in *hopes* that other states will follow suit.  Let’s be proud of what Oregon has done and will continue to do to Keep Oregon Green.”

So I urge you….please please call your legislators, write an email, go out and testify at one of the hearings across the state.  This is a situation where your voice matters, careful thought matters, and just pushing something through just can’t be tolerated.

Here is an excellent article written by another farmer Marie Bowers.

https://www.registerguard.com/opinion/20190221/bowers-cap-and-trade-could-make-farming-unviable

Here is where you can email your comments:

jccr.exhibits@oregonlegislature.gov

Here is a schedule of the remaining hearings:
Springfield 2/22 12-3pm
Medford 2/23
The Dalles 3/1

Cap & Trade Testimony

21 Feb

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.

New Worker Protection Standards, Comments are DUE!!

26 Jan

The worker protection standard is a set of regulations that all farmers have to abide by.  They were put into place to make sure that training around pesticides, the way we handle pesticides and how the interaction from worker to pesticides all happens in the safest possible way.  At our farm pesticide training and handling is something that we don’t take lightly.  Having everyone go home at the end of the day to their families is something that has been ingrained into the fabric of our farm for three generations.  And with each generation we get better and better at handling situations that come along, along with new technology, new knowledge, new science and just new ways of skinning the same cat.

This past year I have been involved with a group of “stakeholders” to discuss the new EPA (Federal) Worker Protection Standards and how they are going to work with Oregon’s agricultural industry, how they will fit in, and the best ways to continue evolving and making Oregon employees safe day after day.  I wanted to be a part of this conversation because I thought that we (as farmers) were going to be given the opportunity to tell our story and discuss what will work for us, what is redundant, what needs more information and data, and overall what is the best way to go about putting these new regulations into place.  I had a very positive attitude walking into this meeting…and now months later here are my comments regarding what actually happened…and it wasn’t pretty.

***My comments are quite long, but if you’re interested (and please be interested!!!) to leave comments you can do so very easily using the Oregon farm Bureau’s website.
https://www.votervoice.net/BroadcastLinks/LUm-WtQYGfDOaOUuVIMzpA
You can either personalize your letter or send the form letter, but either way they need to hear from us producers, I’m hoping this time they might actually listen.***

I have been very frustrated by not only the preceding of how these rules came into place, but also what has come out of the work groups.

To be honest, after attending one of the work sessions I was appalled by the lack of leadership that was shown to keep things on track and on topic.  I heard mudslinging at farmers, I heard a conversation that went far beyond what we were there to discuss at that time.  I personally, sitting there as one of the very few producers in the room was embarrassed that I had to sit through such a ridiculous soap box anti-farmer session.  It was clear that my voice, even while sitting in the room was not going to be heard by OSHA, by the labor lobbyists, or by anyone else beyond who I already knew was on my side. 

So now we have a document that is so in favor of all the soap box speeches and rants that we all had to sit through it seems like my thought of taking the high road, doing what I thought was best for our industry and standing up for that, has landed on completely deaf ears. 

Just as a small example of how well myself and my colleagues were ignored by this process, take AEZ’s.  I was a part of the conversation about how we would like to see them reduced for air blast to 25 feet if you are spraying a chemical that is labeled as only caution, and increasing that AEZ as the labels were labeled more dangerous.  This seemed straightforward, easy to understand, less complicated and more fair.  But what happened?  Instead of any give and take, these documents took what we said and turned it completely around, giving nothing and just taking more by increasing AEZ’s.  And using arbitrary numbers of distances to do so.  Not taking into account that what you’re spraying could be less dangerous, for example seaweed, and only increasing the AEZ across the board, not taking into account that no studies have been done to show that this will help anything, or that there is a problem in the first place! 

I was glad to see that there is wording in there to encourage new sprayer technology and possibly decreasing that 150 feet, but this fails to look at the technology that is already out there that is much safer!  And what about incentives for safer chemicals and chemistries?  Wouldn’t encouraging at least some give and take on AEZ be a good reason for many farmers to look into safer products?  I think it would go a long way.  But instead here we are, with distances that came from nowhere and mean essentially nothing given to us by people who have never probably even driven an airblast through an orchard.

There is good reason that the EPA is going to revisit these rules federally, because they don’t make sense.  And to take rules that federally seem to not work, and only make them more over the top for our state alone seems like a gross over reach.  It would make Oregon producers less competitive, while at the same time not really proving that much actual worker safety is being achieved.  A fine example of this would be the lack of shelter in place options.

Allowing “Shelter in Place” would go a long way in keeping employees more safe in their homes.  To wake up families in the middle of the night or early morning to get out of the their beds, out of their homes, with their kids in tow to leave the area for only a few minutes and then go back in.  It’s not safe, it will make people very uncomfortable, and I believe produce a fear of spraying and chemical use that is unwarranted.  I have a three year old and a two year old at home and am surrounded by two of our fields.  If I had to vacated our house at 3 am because that was the calmest and best spraying conditions that we could have, I would be very upset, not to mention that I’m the boss, I can’t imagine the frustration, annoyance, and angst I would feel towards someone who said I had to do that.

But let’s say you all forced me to be that bad guy who told my employees and their kids that they would have to wake up at 3am, get their children out of bed and leave their house for 15 minutes.  Let’s say I had a one very early morning window to get a critical spray on my orchard before wind and rains hit.  And let’s say that my employee simply said that no, he felt safer in his house with his family sleeping.  What then?  Who is liable for his choice to do what (and I agree with him) is actually safer and healthier for his family?  There is nothing spelled out in these documents that give any room for liability if someone refuses to do what you have informed them they must do.  There needs to be room to educate, and then allow for the liability to not land on the farmers shoulders.

Moving on beyond all of these unscientific arbitrary distances, this nonsensical not allowing of shelter in place, lack of clear liability, what exactly is all of this trying to do?  I have already shown that none of it actually looks at studies of cases in which people have been injured.  None of it actually uses any studies where they have shown that drift is decreased or worker safety is increased.  If all of this is trying to protect workers from harm that can come from them from off target applications, well then we have come to an impasse and proof that these rules are not necessary.  Because that, and off target application, is the definition of drift, which is already subject to civil penalties, which is already regulated highly from Oregon Department of Agriculture.  So I ask again, what problem here are we trying to solve?

It has been said that “farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles away from a corn field.” –Dwight D. Eisenhower.  And in cases like this is seems that this is truly the situation.  These rules ignored science, barely put efforts into finding the truths on the farm and when they were asked of us to send in information.  The timing was so bad, the timeline was so short there was no way to compile enough good data while trying to still run a farm, during harvest nonetheless.  Activism has taken over this entire process and those who employ and currently strongly protect our employees and workers were silenced.  Those who make “Farming look mighty easy…” took the wheel and drove this process and what the end result of these documents off a cliff.

I am asking you to strongly take a good long look at the implications of these regulations.  I ask you to really listen to the farmers who have been protecting workers for generations and try to be in their shoes for once.  I ask you to not let activism take control here, because in the end no one will be safer, in some cases they will be more unsafe, and you will hurt agricultural employers with undue and unsubstantiated burdens that will only hurt our industry here in Oregon.

The history of this issue is long, so if you have any specific questions or need more clarification please reach out to me either through this blog or by email.  I am always willing to discuss why we do what we do and where I’m coming from.

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