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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.

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.

Accepting the Unbalance

29 Nov

I get asked a lot about how I “do it all”. How I “find balance”. Well as I sit here today on mommy day at home with three wild kiddos it dawned on me that really all I found is a way to move through the unbalance of motherhood and running a business. I’m talking about those feelings of never being in the right place at the right time. The guilt.

Farming is a seven day a week job. It’s no secret that we are at the mercy of Mother Nature, who happens to not really care too much if it’s a “work day” for me or not. Farming on a childcare schedule is impossible when you are at the weather’s beck and call. It is hard to be home three days a week with kids, knowing that I’m leaving the work to people who I trust, but people who aren’t me. Thankfully I have people who can do this, but it’s taken a long time to sit back and accept that my reality of farming has changed to a new balance of unbalance.

Thank goodness for cell phones (I’m sort of annoyed that I even have to write that reality). I do a lot of work from this small piece of technology. I answer calls with kids in the background. I text work orders to people out in the field. I keep track of expenses. It’s actually where I’m typing this blog right now, in between “Mom I need you!” ” Mom I’m hungry” “mom come see this” and some of it might be while I’m hiding in the bathroom (because folks that’s like a real thing hahaha!).

On days when I’m working physically at the farm, I am lucky to get to come home to eat lunch with the kids. I take the oldest to school and when he gets off the bus at the farm, he’s with me for the rest of the day. I love all of this, but all of this is also hard to make farming work for me in the way that it used to before I became a mom.

So it’s Thursday and I’m home with the kids. It’s not perfect, and I’m thankful I can be here and be “everywhere” when I need to be. Even though it feels unbalanced. All I can do is make the best choice for my family and the farm. And know that it’s not the perfect choice (but let’s be honest, “perfect” rarely exists in the real world).

I know that every once and awhile I’ll get to have days where I can be out in the fields right when I need to be, and I’ll be home with my kids when they need me. And all of this works, not because of me and my abilities to “do it all”, it’s because of all the people who work hard in our village to make this all happen everyday!! The unbalance, the guilt, the struggle…these are my issues, their stability and love is how I get through it all.

I know this rings true with many people in my life who are at this wonderful yet chaotic stage in life. It feels like careers, marriage, family can all be at odds all at once. Well, I’m right there with you my friend, in the trenches some days and floating on clouds others. Hang in there and try to have these moments where you can just accept unbalance. ❤️

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