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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.

The Transition Period: From One Crop Year to the Next

29 Aug

Being a diversified farm, like many in the Willamette Valley, usually means that this time of year you’re in a fairly steady pace of transition.

It’s the clash between crop year 2018 and 2019 which often looks like a lot of open dirt fields, a lot of dust, and a few crops left to pickup.

We have crops that have been harvested, fields that have been worked down ready to be planted, crops that are just starting to mature and some that we won’t even look at harvesting for another month or more.

This field is ready to be planted to tall fescue. Tall fescue is perennial so we will hopefully leave this field in for many years, meaning this will be the last time we have to work the ground and have open soil here for years to come.

It’s one of the reasons that I refer to this “season” of farming as triage. Everyday is different. Everyday is a look at the weather, check the fields, look at the soil, make a plan kind of day. Rarely is there an autopilot project, which makes management this time of year tiring and stressful.

Fields for grass seed planting this fall need a seed bed that is smooth as a dance floor. We have worked this soil about 7 times to get the field worked down to be ready to plant. There was also a ton of organic matter from the clover last year that has been worked into the top soil.

Today Matt and I are out in the orchards picking up drip tube from our hazelnut trees. These will be harvested around the end of September through October. The water on the squash has also been turned off and now we wait for the drying down to begin before they come get the seeds. And finally radish seed just got harvested yesterday and will head to the cleaner today.

Then more ground work and tractor time, more planting and prepping to start this whole crazy life of farming again for another year! This year has proven so far to be pretty good, hoping that trend continues as we close the books on 2018.

Harvest Update 2017

24 Jul

As of today we have been harvesting for 19 days. Just to give you a small taste of what that means…

  • In 19 days we have worked just under 1500 man hours on the farm. 
  • We have seen 19 sunrises matched up to 19 sunsets. 
  • We have harvested all the crimson clover, all of the peas, half the green beans, all the tall fescue seed, and half  of the perennial ryegrass. 
  • We have had a few successes and some failures. 
  • We have eaten dinner out in the field 17 times.  And the 2 nights we were at home eating, we still ended up in the field hanging out afterward. 
  • I have made 122 meals for our crew and family. 
  • Our boys have spent over 25 hours in the seat of a combine or tractor. 
  • Hoot has asked about 75 million times to get back in the seat of the combine or tractor. 
  • We have had 7 harvester plugs, 3 minor hiccups and two fairly extensive breakdowns. 
  • We have had 18 friends and family members come to say hi out in the dusty fields. 
  • We have had exactly one day off. Well except for my husband Matt, because plants don’t stop needing things just because it’s Sunday.  
  • We have 7 crops left to harvest.
  • There are 5 amazing people who help take care of our boys during our crazy harvest hours!  It takes a village here on the farm raising these crops and kids!
  • We are thankful for great employees, hard workers, good weather, and patience. 

This is what it looks like to get food onto tables.  Lots of long exhausting days and nights, hard work, sweat, frustration, cussing, laughing and cold beer. We are tired and worn out…but in the end we still wouldn’t trade this life for anything else. This is why we call farming a way of life more than a job, and at the same time one you can hang your hat on.  Happy harvesting!!

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