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

A “Little” Hazelnut Pruning

24 Feb

final-58I went out with Matt today to do a little pruning on our youngest hazelnut trees.  I say a “little” pruning because I only made it about four trees before I realized that I was no where near dressed with enough clothes on for a 33 degree wind chill.  final-59But what we were able to accomplish was some consensus on what we were going for, once it warms up or I get more layers on, we will be able to get the job done.

Trees, especially hazelnut trees (which are naturally more bush than tree) take a lot of work get looking just right.  We were working today on making sure that the crotch of the tree has the correct angles for the most support system to hold up the branches and the weight of nuts.  final-60Also we were looking at branches coming up through the middle.  Light in a tree is a very important factor.  And then just the overall shape of the tree, are there branches going just one direction or in all directions?  How tall is the tree and all of the leaders?  Lots of questions…final-57

And since every tree and the way every person looks at a tree is all very different, it’s important to get try to start on the same page, where you end up will probably be all over the board (haha!), but starting out on the same page is good!

Walking Fields & Changing Shoes

17 Feb

final-54final-53Out checking fields today and the cabbage was top on my list.  This stuff has seen some cold temperatures this year, but the good news is that it is looking good today!  final-51A little sparse in areas, and it has a river running through the middle of the field still, but other than that, a pretty good crop of cabbage seed should come from this field.  Fingers (always) crossed of course!final-55

I’m also not in my regular farmer attire…colored skinny jeans under my muck boots is not the usual uniform at Kirsch Family Farms.  final-52But I’m wearing a few different shoes today.  Much boots in the morning, then changing to heels to go speak on a panel for Oregon Women for Agriculture.

So another random and busy day on the farm…with my favorite, lots of shoes!  Happy Friday everyone!

%d bloggers like this: