Marginalized and Silenced; Voices being dammed at the legislature

I have been a participant in the legislative process for as long as I have been farming.  If you have been following this blog for any small period of time you probably know that very well.  And if you’re in Oregon you also know that the legislature is currently in session, with bills piling up, some for and some against agriculture.  You probably also know that I’m a mom while being a farmer and advocate.  So my time is often prioritized with farming and mom-ing all mixed together.

Yesterday was no different.  There is a bill (HB 2488) which would create much more burdensome regulation surrounding the taking of beavers that do damage to our property.  Currently you are allowed to take beaver year round without a permit.  I will post my testimony below regarding this issue and what it means to me as a landowner and farmer. 

But first I want you to watch this hearing in the Committee On Agriculture and Natural Resources. I want you to see what our “transparent and open” legislative process looks like first hand. I’m warning you, it’s not pretty. It’s actually really disturbing. Here is the clip….

Now after seeing that I want to tell you that while I was sitting at home, trying to keep my kids quiet so I could testify when my time came, I was appalled by how Representative Witt handled this entire process. Because I think after watching the video you might agree, that he could have cared less what anyone was saying, he didn’t even have the courtesy to allow the time that HE GAVE TO US to testify!

A panel of three people was given 8 minutes by Rep. Witt.  Rep. Davis Brock Smith took 2:45.  Now I’m no math genius but I think 8-2:45=5:15 minutes remaining.  He proceeds to tell Mary Anne Cooper of the Oregon Farm Bureau (who represents over 6000 farmers and ranchers in Oregon) she has only 30 seconds.  Setting aside his own timeline and cutting her by an unconscionable amount of time.  Then you will see at the end he said that 4 people could testify, each for one minute.  
Math Genius here again….
4×1=4 minutes.
2×1=2. Two people spoke, and two were missing. 
4-2=2 minutes remaining. 
And instead of asking the next two people on his list if they would like the opportunity to take that time, we were all silenced by the swift hitting of the gavel.  Hearing closed.

Even after it closed another Representative Jami Cate asked that we revisit the public testimony, which she would like to hear more on this issue.  And was answered with, “no.”

I have been in the Capital and felt “unheard”.  I have testified and been cut off for going too long.  I have been not believed and publicly told so.  But never have I ever seen such a mismanagement of the public process.  I was there ready to take my minute to say my piece and I am allowed to; Mary Anne Cooper was there to stand up for farmers and ranchers across Oregon for who this is a very big issue.  And yet we were all silenced in such a disrespectful and unprofessional manner. 

If you didn’t think minds were already made up in this process then watch that video again.  If you time it, proponents of the bill received 10 minutes, while opponents received 5.5 minutes and were constantly interrupted to tell them their time was over.  Half the time….that’s how much weight was put on our testimony, half.  Not one person, proponent or opponent should be happy with what they see.  Not one person should watch that and not see a sham of a public hearing.  What a joke.

Here is my testimony.  Here is my voice on my own blog because due to a complete disregard for the public process that is our current legislature, it will never be heard as public testimony.

HB 2844               
CHAIR WITT AND MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE

Good afternoon,

My name is Brenda Frketich and I own a diversified and sustainable farm in St. Paul.  I am asking you to oppose HB 2844.

Beaver management is critical to maintaining my farm infrastructure, protecting my crops such as hazelnuts and poplars, preventing flooding, and maintaining roads.

My opposition to higher and over burdensome regulation surrounding these rodents is for two reasons; first the extensive damage that they cause and secondly because there is an abundant population.

The damage that is caused by beavers is extensive on our farm. We grow poplar and hazelnut trees. Both of which receive damage when beavers move into the area. They take entire trees of any size to make their dams. Not only do they destroy actual crop, they also in turn destroy cropland. The dams that are built create an enormous amount of flooding in a very short time. This takes away working farm land and can also destroy our drainage ditches. If there happens to be a roadway or culvert through this area, these areas can be made impassible.

The control measures that I take as a landowner are not for sport, hunting or recreation.  They are purely to protect my land from the damage that these rodents do.  When beavers show up, they can do damage quickly, so I need to take care of them as efficiently as possible.  Adding more burdensome regulation seems like just the first step in a slippery slope to stopping my ability to protect my property.

There is an abundant population of beavers in Oregon, and there is no science at all to show anything different.  You can trust me, someone who lives and works in the areas where these beavers live, or you can put on your boots and come see for yourself on my farm, but I can assure you the population is nothing but healthy and thriving.  Which is why our ability to control the population in problem areas is a priority for us. 

I am urging a no vote on HB 2844. As a farmer and landowner I need to be able to control rodents (and beavers are scientifically a rodent) when they are doing damage to my farm and crops.  I need to be able to control them in a timely manner within the current regulations in Oregon.  There is no shortage of beavers, and no need for more protections.  Thank you for your time on this important issue.

Ice Storm 2021 Update

Last time I checked in we were in the middle of probably one of the worst storms Oregon has seen since the Columbus Day Story in 1962. I wasn’t around to experience that one, but after chatting with some folks who were, the thoughts are similar; 2021 has been worse. And when talking to lineman storm crews they say the same, “This has been some of the worst damage we have ever seen.”

That being said, we are all grateful to so many who turned on our power, who offered to help when we needed it, and also grateful to see the storm become a part of the past to talk about. But now the real work begins; time to clean up.

We finally got out and assessed the damage around our farm. We have a lot of clean up on the borders of our fields where trees and branches lay on top of our crops. That will take some time. Our first priority however was to get into our orchards and see how they fared. We didn’t get hit as hard as other farmers. Some have talked about tree losses upwards of 20% even as high as 50%. This is devastating to hear. We are not that bad in our orchards thank goodness.

In assessing the damage we have found that just about each tree has to be treated differently. Some we have cut down to the trunk and will loose some years of production, but will keep the tree in the ground.

Others we just had to trim up some branches. A few we cut the branch that split the tree and if it didn’t cut into the main truck too badly we kept for a year’s worth of production before we decide if we are going to take it out later.

And some just didn’t make it and got cut right then and there. Many of those we will replant this spring to get them up and going.

Driving around to each broken and ice pruned tree was a pretty depressing job. These are trees that we have taken care of for years. Some just started to produce a crop for us, and now we had to cut them down and set them back another 4 years. The cost of this event will be felt for a long time in the form of a huge labor bill to do clean up, lost production, and now caring for newly planted trees among our established orchards.

Many of these orchards had been gone through already this winter and been pruned, so the double amount of work to go back in prune, stack and push brush for the second time will take a lot of time and money. We try to be very efficient on our farm, and Mother Nature basically made sure that this year would not look like that on our orchard budgets.

Right now I’m just happy that we have power, the sun has been out for a few days, and we are moving along with clean up. The orchards are looking less tattered by the day, and it will be a good day when the “Ice Storm of 2021” is in our hindsight completely. Hope everyone is staying safe out there, and hopefully not far from getting their power turned back on soon!

Ice Storm hits Oregon

A few days ago an ice storm hit Oregon with a blast of cold and precipitation that resulted in a pretty major ice event. Hundreds of thousands of people are still without power (including my family and the farm).

I’ve been getting a lot of questions. Are you warm? Do you have power? When will it come back on? Do you have water? How are the crops? And most importantly, “Do you have enough wine?” Since this is the top priority, the answer is yes, I absolutely have enough wine. (Phew)

Are you warm? Do you have power? When will it come back on?

Yes we are warm, no we don’t have power, and I have no idea! To be honest the first day was a little exhausting. We (aka my husband) were running around getting generators hooked up, checking on employees, getting gas, and preparing as much as possible. By day two he had the heater wired into the generator and currently we have heat, a few lights, and the TV (if you’re judging right now then you just won yourself a week with my kids and no TV to see how long you last haha!) The fridges and freezers are hooked up once the house gets warm and the cycle continues. So far so good.

As far when it will come back on….it’s not looking too promising to be a quick fix. Lines are down literally everywhere around here. Roads are closed, trees and branches are all over the ground. So far this is what we know from the power company….

However I know that there are folks working around the clock to get people back up and running as soon as possible. We are being patient and thankful for what we have here.

Do you have water?

Not in the traditional sense. Our well can’t run with the generator that we have. So we had put some in the tub and in jugs before the power went out.

Then Hoot spent the first day collecting ice to replenish the tub water so we can flush the toilet. Yesterday we headed out to my brother and sister in laws to get some good drinking and cooking water. Thankful for family!!!

How are the crops?

Ugh this is a tough one. Probably the question that I’ve been avoiding the most. Most of our crops should be fine. The hazelnuts however I honestly don’t know.

The ice on the branches made them turn almost into mushroom looking shrubs, which is not ideal. I don’t know how many branches we have down but I assume it’s going to be a lot. Some trees have broken and split down the middle, those will be a full loss. Others will probably take years to recover.

At this point it’s hard to know the full extent of what has occurred in our orchards. But I’ll keep you updated as we move through this event and this year.

Mother Nature can be relentless. As farmers we have known that forever. I often talk about how the weather is a challenge that is unmatched and at times like this I’m reminded just how hard this profession can be. It’s also when I’m reminded of why we do what we do and continue to take on each challenge that is sent our way. It’s a testament to how much we love the life we have built as farmers. We will clean up, assess the damage, get a plan and move ahead. We will do this just as we have always done and will continue to do.

Thanks to everyone for checking in and all those who have helped so much already! And again to all the power company folks who I know are working 24/7 for everyone right now. Hope everyone is staying warm and safe out there!!

If you’re in the middle of all of this too, how are you doing??