Transportation and Oregon – a love/hate relationship – Part 2

In January, I wrote “Part 1” talking about congestion and truck traffic.

Part 2 will focus on an upcoming Bad Bill: Senate Bill 1008.

There’s a lot in the bill that I’d love to take the time to research and discredit. As I’m not a scientist, or a public health official, it would be hard to do so. What I can speak to is this specifically in the first part of the bill, page 2:

Whereas the attrition rate of older, dirty diesel engines that are not retrofitted is too slow to adequately curb emissions in a timely manner and protect public health; and Whereas a strategy to shorten the timeline for conversion to the use of new diesel engines and older diesel engines retrofitted with particulate filters requires a combination of regulations and incentives; and Whereas the incorporation of California’s emission standards for nonroad diesel engines into the Department of Environmental Quality’s existing air quality regulations will benefit public health;

If you don’t want to read my testimony, here’s my point: the diesel-dependent trucking industry is fixing whatever emission problem that may or may not exist. The attrition rate is not too slow. The amount of time and effort the Oregon legislature is putting into this perceived problem will make almost zero difference in any emission standards that wouldn’t have already happened in the course of regular trucking industry’s business decisions over the course of the next few years. An absolute waste of time – at a time that Oregon has many problems it needs to focus on.

If you want to read more in-depth, here is my testimony:


 

Before the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources

Testimony of Shelly Boshart Davis

Vice President

Boshart Trucking, Inc.

Senate Bill 1008 ~ March 7, 2017

 

Chair Dembrow and Committee – my name is Shelly Boshart Davis. Thank you for allowing me to submit testimony on behalf of our family farm and trucking company. We are a custom farming and trucking business that provides jobs to almost 50 employees. We also export over 2200 containers of Ag exports overseas.

I’m not a scientist, or a statistician, or like collecting or interpreting massive amounts of data. So I’m not going to try to discredit how not-clean or clean our air is. Here’s what I did find:

According to the DEQ, “Overall, air pollution in the Portland area has decreased dramatically over the last 30 years.” CEO of the American Lung Association said, “We are happy to report that the state of our air is much cleaner today than when we started the ‘State of the Air’ report 14 years ago.”

And I can tell you about trucks. And our trucking industry is pretty impressive – and just getting better. Diesel-dependent industries are improving on their own. For example, within the last few years, we have upgraded 25% of our port-destination portion of our truck fleet to have the new standard of engines: 2014 Peterbilt and Freightliner trucks. By 2020, we will have had most of our fleet upgraded to new or newer trucks because that’s what businesses and farms and people do – they upgrade over time. Whatever problem or perceived problem exists, it will be rectified. Why burden businesses with extensive costs to implement? Every dollar invested into retrofitting or buying new equipment is one less dollar that I can spend on my employees, that I can spend on garnering new business – that I can help the economy, the families that I employ, and providing food and feed for neighbors, Oregonians and the world.

I had previously testified in opposition to HB 3310 and SB 824 both in 2015, and pulled up these slides from the Department of Environmental Quality found in SB 824’s “meeting materials” in OLIS. Note the extreme low amount of trucks that you are ultimately concerned about. All of this legislation for only 36,537 trucks that are being used in Oregon? And this was from at least 2015 if not older information. The amount shown in the multi-state graph on the left can’t be regulated by the Oregon Legislature anyway. Even if you could, these trucks would have been updated in the next few years by normal business practices. And look at the small piece of the pie that includes Oregon based trucks…

This leads me back to my point: whatever problem we may or may not have – it’s already fixing itself.

 Take a look at how far diesel engines have come and I question why we need the mandates and regulation and legislation. 2010 is a tiny box. What does 2017’s box look like? When is enough, enough?

DEQ 3

The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago posted this in 2014:

ACT Research defines the active population of trucks as those trucks still in service that are 15 years of age or younger. The reason for this distinction is that once a vehicle reaches 15 years of age, it becomes much less likely to be used for hauling meaningful amounts of freight over long distances.

Another factor affecting freight rates has been the significant increase in truck prices. Truck prices started increasing in 2002 because of federally mandated diesel emission standards that required the costly development of new engine technologies. ACT Research analysts contend that since 2002 the cost of meeting these standards has added an estimated $30,000 to the cost of a new truck—a price increase of about 31%.

There is yet another factor that is likely to drive up costs for the trucking industry: the projection for a severe shortage of qualified truck drivers. The effects of the shortage, which has been in the making for some time, were somewhat mitigated during the most recent economic downturn. Since then, as freight activity has recovered, the driver shortage has become a more serious problem.

Committee – Currently, the average age of Heavy Trucks is 6 years old. If this trend continues, by 2020, the average age of trucks will be on average 2014 trucks – this is great news! This means that trucking companies are constantly purchasing new equipment because they need reliability (i.e. no breakdowns on the road). We aren’t doing this because of mandates, we are doing this because it’s good business.

Graph - average age of Class 8 vehicles.png

Average age of active population of US Class 8 (Heavy Truck) vehicles

Labor and Fuel are trucking industries two largest costs. Labor is going up as truck drivers are harder and harder to find. According to the Journal of Commerce: Truckload carriers will need to raise driver pay substantially to attract the type of qualified candidates needed to haul freight. On top of that, a host of new driver-related regulations will make hiring truck drivers harder, and more expensive. Because Low Carbon Fuel Standards was recently signed into law, the fuel costs will be going up. I testified in opposition to the LCFS based on the fact that the increase in fuel costs was undetermined. Equipment is always a concern as is cost of doing business and providing a cost-effective service to customers. Mandated equipment upgrades or new purchases cannot be simply absorbed. What will this cost be to small business across the state?

Committee, this hits home to me. I urge you, do not pass this regulation on an industry that the Oregon Legislature recently passed to increase fuel costs (Low Carbon Fuel Standard) to, we’re looking at a possible gas tax in an upcoming transportation package, and who is already struggling with labor force – not to mention our recent and current port struggles… We are not California, we do not have their problems, and our diesel-dependent trucking industry is getting better. Because trucking companies are continuously upgrading their fleets/trucks with stricter emissions controls, older trucks are already being phased out and replaced by the cleaner burning trucks as companies can afford to do so.  Disrupting this process by mandating a costly upgrade is an added burden to businesses and commerce – and more importantly, completely unnecessary.

 

 

 

 

 

Bad Bill Crushed: HB2859, a Win for Farmers, Ranchers and Foresters 

Today, over 100 farmers, ranchers and foresters showed up at the Oregon State Capitol for a public hearing for House Bill 2859. Irony would have it that we just finished the wettest month in record in February and then today, March 1st, was beautiful and sunny. Guaranteed had it been rainy, we would have had twice that many at the hearing.

img_7940
And in overflow outside the hearing room because it was packed!


Brenda Frketich did a great write up about the bill earlier this week if you want to learn more about it: read it here. Or you could find it here on OLIS. With the sharing by many people on Social Media and with Oregon Farm Bureau doing a great job gathering grassroots, the natural resource community showed up!

Why? Honestly it’s simple: our way of life and livelihood was being threatened.

After over 30 farmers, foresters and ranchers testified to the Revenue Committee what this bill would do to their operation, Chair Barnhart literally said, “In other words, you win.” Because of the overwhelmingly response from the natural resource community, the committee understood the ramifications. It was the first time I had ever heard a round of applause in a committee hearing! It was fantastic!

Farmers, ranchers and foresters: great job, way to show up and make your voice and your story heard!

For a summary, see some Tweets from the day.


And for pictures of some that testified and attended, see here:


There’s a lot more to fight this legislative session unfortunately, but today I’m happy for the win.

 

To see submitted testimony on OLIS, see here

 

Our Ag Story, What’s Yours? A Keynote Address.

One week ago, I had the opportunity to give the keynote address at the 2017 Dunn Carney Ag Summit with fellow agvocate and friend, Brenda Frketich. While there were some unintended laughs (see Brenda’s Nuttygrass blog here), the theme was certain: thank you for listening to our story, but what’s yours and are you willing to share it?

Our hope is that we inspired people to share their story. The agricultural community needs more that do. If you’d like, please read the transcript of our keynote. We’d love to hear your story.

Keynote address follows… thanks for reading!

Shelly: Is that Brenda Frketich? Haven’t I seen you somewhere?

Brenda: Well maybe if you’ve had your TV on in the past few voting cycles…you know a lot of Trump, Hillary…and then there’s farmer Brenda talking about measure 97, a gross receipts sales tax, measure 92,  GMO labeling, measure 84, repealing the Oregon estate tax…you get the drift here.  My name is Brenda Frketich and I’m a third generation farmer from St. Paul.  I grew up farming and after a short hiatus down in Los Angeles to get a business degree from Loyola Marymount University, I found myself wanting to get back on the farm.  In 2006 my dad offered me a position as an intern, and I haven’t looked back.  Today I am the owner operator of Kirsch Family Farms.  I farm 1000 acres alongside my husband Matt, and a team of very dedicated employees.  We farm a variety of crops including hazelnuts, grass seed, wheat, clover, vegetables and vegetable seeds.  Beyond crops we are also raising a few kids, we have two sons, Hoot who is 2, and Davor who is 1. Up here with me today is Shelly Davis.  Shelly, I feel like I see YOUR face everywhere.

Shelly: Sometimes it feels like that! Most likely you would have first seen it when I won America’s Farmers Farm Mom of the Year given by American Agri Women and Monsanto in 2015. Since then I started blogging, and have become more outspoken about the current situation of farming and transportation here in Oregon. I’m at the state capitol too much – as are you – and tend to be involved in different organizations. My name is Shelly Davis, and I’m a third generation farmer from Tangent. Along with two of my siblings, parents and close to 50 employees, we help manage about 1000 acres of grass seed, hazelnuts and wheat. We also run a 34 truck trucking operation hauling agricultural products and bale about 23,000 acres of grass straw that we compress, containerize, and export to Asia as feed for dairy and beef farms. My husband Geoff and I are raising 3 girls, 14, 11 and 9. He manages his family business and he’s a 3rd generation glazer. Running our separate family businesses and raising a family sure keeps us hopping. I mentioned I blog.. you blog too Brenda, called Nuttygrass. Where did you get that name?

Brenda: Well back in 2012 I was at a conference about how to be an advocate for our industry.  I was talking about how I really enjoy writing and how I was already telling stories about farm life, mostly to many of my college friends who grew up in places like Southern California, pretty removed from the farm.  A blog seemed like a great fit, and the speaker, agvocate in her own right, Michele Payn said, “Well you’re a nut and grass farmer, why not call it NuttyGrass?”, and here we are today.  When I started it really was just as simple as telling stories and letting friends keep up with me on my farming adventures, but it has evolved into much more.  

The content that I produce at times can seem fluffy, like just a cute photo, or something very non-controversial, but there are also times that I challenge my readers to take a step back and look at the bigger picture as to why we are really doing what we are to grow our crops.  And that also requires me to take that step back and ask myself, “Why do we do this on our farm?”

From the beginning I decided that I was going to be transparent and that is what I have done.  It’s not always pretty, I have posted some pretty sad and honest posts, but people need to hear that we aren’t just always standing in our fields smiling in the sunshine, there is a reality out there that needs to be understood.  And on our farm it comes with spraying, it comes with pesticides, it comes with risk, losses of crops, and stress.  But also it comes with a great life, hopefully a living, joy at what you can accomplish, and yes even some wins.   

Shelly, your blog is called Daughter of a Trucker – doesn’t sound too farming focused, can you talk more about that?

Shelly: That’s a great question. Our friend Marie Bowers has had her blog since 2011 called Oregon Green and she writes mostly about farming, and you have your blog that also mostly talks about farming. I’ve always been extremely proud of my family’s trucking background on top of our farming history, and it turns out that trucking and transportation in Oregon needed a voice! I started Daughter of a Trucker literally days after the port slowdown started in November of 2014. I found that the general public didn’t know what was going on, and didn’t understand how international container shipping ports worked and why this was such a big problem.

I found my blog to be my voice.

In addition to transportation, I also write about our farm, happenings at the legislature, and items of concern in Oregon in general like the Owyhee Monument talks, which considering today is inauguration day and President Obama did not designate the Owyhee Canyonlands for a monument, I’m going to call that a win for the Natural Resource Community! I mentioned America’s Farmers Farm Mom earlier… Farm Mom is in it’s 8th year, it’s a national program that recognizes women who balances life at home and on the farm with a passion for community and agriculture. I was nominated by someone outside the agricultural and farming community and I would say that connecting with those outside the agricultural audience has been my biggest success in blogging.

I think that’s probably both a struggle and focus for all of us: reaching that outside audience. We can preach to the choir all day long, and I will continue to do that in order to inspire others to do the same, but our goal is to explain our story to those that don’t understand it.

I was absolutely inspired after meeting these other “Farm Mom” nominees from different parts of the country and learning about their struggles and their successes. There’s so many people I’ve met through the country that have literally said “There’s farming in Oregon?” Uh, ya, there is. It’s given me a platform to talk about farming that isn’t corn, soybeans and cotton. That of course is no offense to our new ODA director who has come from Iowa! But like she said, Oregon is diverse and that makes it exciting. It also makes it challenging. Farm Mom gave me the final prompting to get my voice out there as much as possible whether that’s radio, speaking, or blogging. You know, one thing I really struggle with is consistency. I’m more of a passion blogger – when something hits, I write about it. But, you are a consistent blogger, and I think that’s amazing. It takes quite a commitment doesn’t it?

Brenda: It does take a lot.  Being consistent while connecting with all types of people is the balance that I try to achieve.  I want those who, I like to say wear all kinds of shoes to find value in what I share.  I say that because my non-farmer friends and I often joke about how different our lives are.  While I am wearing muck boots out in a field many of them are wearing heels and working behind a computer everyday.  Then some days we are just moms and have our tennis shoes on because quite frankly our kids are becoming increasingly faster than we are.  I want to hit on all of that, on the life of a working woman, the life of a farmer, and the life of a mom.  


Because of that I can go from posting a photo of my kiddos playing out in the field, to writing about GMO’s and people still come back to read even if they really only liked the photo of my kids.  I want to bridge the gap that exists where people connect to me in one way but then assume things about my profession as a “farmer” and how I farm.  I want my readers to know that yes, I’m a mom, yes, I go grocery shopping, yes, I have to make healthy food decisions for my family, of course, I don’t like the idea of being poisoned, of course I want to take care of the environment.  Then I go to work as a farmer, and I take on the responsibility of growing safe & healthy food and of taking care of the land.  I want people to see that regardless of the shoes that I wear throughout my day, none of my basic beliefs change.  After I have gained their trust and some understanding, I can then hit on some of those bigger issues.

Shelly: What kind of bigger issues are you talking about?

Brenda: These days it seems like I get a lot of people sending me articles asking what I think about everything from GMO’s and pesticide, to water quality and organic farming.  Many times I can use this as blog content, instance when a friend of ours, Anna Scharf, tagged us in a photo on Facebook about herbs at Fred Meyer that were labeled, “non-GMO”.  We saw it as an opportunity to connect with our local grocers and let them know that there are actually no GMO herbs, so really there is no need to label them!  

Or when people became unglued because there was a blog on why wheat is now toxic and is slowly killing all of us because we are all spraying it with Roundup right before harvest.  I wrote on how we treat our wheat, when we spray roundup, and why it’s a good tool for us.  

Those are just two examples.  Shelly, what are some of the bigger issues you have covered in your advocacy work?

Shelly: It seems my pieces on the ports and labor slowdowns garnered a lot of national attention and led to being able to talk to big publications like The Economist and the Wall Street Journal. I say this not to ask for kudos but because it goes to show that what I know – what you know – is not only valuable, but the information that you and I might take for granted because we grew up doing it, is so necessary to be heard on a much greater stage. Oregon agriculture, our economy, and transportation both locally and internationally is more entwined than we thought, and now we’re realizing. It. You mentioned your response to the Toxic Wheat blog post. That blog that you wrote made it onto the Huffington Post, which is crazy! But, isn’t that what we want? Our story to be shared in hopes that it gives the outside world a different perspective, a farmers perspective. 


One thing I’ve noticed by putting myself out there… I’ve learned a lot. Because I need to know my stuff if I’m going to write about it! I’m sure you’re the same. Do you get contacted a lot because of your blogs and topics you write about or the fact that you’ve been a face to campaigns?

Brenda: I do get contacted pretty regularly for many different opportunities.  And I often get asked how I was found, especially with some of the very public media campaigns I’ve been a part of.  A large piece of that comes down simply to just being a good source for the media.  Now I realize the media can be tricky because as much as we love to hate them, they are necessary and do play an important role in how we are viewed by the public.  So if I’m contacted I always try to get a certain amount of information before answering any questions.  Who are they, who do they work for, what is the story about, who else are they interviewing, what is their deadline.  Then before I answer anything I pull up google and make sure this is someone I want to talk to.  Make very sure that this article doesn’t have a chance to misinterpret myself, my farm, or agriculture as a whole.  Obviously there will be mistakes that happen, I have been misquoted at times, but having those relationships is important.  And being a good source does not go unnoticed.

Beyond media work however, I always take advantage of any outreach I can.  For instance I try to take every opportunity to invite people to come and tour our farm.  When I give presentations I never hesitate to mention that we have an open door policy at Kirsch Family Farms.  I have given a fair amount of tours just because someone called me up, sometimes even years after they heard me speak, and asked to bring a group out to see what we are up to.  I know Shelly does the same, and we extend that same invite to all of you here today.  

Testifying at the legislature and having that type of involvement is no different.  If you want to know what’s going on, if you want to have the opportunity, then join the organizations who support us.  Not unlike the media looking for a good source, groups in agriculture are always looking for people to come and help support their efforts.  Let people know you’re interested and they will come knocking at your door, at times almost knocking down your door to help them out.

The end result of this, thanks to social media and our level of connectivity in today’s world, we are all able to go beyond the one facebook meme, the one tweet about harvest, the one blog post about growing up on a farm and share online to extend agriculture’s reach.  We want to be telling our story, we don’t want anyone else to do it, because they will inevitably get it wrong.     

Shelly, what do you think?  How do you feel about being contacted?

Shelly: You know the saying, “ignorance is bliss”, well it’s true. I wouldn’t say it bothers me. It’s kind of a love/hate relationship. I’ve also learned that I can say no if it doesn’t fit within my time that is needed for family and work. Recently I learned from Senator Betsy Johnson that you have to keep going and talk to both sides of the aisle, and to be that person your legislator knows they can go to for information. I’m always honored to be someone a person trusts for good information. And this cliché also rings true: “If I don’t do it, then who?” The farming community has an incredible story to tell and some are better storytellers than others. But that doesn’t mean that every story isn’t valuable, and like Brenda said, you are the best person at telling your story. The more voices that are out there, the stronger the farming, ranching and timber industries can be! If we doubled or tripled our presence on Social Media, in the Capitol, or in the newspaper, think how strong the Natural Resource Community can be!

I know there are a few college-age attendees here today, and possibly some younger or beginning farmers. To you, I want to speak directly and I say this to FFA and 4-H kids all the time. Join us, you are more than welcome to this big group called Agriculture. I want you to know that we are your biggest cheerleaders. We want you to try, knowing you will fail at times, but that we are here to help you along. Maybe it’s getting up in front to speak somewhere, maybe it’s trying to figure out what crop to plant next year, or it’s working towards your degree in vet medicine. Whatever it is, I believe you’ll find encouragement wherever you look in this community.

Brenda –  Alright so…here’s a question that I know both Shelly and I hear all the time, “Shelly, what is it like being a women in ag?”

Shelly: Well, our friend Marie states it best: probably feels a lot like a man in Ag. Which is true, but I’d be remiss to not acknowledge some challenges. Those being children, trying to fit it all in, and not being the traditional face of a farmer. I would also suggest that being a woman in Ag is similar to being a woman in any traditionally male-dominated industry, namely trucking, military, construction and others. Our story isn’t that different than theirs. I’ve been known to say I’m always excited to see women in Ag do great things, but I look forward to the day it’s not a headline.
img_7372

I read a blog called The Dirt this week and the author wrote about this topic, she says: “The conversation should no longer be about being a woman in ag. It’s about being in agriculture PERIOD.” Kudos to Oregon, but I think we’ve been at this point for a while now, and I’m incredibly grateful for that. I’m grateful for the hard working women that came before us and recognize that everyone has a different story. Mine is different than Brenda’s and our roles are different on our farms. But don’t you think Brenda, there are a many of us that have similar stories, and it typically starts with “my dad treated me like any other boy on the farm.” I can say that is true for me and my 3 sisters, and I have girlfriends that will say the same. Our former First Lady Michelle Obama has said: “Change happens when a father realizes the potential of his daughter.” I applaud the ag community for that. I also think that women have some natural traits that make us very valuable in the natural resource community – many of those are the same reason Farmer Brenda has been the face of campaigns, simply put, she’s a mom.

And Brenda, maybe you should point out the obvious?

Brenda: What? That there are two women up here right now?  

It’s true, being a woman is different in many respects but many of our challenges aren’t because we’re women, they are because we are working in a state that continues to be so unfriendly to businesses.  

Personally yes, I’m a mom, but I’m also a business owner. Not only am I the HR department, I’m the secretary, I’m the safety trainer, I am the tractor driver, sprayer operator.  I’m who my employees come to when if they get hurt on the job, it’s my name on the operating line, but I’m also the one they come to when they need more toilet paper in the bathroom or pop in the pop machine.  One of the biggest challenges I face to be honest, is wearing all those hats.

Legislators and agencies think it’s just one more form to fill out, one more thing to track such as unpaid sick time, or they say to me, “well there’s only three different ways we count employees in this state so that shouldn’t be so hard.  Right?!”  And maybe it’s not hard for that one thing, but it’s the one thing on top of a million things that is asked of us as employers here in Oregon.  Not to mention that at times it also lacks the common sense that we have built our businesses on for generations.  Which makes it an even tougher pill to swallow.

But then there is always the hat of being a mom that we have hit on already, and that just adds a whole other layer to the balancing act that Shelly and I sometimes struggle with, but have found that by working together, some days we can hit it out of the park!

Shelly: Remember the time you needed to speak to the legislature on behalf of Farm Bureau regarding pesticide usage a few years back? You were pregnant and Hoot was 1. You had no childcare that day, but knew how important it was to testify. I’m pretty sure Kathy Hadley and I took care of Hoot while you testified. You were tired, you were busy, and you needed help. But you did it because we all needed you to. And one of the reasons you were able to do it is because you had people supporting you and friends to help you out. The point is, advocating on behalf of the entire agriculture industry can be exhausting and take up too much time. You do it, I do it, we do it, because it benefits us, our farm, and even more importantly our future farm.


Brenda: Thank you Shelly for saying that – and as a woman, as a mom, as an advocate I would like to thank you all for your support.  It’s truly an honor to be up here in front of an audience of farmers, those who are working in our industry, and those of you who support us day in and day out.  Farming is not just a job but a way of life.  It’s a way of life that is hard to explain, exhausting in its ability to encompass your whole outlook, and also rewarding as hell at the end of the day.   I wish I could come up here after all of these speakers today and have Shelly and I list off the reasons why it’s going to be so easy to farm in Oregon moving forward, but business wise, I don’t think that is our reality.  I think our fight is always just beginning, always changing, and always being challenged.  

My story started with coming back to the farm after living in Los Angeles and getting a much different look at a life away from St. Paul, town of 322.  It continued with my passion for an industry that seemed to the public to have a lack of transparency.  And has continued to evolve as I became a mom, as I grew as a farmer and as a business woman.

So what is your story?  To the farmers in the room today, as only 2% of the population, your life is a story within itself!  Every day that you head out into your fields is an opportunity that you can use to do something as simple as taking a photo and sharing it.  I can promise you, that photo of your everyday will look like heaven on earth to those folks stuck behind a desk browsing their facebook page.  And for all of you who aren’t farmers, but I know work hard for our industry, you’re not off the hook.  We need you to share our story, we need you to help us get our message across.  We need your reach.

The challenges that we face sometimes seem to be incredibly daunting.  But I also know that my grandpa, the first generation on our farm had challenges ahead of him every day that his feet hit the soil, as did my dad, and they were both resilient.  My only hope, is for a future here, where my two boys as the fourth generation will have the opportunity to be just as dirty with the dust from our fields as I did.  But we need an industry that is willing to work, not just for their own farm, but for their industry.  

Shelly: I’m glad Brenda mentions her grandpa, because my story almost always includes my grandpa too on so many levels. My dad has said to me many times: “Shelly, Grandpa Merrill worked hard, I worked hard, and we just kept our heads down and kept to ourselves. We thought working hard was enough and that our elected officials and the community around us were grateful for our work and were like minded.” I’m standing here today to say that is not the case any longer. If my past generations had been more outspoken, would we be where we are today? I can’t say. But I do know this is where we are and I have a simple, yet great ask: Please – will you get involved? We need you. Every person out there – each and every one of you – has a passion for agriculture in some form, otherwise you wouldn’t be here.

You are smart, you are passionate, and we need you.

You might not want to speak in front of people, I get that. But maybe you can write a letter, maybe you can make a phone call, maybe you can join a local commission, a county farm bureau. Brenda and I know a lot about what we do, but Oregon Agriculture is so much bigger than that.

I have an action item for you: I want each and every one of you to do at least one thing that you didn’t do last year. Go to a county farm bureau meeting, go to the capitol and watch a public hearing with someone you know, submit testimony during the upcoming legislative session, read about the Adopt A Farmer program and maybe sign up for it!, join your local Oregon Women for Ag chapter, start a Twitter account and show your farm story – the opportunities are endless.        

We both appreciate you listening to our story today, and our great hope is that it inspires you to tell yours.

Transportation and Oregon – a love/hate relationship – Part 1

Transportation isn’t sexy. And when it works, no one talks about it. We fly under the radar for the most part. Now, it seems that every time you turn around, someone is talking about transportation. It could be congestion in Portland, the Port of Portland, container exports, trucks on the road, CARB (California Air Resource Board), LCFS (Low Carbon Fuel Standard), or the upcoming transportation package the Oregon Legislature is going to tackle in the 2017 Legislative Session.

If you are reading this from a state that has transportation figured out – I envy you! Us Oregonians seem to be on the struggle bus these days. (Transportation pun intended!)

I spoke at the Oregon Seed League convention last month and updated everyone on current issues regarding exports, transportation and Port of Portland. In fact, there were two agenda items dealing with transportation and port issues! I told the audience: “I’ll bet you’re looking forward to the day we stop talking about transportation.” It got a few laughs, but I’ll take it. I’m really not that funny.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a laughing matter. Also unfortunate is the amount of misinformation out there when it comes to transportation, trucking, and ports. I’d like to tackle a few of those here.

  1. CONTAINER TRUCKS AREN’T CAUSING CONGESTION IN PORTLAND.

What? I know I know, you’ve been told it’s container trucks, and it seems like it would make sense because of the Port of Portland not having container service at Terminal 6 any longer. But it’s not. Did you know: Only 200 out of 120,000 vehicles are related to containers moving to ports other than the Port of Portland. Trucks aren’t going anywhere they haven’t gone before.

portland-congestion-facts

But but but… congestion! Yes, Portland is awful. And it doesn’t appear to be getting any better. But it’s not trucks. It’s cars. Next time you’re in traffic, take a look around. You notice the trucks because they’re big rigs. But, compare the number of trucks to the vast amount of cars. And how many of those cars are single passenger?

When is Portland the worst? Rush hour. When are container trucks driving to or through Portland? I can guarantee you, it’s not rush hour. If we get caught in rush hour traffic, it’s because something has gone wrong at a terminal somewhere. We leave our plant early enough to miss rush hour in Portland, and we are typically back before rush hour in the afternoon. Does this always work every day? No, but, for the most part, we’re not stuck in rush hour traffic.

What’s the real problem? Traffic congestion increased recently along the Portland metro-area roadways. Vehicle volumes have increased 6.3% over volumes from last year. This increase is nearly twice the national average. The rise in vehicle volumes means that roads are running at or near capacity during the peak hours, commute times are growing longer, and driver frustration is building. Growth on the system is due to new users. The number of out-of-state drivers’ licenses increased to approximately 85,000 in 2015. In addition, a drop in unemployment means more people heading to and from work. Lower gas prices than one year ago also makes it less expensive to travel. (Information from Oregon Department of Transportation)

For more information on what ODOT is doing to help the traffic and congestion problems crippling Portland, click on info-graphs above.

2. IS THERE INCREASED TRUCK TRAFFIC ON I-5 SINCE PORTLAND LOST CONTAINER SERVICE?

trucks-on-road

Short answer, yes, there is increased traffic on the roads. And we are some of those trucks on the road. We also utilize Northwest Container Service (NWCS, a remote container yard) located in Portland. NWCS then rails containers north to the ports of Tacoma and Seattle. We can drop off and pick up containers at NWCS, but they cannot handle all of our volume, and there are increased risks to only using NWCS (namely less ability to have on-time delivery). So, as part of our business strategy to keep our shipments on time and to best service our customers, we deliver to a combination of NWCS, and ports of Tacoma and Seattle. If and when Portland brings back container service, we will use Terminal 6 at Port of Portland. Diversification is a key strategy in being successful in the strange world of international container shipping.

In summary, yes there are more trucks on the road because Terminal 6 at Port of Portland lost container service… but don’t blame the Portland traffic and congestion problems on trucks. These are 2 separate problems that really don’t have anything to do with one another.

I love and appreciate trucks and the truck drivers that deliver 75% of our goods to us. In fact, I think it’s time to thank a trucker. Today and every day. It’s not an easy job, and those that safely do their job day in and day out, you are appreciated. thank-a-trucker-1

If you’d like to learn more about the Port of Portland and why Terminal 6 is different than the rest of the terminals on the West Coast, you can read more here

There’s so much more to talk about in regards to transportation in Oregon! I know, so exciting… but for those of you who are interested, stay tuned for Part 2!

Communication and farming – one family’s story 

How often do you hear of “fifth generation farm” or “family business since 1935”? They are out there, in fact I know a few personally, but it doesn’t happen very often. This statement has haunted me since I first read it years ago: 


It’s been said that more than 30% of all family-owned businesses survive into the second generation. 12% will still be viable into the third generation, with only 3 percent of all family businesses operating at the fourth-generation level and beyond.

Why is this? I’d say that everyone might have a differing opinion on this — taxes, regulation, lack of interest, markets change, the next generation just doesn’t have what it takes, and the ideas go on. My opinion: a lack of communication. It might not be the main reason, but I would suggest it to be a contributing factor in any family business problem. 

I don’t have the answers, and anyone that knows me and my family all know that we are not masters of communication. But we have one thing for sure going for us: we are aware of it, and we try to work on it. 

How does this family work at bettering communication? 

  • Family meals – every Monday. If you can make it, great. If you can’t, no worries. My mom can be thanked for this. She is an excellent cook and we all are ever so grateful for a prepared meal every Monday. 
  • Group text. Oh boy, the in-laws might not always love this (in fact my husband is just grateful for the mute option on his phone), but every family member is included, and we are all up to date on the latest shenanigans. We talk farming, we talk kids, we talk business, and we share in each others successes and share in each other’s failures. Every day, every week it’s different. But we communicate about it – and we’re better for it. 
  • The kids and grandkids are ALWAYS welcome on the farm or in the office. I have never heard my parents shoo any of us or our kids away – if they are busy, they let the grandkids be a part of it. I try to mimic that. My kids and nieces and nephews are always welcome. I want them to know they are a part of this family farm and business. It happens regularly that a salesman will walk into my office and my nephew Jude is sitting on my lap. When my daughter Samantha was 4, she was the one that welcomed our future Operations Manager in the door when he was checking to see if we were hiring. That day she just happened to be watching cartoons on a computer while I was finishing up some work before leaving for the day.  We were hiring, and he was hired soon after. I’m pretty sure he knew exactly what kind of business he was walking into: a family oriented one. 
  • Like my dad says in the article I reference below: “you have to get over yourself.” We all have faults and we all have failures. But we also all have successes and things we are great at. If you asked my siblings, they could write a list of things I’m not good at. But they’d also give you a few things I am good at, too. 


Like I said, we work on it. When Progressive Forage called and wanted to interview us about communication, I jumped at the chance. I’ve learned so much from others around me, maybe someone can learn from our failures and successes as well. 

I’d also encourage everyone to share their failures and successes with others. We’re not perfect, none of us are! But I certainly hope more family businesses and farms succeed. I have a group of friends that share with each other – and I am better because of it. I’d encourage you to find your group as well. 

And please read our interview and article here – thank you for reading and I wish you success in whatever you do.

Progressive Forage – Farming’s Communication Conundrum

A big thank you to the author: Cassidy Woolsey. She took what I didn’t think to be coherent ideas and made them a fantastic story. My hat is off to you Cassidy, thank you. 

Hiking Boots and Cowboy Boots – Owyhee Canyon hearing

Something was different Monday morning at the Oregon State Capitol. Cowboy boots and hiking boots outnumbered heels and dress shoes. I’ve always thought: “I may wear cowboy boots and you may wear heels, but we’re both moms” when I talk about wanting similar things in life – we want to be good moms. I noticed the same idea here – whether you were wearing hiking boots or cowboy boots, we all agreed on one thing: the Owyhee Canyonlands are beautiful.

Spoiler alert, the entire theme to this blog post is this: the Owyhee Canyonlands are beautiful because of the residents and the ranchers and the farmers who live there. Why change this? Why disrupt the ecosystem that is working? Why?

Owyhee 2

Existing layers of protection

If you’re answer is “it needs to be protected”, then please look at this slide from Representative Cliff Bentz showing existing layers of “protection”.

Some points to take away from our state legislators that oppose the monument designation:

“If we’re going to protect this land, let’s do this right.” – Representative Cliff Bentz

“This proposal for an executive order is a great public relations ploy, it is guaranteed to polarize Oregonians, it pits urban against rural, it’s a cheap environmental vote. Our challenge today as legislators for the state is to figure out how rural communities can become more sustainable, and if you think creating destinations by making a circle on a map will help, I would ask you to look at all the timber-dependent communities that were told that tourism and recreation would completely replace the forest products and manufacturing jobs that used to be prevalent. It never happened.” – Senator Ted Ferrioli

“What are we protecting that is not protected and why do we want it protected? And protect it from what? I’m not seeing a spot on the map that is either not protected or is not governed by an agency with protections? What are we protecting against?” – Representative Sherrie Sprenger

Many traveled hundreds of miles from Malheur County to speak. Some points to note:

“We have an online petition on our website: Our Land Our Voice, urging Governor Brown and Senators Wyden and Merkley to urge the White House to not designate this area as a national monument.” – Jordan Valley Rancher Elias Eiguren

“This is bad for Oregon, this is bad for the land, this is bad for the people who live there.” – Jordan Valley Rancher Elias Eiguren

“What’s wrong with the status quo? Let’s not fix what’s not broken.” – Steve Boren, Steve Boren Rafting

“Don’t mess with an economy that works. Don’t mess with an ecosystem that works.” – Steve Boren, Steve Boren Rafting

“Maybe if you’re a footwear company in Portland or an activist in Bend, this sounds quite trivial. Maybe you shrug it off, but for an entire region of this state, it has been all too real and all too painful… If a monument is declared in Malheur County, I am concerned about public safety. I am concerned about the people from outside the area who will come to our county with their own agendas. We will not be successful in dealing with these folks. I fear they will not be reasonable. What we need now are not actions that divide or pit one group against another… What we need now is healing. That’s why I ask you, our state elected officials, to stand with us in sending a clear message to President Obama that the time and place for the nation’s next national monument is not Malheur County and certainly not now. As a sheriff from Malheur County, my job is to restore and maintain peace. That is what we need now, more than ever, is peace.” – Malheur County Sheriff Brian Wolfe

“You may have heard this designation is not about grazing rights and that no existing grazing rights will be affected. Even if it’s not the legal effect to start, it has been the practical effect over the long term in other areas. Costing families the ability to feed and raise cattle and make a living.” – Jerome Rosa, Oregon Cattlemen’s Association

“This whole conversation frankly is fascinating… One of the things that come to mind is this is a beautiful area… I say to you the reason that is, is the people that live there – the ranchers, the farmers, the local communities and the businesses… have made it what it is.”- Barry Bushue, President Oregon Farm Bureau

“You got another group that talks about wanting to sell tents and shoes and sporting goods. Awesome! I buy those things. But at what expense? Are we going to support their economy? Are we going to support their business model at the expense of ranchers like Elias who have 4 generations in to developing a livelihood for not only him, but a core of the economy and the state and that region. I’m sorry… I find it incredulous that people would put the value of their business selling products at the expense of the people who made the property what it is today. I’m floundering here to understand why people would not want to engage in a congressional discussion; would not want to engage on an opportunity to look at what this is, how it got there, and give the people that got it there the credit they so richly deserve.” – Barry Bushue, President Oregon Farm Bureau

I was honored to speak at the press conference following the committee hearing. You might ask why I would considering I’ve never been to the Owyhee Canyonlands? Because this affects ALL Oregonians. It’s not rural vs. urban Oregonians. It’s not Eastern Oregon and Willamette Valley Oregon. It’s Oregon, and I’m an Oregonian. And that’s why I joined the coalition – you should to. I’d like to share what I said at the press conference.

My family is deeply rooted in this state. We have been farming in the Willamette Valley since the 1950s. We grow grass seed, wheat and hazelnuts in the Mid-Willamette Valley. I have joined the Owyhee Basin Stewardship Coalition because I believe all Oregonians deserve a voice in our public lands, not just the special interests and outdoor companies with slick marketing campaigns. The true Oregonians have spoken. We don’t want and don’t need more government regulation in the Owyhee Canyonlands. More than 70 percent of Oregon voters oppose the monument without a vote of Congress. Most importantly, 90 percent of those who voted locally in Malheur County voted against the monument. To Gov. Brown and Senators Wyden and Merkley, please join us in opposing this monument without a vote of Congress. We need your support. I came here today to represent the voices of so many Malheur County residents who strongly oppose the monument but can’t make the 14-hour round trip to the Capitol to voice their opposition in person. I’d like to share the words of Adrian High School student Sundee Speelmon. As an FFA student, Sundee studied the Owyhee proposal with her classmates and shared her opposition in a letter to Governor Brown. She closed with this: “All I ask is that our opinion on this proposal is highly valued and taken note of. We want to be heard! Please ponder the matter with the residents of Malheur County opinions in mind.” I care deeply about this state, and as a mom and a farmer, I truly hope we listen to all people – not just adults, but those just learning to find their voices. Not just those from the west side of the state, not just Salem and Portland, but all of the state. I thank Sundee and her classmates for speaking up and let’s show her that Salem and Washington DC is listening.

Owyhee 3

All Oregonians should be proud of the Owyhee Canyonlands in Malheur County and thankful to the residents and ranchers that have made it that way. There is absolutely no reason for it to be designated a monument by President Obama. Go to www.OurLandOurVoice.com to join the coalition to tell Governor Brown we don’t need another layer of government in our state!

For more information, please see the below links:

Our Land, Our Voice – press conference

House Interim Committee on Rural Communities hearing

Seek Consensus on Owhyee – Register Guard

Oregonians want Secretary Jewell to oppose national monument in Owyhee Canyonlands

 

My response to the Portland Tribune article: “Business quiet on minimum wage rules.”

The Portland Tribune published an article yesterday:

Business quiet on minimum wage rules.

There was a Public Hearing on the rules proposal for the minimum wage law on April 25th at 2pm at the Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) in Portland. The opening line to this article: “The business community was nearly absent from a public hearing Monday on draft rules for how itinerant employees will be paid under Oregon’s new regional minimum wage law.”

Here’s another quote: “I was actually hoping there would be more business owners here so I could hear their concerns,” said Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, who was active in developing the new minimum wage law.

It’s a very simple reason as to why the “business community” didn’t show up: we were working. But, there’s another reason… we – the small business and farming community – collectively showed up at every available hearing for this minimum wage bill and many other bills that would affect us over the past few legislative sessions in Salem and we weren’t heard. We weren’t heard then, and there’s no reason to drive to Portland in the middle of a work day to not be heard now.

That sounds like I’ve given up, I assure you I haven’t. I will be writing comments and submitting them by the due date. I just honestly couldn’t believe that the ONE public hearing would be during the workday and in Portland… And then for the Portland Tribune to start off the article that way, well, frustrating doesn’t begin to explain it. In the possibility that Senator Dembrow takes to account what actual Oregonians think, you can write out your thoughts: Written comments are due to paloma.sparks@state.or.us by May 23 at 5:00 PM

For more information and the back ground of how the new minimum wage laws will affect small business and the rural communities, see these blogs:

Conversation About Minimum Wage Continues in Salem

Minimum Wage Hearing

No to Raising Oregon’s Minimum Wage

Why Raising Oregon’s Minimum Wage is a Bad Idea

Minimum Wage, Rural Oregon and Agriculture

The Portland Legislature

The Dream-makers

I am Oregon Business – a follow up to the Minimum Wage hearing

 

Earth Day thoughts from a “modern” farmer

So, what is Earth Day anyway? And why do farmers care? I thought Earth Day was some sort of environmentalist’s day? Right and wrong – the farmer is the original environmentalist. Yes – this is our day. And we care.

Farmers, simply put, make their living off the land. The land is our most precious resource and we take care of it. My family has been farming the same 150 acres since 1972. My grandpa made farming decisions with me in mind 44 years ago. Farmers are forward-thinkers, because they have to be. It’s in their job description. Yesterday’s and today’s forward-thinking farmers adopt modern technology is order to produce more with less. All in effort to take care of the dirt that takes care of them.

Modern technology in every other industry is celebrated. Do you want to have heart surgery with 1920 technology? How about your kids… would you like them to go to a school where the administration doesn’t believe in using computers? Do you watch TV on a black and white television where you have to walk across the room to turn the knob? And where did you get your news lately? Was it at the touch of a button? The modern farmer embraces technology that helps them to be sustainable for future generations and to ensure their neighbors have food, clothes and a roof over their head. Let’s celebrate this Earth Day with this in mind.

Farmers use the tools at their disposal in order to maximize yields and minimize inputs.

 

Combine_Then and Now_meme

Farmers use bigger, faster combines. For example, with a larger header they can make less rounds in the field. With less rounds, we use less fuel, and produce less emissions.

Haystack_old

Stacking hay in Nebraska, circa 1950’s

 

 

Stacks in field_meme

Stacking straw in Oregon, circa 2013

Farmers use more efficient pieces of equipment. That old “stacker” was the most efficient piece of equipment at the time. The new stacker is the best we’ve got right now. To put into perspective, the mound of hay in the picture above is probably 12 ton. Compare that to the grass straw stack below it is about 60 ton. It took probably 2-3 men to hand stack that, and most likely took all day. My brother stacked the 2 truckloads of grass straw in about 45 minutes. Simply put, we can do more with less. That’s what we as modern farmers strive for.

Let’s talk water. Hazelnuts 5

Do you see the black “hose” running through the orchard? That’s called “drip irrigation”. Drip lines are an efficient method for delivering water to specific areas. A drip irrigation system delivers water directly to the soil around the roots of the trees. Drip irrigation lines deliver water to the trees slowly, so that very little water is lost from evaporation or runoff. And that’s my youngest daughter, Sam, helping move the irrigation lines closer to the trees as they sometimes slip down. See, my dad and I are making decisions with her and my other two daughters and nieces and nephews in mind.

This Earth Day, I’m thankful for modern farming.

For another farmer’s story on Earth Day, check out my friend Brenda’s blog here.

Unfortunately: “I told you so.”

I started this blog in November 2014 because I needed an outlet and a platform to explain to the general public the possibility of economic tragedy on the west coast if the status quo was allowed to continue. I’ll be extremely brief: the west coast port slowdown was the result of a failure to collectively bargain between the ILWU (International Longshore and Warehouse Union) and the PMA (Pacific Maritime Association). Collective bargaining absolutely and categorically FAILED the United States. It failed the import/export business on the west coast especially. It failed American agriculture that relies on an efficient transportation system to get its superior goods to market. And in essence it failed the American economy. It’s failure is my reality.

One of the main theme’s of my advocacy on this issue is this, and stated in this blog post:

Oregon’s Agriculture is NECESSARY for the continued strength of the state. But if we can’t get it to market, then what good is any of it?

I would suggest the same for American agriculture. According to a Joint Economic Committee of the United States Congress report:

“The agricultural sector makes an important contribution to the U.S. economy, from promoting food and energy security to supporting jobs in communities across the country. Exports are critical to the success of U.S. agriculture, and population and income growth in developing countries ensures that this will continue to be the case in the decades to come. U.S. agricultural exporters are well positioned to capture a significant share of the growing world market for agricultural products, but some challenges remain. Taking actions to facilitate exports would help to strengthen the agricultural sector and promote overall economic growth.”

The AgTC (Agriculture Transportation Coalition) has been stating this for years:

“There is nothing that we produce in this country in agriculture, that cannot be sourced somewhere else in the world. We can grow the best in the world, but if we can’t deliver affordably and dependably, the customer will go somewhere else…                                        and may never come back”.

The theme here is obvious and overwhelmingly simple: for the sake of America’s economy, our ports need to work efficiently and productively.

And then this article drops today: Chinese Goods Bypass California.

 

Ports 1

Wall Street Journal: Chinese Goods Bypass California

Let me explain this in simple terms. Let’s say Fred Meyer’s is your favorite grocery store, but for some reason the traffic is horrible specifically in front of that store. One mile down the road, there is a Safeway with no traffic and has easy access. It’s a little harder to get there, but you start going to Safeway because it is efficient to do so. If Fred Meyer’s fixes the traffic problem, do you go back? Maybe. But also maybe do you stay with Safeway because you like the store and you’re now used to it? Possibly.

This is what the Wall Street Journal article speaks to. The west coast ports has a traffic problem. The east coast ports do not. China is choosing to spend a little more time and effort to ship into the east coast ports. And they might just find they are easier to work with. Will they make the move? Maybe. Will they ever come back? Maybe.

Anyone want to take this risk? I don’t. But it’s not up to me.

I’m going to be frank. The only person or entity that can take on the ILWU and the PMA is the President of the United States and the United States Government. I tend to be an optimist, but the fact that my hope is in the U.S. Government isn’t appealing and leaves me with a sense of hopelessness. I’m a believer in the Free Market. But, collective bargaining isn’t typically conducive to the free market. It’s ugly out there folks.

I could blather on for another couple hours about global trade routes and manufacturing in Asia moving east, ultimately making it easier to move product into the east coast ports of the U.S. Considering 2/3 of the population lives in the eastern U.S., this sounds like a good idea. What happens to our empty containers that we need to load for export on the west coast if all the containers are on the east coast? Even those not familiar with agriculture knows we can’t move our 250 different crops from Oregon to Kentucky. Also, I would suggest the southeastern states are more conducive to this little word: business. That is all for another discussion on another day.

My point: Let’s not give ship lines any more reason to bypass the west coast ports. I feel like I’ve said this too much lately, but: Wake Up America.


 

For more background information, visit my previous blogs on the West Coast Port Slowdown.

Why this affects you.

Day 29… and counting.

AgTC: Statement of the Agriculture Transportation Coalition

Port Crisis 101: history of, where we stand, and a little of my own opinion…

The battle continues… West Coast port crisis not over.

Port Crisis? Still. Not. Over.

1-Year Recap of the West Coast Port Crisis – the ship that sailed

Happy National Ag Week!

National Ag Day was Tuesday, March 15 this year (2016). For those of you unfamiliar with National Ag Day, it is a day to recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by agriculture. Every year, producers, agricultural associations, corporations, universities, government agencies and countless others across America join together to recognize the contributions of agriculture. It started in 1973.

Agriculture’s contribution to Oregon’s economy, environment, and social well-being is worth celebrating. In observing National Agriculture Week March 13-19, Americans are encouraged to say thank you to the more than 2 million farmers and ranchers who produce food and fiber for a living. Statewide, there are more than 35,000 agricultural operators for Oregonians to salute.

Here is a numerical snapshot of agriculture’s importance to the state’s economy:

  • Oregon agriculture supports more than 326,000 full or part-time jobs, making up almost 14% of total jobs in the state.
  • Oregon agriculture is responsible for $22.9 billion or 10.6% of the net state product.
  • More than 98% of Oregon’s farms are family operations – dispelling the notion that agriculture in the state is made up of big corporate farm factories.

Go out and enjoy Oregon agricultural products! Whether it’s food, nursery items, grass seed or a farmer’s market; whether it’s slowing down behind a tractor or combine on the roads; or whether it’s thanking a farmer for working to provide food and fiber for us all… As we look for ways to continue to improve the economic, environmental, and social contributions that agriculture makes to Oregon, your support of Oregon agriculture is critical to achievement.

And just for fun – here are some fun facts and great pictures. Enjoy!

(Thank you to Oregon Department of Agriculture and American Agri-Women for the great ag facts and information in this post.)