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

At this time, one year ago, any truck delivering containers to a West Coast port knew something was up. Terminals were slow, truck lines were long, communication between terminals and trucking companies was confusing. As an exporter, our greatest fear of that time was coming to the forefront of our world: the contract between the ILWU and the PMA that had expired on June 30, 2014 and was still being negotiated “in faith” had come to a tipping point. Multiple times did both sides confirm cargo would continue moving during negotiations – see Press Releases here – when in fact, that ended up being untrue.

By day 5 of the “West Coast Port Crisis”, I already knew what was going on – and knew that the only answer to this problem lay high above one person, one industry, or one state government. See my synopsis on November 7, 2014 here. If you want more history on the crisis, I wrote many blog posts throughout the crisis at my blog: www.DaughterofaTrucker.com.

Where are we now?

Our export industry is struggling. The impact on every industry is different. For the industry I’m involved in, grass straw exports, because of last year’s crisis and exporters not being able to get their forage to market, we had an oversupply by the time our next crop came around. For the Christmas Tree industry, we’ll see in the next month whether they lost their customers from not being able to fulfill orders last year. Washington apples lost millions in sales – one person calling it the “worst year in her career”. Will they recover, and what business did they lose?

The problem is due to two factors: the apple crop is the state's largest on record, and labor disputes at the state's ports resulted in apples sitting for too long.

The problem for the loss in apples was due to two factors: the apple crop is the state’s largest on record, and the port dispute resulted in apples sitting for too long.

I asked a colleague who is involved in international trade for his perspective as an Oregonian living in Hong Kong, Shaun Harris. He shares the following:

Usually in Hong Kong, grocery stores have produce and food items from the US. When the port slowdown happened, suddenly you couldn’t get celery and lettuce from California for instance. You couldn’t get Almond milk or Tillamook cheese from Oregon. But soon enough, those spaces were filled with Australian and European goods. (Turns out the French make a pretty good cheddar cheese.) Go back into the store today and most of those items haven’t changed back to the US product. I’m sure you’ll see the same thing playing out all over the world.

On a professional side, we spent months apologizing to customers for lack of shipments, seeing Japan’s MAFF writing USDA a letter asking them to figure it out, then a deluge of shipments once they made it out of the gridlock. Soon after, everyone was fighting overstock and soon accumulating inventories on the US side caused market prices to erode. From which, they still haven’t recovered.

Oregon Christmas Trees which were so heavily promoted here in Hong Kong ended up being cancelled and customers who ordered them got their money back.

As you can see, this was not and is not a problem that has been fixed. Just because the contract was finally “tentatively signed” in February 2015 and later ratified, the long term ramifications are very real and aren’t going away. How many U.S. companies lost customers and/or business that may or may not get them back? What was the cost to these companies? How much of the economy was hurt in the US because of the monopoly the PMA and ILWU has over all of us? What can be done to ensure this does not happen again?

Liberty Street Economics blogThese questions are impossible to answer. It’s possible the GDP of the United States suffered for the first quarter of 2015 because of the West Coast Port Crisis – just the fact it is even in question should be a wake up call for Congress, for our President, for the American people. Can you even believe it? The crisis was so bad it affected the Gross Domestic Product of the United States of America. It is baffling our administration allowed this to go on for so long.

Any help on the horizon?

Maybe. The Transportation Bill is currently being debated in Congress. Amendments to this bill include asking for port metrics to be gathered, as well as asking the GAO (Government Accountability Office) to study the effects of the port crisis are all being looked at. In addition, Congressman Newhouse (WA) will be introducing the ECONOMICS Act (Ensuring Continued Operations and No Other Major Incidents, Closures, or Slowdowns Act);  this puts in place specific “triggers,” so that when certain economic impacts surrounding a dispute occur, a Board of Inquiry must be convened, and the Board is required to report to the President and the public to recommend whether there should be a judicial injunction. There are other bills that have already failed, and I believe there are more still to come.

Can Congress fix this problem? Absolutely not, nor would I want them to. But, in the current monopoly of the PMA and the ILWU, we will need the US Government to have the information in the future if this happens again. Changing law in order to have this information for future use is imperative. I applaud specifically Congressman Reichert and Congressman Newhouse in Washington, as well as Congressman Schrader and Senator Wyden in Oregon for listening to their constituents and being instrumental in ending last year’s crisis as well as moving forward to help US trade on the West Coast.

Any other ideas?

In the words of my uncle Allan: Move to Texas. More importantly and seriously, please stay involved, stay informed, and continue to monitor the life around you. I love our state of Oregon, I love the west coast (West Coast, best coast!), and I love the United States. Unfortunately that doesn’t make it perfect. Thank you for reading.

ENGAGE in OREGON’s future – won’t you?

I was asked to be a part of an exciting new organization: Engage Oregon. Its two main goals, in my opinion, are paramount to Oregon’s success in all areas.

GOALS:

  • Business is the solution, not the problem.
  • Government needs to be held accountable for spending, especially when it comes to dollars for education.

Our mission

To engage and activate Oregonians who care about growing and expanding job opportunities here in Oregon.

How can you disagree with that?

This past year I’ve been outspoken on behalf of Oregon agriculture, export, and trucking industries when it came to the mass confusion and incredible economical loss we encountered during the West Coast Port Crisis. Many farmers, truckers, mechanics, assembly line workers, equipment operators, office staff, etc… all saw extreme scenarios that put their jobs and their livelihoods at risk this past year.

I was asked to write a short column on my thoughts about this, and this was sent out to Engage Oregon’s supporters. I’d like to share here:

engage-oregon-logo

Dear Engage Oregon supporter,

Growing up in a farming family, I started driving tractor at age 12.  As I grew, so did my family’s businesses. Boshart Trucking, BOSSCO Trading, PressCo and SJB Farms, employ nearly 50 Oregonians, and provide Oregon-grown food, grass seed and forage to customers all over the world.  

Oregon is in a unique geographical position in both the nation and the world to capitalize on international trade, yet we are in trouble.

Agriculture is important to us as Oregonians and as Americans. From the words of our former governor: “Agriculture remains one of Oregon’s economic bright spots, creating about 1 in 10 Oregon jobs, with a $5.4 billion production value equal to roughly 15% of the state’s economy. There is tremendous diversity in what we grow, with more than 220 different commodities produced under some of the best growing conditions you’ll ever find. That array of crops, livestock, and fisheries strengthens our agricultural economy which strengthens all of Oregon.”

What does that mean in a nutshell? JOBS. The opportunity for Oregon agriculture and its effect on the economy is exciting – if we allow it to happen. Oregon agriculture has diversified into both domestic and global markets that are growing and have the capacity to grow more!

If we can’t get Oregon agricultural products to market, then the opportunity for economic growth has been lost. From the words of the Agriculture Transportation Coalition (AgTC): “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 current status of Oregon’s exports is discouraging. We no longer have container service at the Port of Portland. 99% of the Port of Portland’s container business left the state in February when Hanjin’s last vessel, the Copenhagen, pulled out of Portland after a 22-day moorage in February and Hapag Lloyd followed suit by not calling on the Port. This business has not been replaced. This has left Oregon’s exporters scrambling to find other means to get their product to the international market – primarily via Seattle and Tacoma.

For the sake of our economy, this has to change. Oregon’s agriculture – and those that rely on it for food, feed, shelter, and jobs – need every chance to be competitive. Oregon’s port working productively is one opportunity to accomplish this.

Thanks for staying in touch with Engage Oregon. Together we can turn the tide.

https://www.facebook.com/EngageOregon       https://twitter.com/engageoregon

Shelly Boshart Davis, Oregonian

Being engaged as an Oregonian – regardless of the side of the aisle you identify with – is something I think we should all aspire to.

If you’d like to join me in getting involved in this new organization, please do! Simply go to www.engageoregon.org, and sign up on the home page. Click through the website to learn more. Whatever you do, however you vote, this is something we can all proudly be a part of.

Happy Nut Day America!

To celebrate National Nut Day, here’s a few pictures from our new Hazelnut orchard. Did you know that 99% of the U.S. hazelnuts come from the Willamette Valley in Oregon?

Ashlynn and Sammie Jo "de-budding"

Ashlynn and Sammie Jo are “de-budding” our brand new trees 2 years ago.  “De-budding” trees is used to pull off the lower “buds” before they become limbs. Hazelnut “trees” are actually bushes. When we take off the lower “buds” or “limbs”, the tree uses it’s energy on the remaining higher limbs to grow as trees and therefore will produce more nuts for production.

Hazelnuts 7

You can see the difference a year makes! The orchard on the top half of the picture is one year older than the bottom half of the picture. The drip irrigation that you see (the black hose running along the treeline) waters the trees and reduces water waste.

Hazelnuts 6

Kyndall and Ashlynn are moving the drip irrigation lines closer to the trees. See on the right side of the picture – in front of Kyndall how the line has moved away from the trees?

George Dettwyler_Hazelnuts

This smiling future farmer is George Dettwyler. He’s helping his dad, Karl, pick up pots from the planted trees before they blow away. The Dettwyler’s of Blue Line Farms, are a local farm in the Silverton, Oregon area.

These next three photos are from my Farm Mom photo shoot – hence the fixed hair and cute kids! I’m showing 2 of my daughters – Kyndall and Sammie – and niece Claire, the growing hazelnuts.

Hazelnuts 9 Hazelnuts 10 Hazelnuts 11

Finally it was just announced – timely I may add – that Hershey’s is adding another candy to it’s Hershey Kiss line-up – with the hazelnut! See article here. YUMMY!

hersheys hazelnut

As you can see, we love hazelnuts!

Sweet Sammie Jo.

Sweet Sammie Jo.

Happy Friday everyone!

Edit: Apparently National Nut Day was October 22, yesterday. Oops! 

 

 

Senator Gelser, the friend.

The political climate these days is simply awful. It seems people are on one side or another – there are no moderates. I’m exaggerating a little. But I was pretty involved in the 2015 Oregon legislative session, and there wasn’t a lot of compromise.

Compromise jpeg

Seems we don’t use this much, hence the definition. A little sarcasm.

I spent a lot of time at the state capitol this last legislative session with organizations fighting for and against many issues. I also spent time advocating for business with the Governmental Affairs Committee through the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce. Through this time, I worked often with both my representation from my district: Representative Andy Olson and Senator Sara Gelser.

Disclaimer: I did not vote for Sara Gelser, nor do I agree with a lot of her voting record. But I do respect her as a person and her ability to communicate and for many items that she has passionately and tirelessly worked for. In reading through the below, I think you’ll like what she has to say.

The Albany Chamber asked if we (Boshart Trucking) would sponsor the Women In Business luncheon today, September 9th, with guest speaker Senator Sara Gelser. We said we would. The women from our company and farm, as well as a few female farming friends all attended; along with about 90 other “women in business” from the Albany area. What we heard was refreshing, and made me appreciate the work our legislators do even more. I’d like to share a few quotes, thoughts, and ideas from her talk today.

September 9, 2015, Women In Business, Guest Speaker: Dist. 8 Senator Sara Gelser. “Show Up, Work Hard, and Laugh Often.”

TEAMWORK

“It’s always a team effort – no matter what you’re doing.” Here she is talking about her father’s businesses and the fact that his employee’s tended to follow him wherever he went. She also likened this to getting things done in the legislature. When she is part of sponsoring a bill, or helping write one, she talked about going to the person or group that will oppose it the most to get input. More often than not, it becomes a team effort.

COMPASSION

“I’m interested in the people the people don’t talk about.” Here’s where my respect grows immensely for Senator Gelser. She diligently fights for special needs, for mental health, for abused youth, and for those that can’t speak for themselves. I appreciate people like her… while I tend to immediately think on the business side of things and how in the world do you pay for these kind of social services, this reminds me that compassion is needed sometimes more than I think. In most situations, it takes all kinds – both me and her. And this shows that.

LEADERSHIP

“Leadership Lesson: Whether a business, a soccer game or an election – how you lose is more important than how you win.” Aw ya, she’s speaking my language. I’m a coach, and this is SO very important and isn’t taught as much as I wish it were. There are more lessons in losing than in winning. In Senator Gelser’s case, she was speaking on when she lost her first election and the discussion she had with her kids was how to lose, not just how to win. What a lesson!

“Leadership Lesson: In leadership as in life, you can’t be who you’re not. If you’re going to lead, you have to be interested and have a vision with what you are passionate about. Lead from a place of knowledge.” Yes, such powerful words.

COMMON GROUND

“We’re all people – we’re not going to agree on everything. It’s most important to show up. You might just find out where you’re wrong.” Many times did Senator Gelser and I not agree on issues being debated in the legislature over the course of the last many months. But she showed up to meetings to talk about and explain what was happening at the state capitol. I continued to email her information on everything from increased fuel costs of our business (LCFS), to information about the ports and how that was hurting our export market, to how some of the anti-business legislation would hurt our farm and small business. And she returned every phone call and email. To me, that’s impressive. “The best way to make an angry constituent even angrier is to not return a phone call or email,” says Gelser.

“You have to be willing to talk to those you don’t agree with. The more you can focus on building relationships, the more you can find COMMON GROUND.” In today’s world, this is so hard and we simply don’t see it – from Washington DC to Oregon and everywhere in between.

politics_climate_1

So back to my title: Senator Gelser, the friend. We don’t see eye-to-eye on most issues. But after showing up today to listen to what she had to say, I feel we might just agree on more than I thought previously. We are both huge advocates of working hard and I truly see that in what she does. And, I did laugh often during her chat with us today. So, thank you Senator Gelser and I look forward to working with you in the future.

We’re a little nutty… and that’s fine by me.

My girls are out of school for the summer so yesterday they came to work with me. And I have to admit it was the best day of the year so far! To watch them get older and be more responsible on the farm out on their own, well it was a blast to watch. They had a great time running around the farm with the golf cart and we needed some help with some of the irrigation lines in the new hazelnut orchard.

The girls having fun riding around in the old golf cart.

The girls having fun riding around in the old golf cart.

Some of our irrigation line had slipped away from the trees, so the girls spent the afternoon moving the lines back to the base of the trees. The weather was coming in, and they finished up in between rain storms.

Kyndall and Ashlynn moving irrigation lines.

Kyndall and Ashlynn moving irrigation lines.

Classic Sammie Jo with her umbrella a few steps behind. Miss Caboose. :)

Classic Sammie Jo with her umbrella a few steps behind.       Miss Caboose. 🙂

Also found time to play around with my brother's dog Copper.

Also found time to play around with my brother’s dog Copper.

Seeing the pictures that both Kyndall and I took yesterday made me once again ever so grateful I get to share this life with my 3 girls. So many people came before me and paved the way for a female farmer to be a large part of a farming operation. In fact, I just read an article from Farm Bureau about Female Farmers on the Rise. My girls can do anything they want to as they grow up, but I am grateful to say farming is a choice they can have in today’s world.

I attended a SEDCOR luncheon today, and the outgoing President, Theresa Haskins said this: Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago (Warren Buffet). So very true. This picture is of my girls standing on property purchased and farmed by their great-grandpa. The farm has changed a lot over the years, but the love for the land continues.

Hazelnuts_Word Swag 1

Today is just one more day I’m so thankful for the life I am able to live. And, once I saw this picture, I just had to share. Oh sweet Sammie Jo.

Sweet Sammie Jo.

LCFS, SB324, Low Carbon Fuel Standard – call it whatever you want, I call it BS.

The Oregonian just last week came out with an editorial slamming the decision making of almost all Democrat’s in the legislature for passing what the Oregonian Editorial Board is calling the 2016 legislature’s WORST bill: SB 324. AKA LCFS, AKA Low Carbon Fuel Standard. Read the editorial here.

Just for fun (sarcasm), I pulled up a little personal history of this bill, and in case you weren’t following along in February and March, and want to know how such a terrible decision was made, here you go…

Deep in the midst of the West Coast Port Crisis, this came up in February.

LCFS 1

A little stinky, don’t you think?

On February 24th, a Public Hearing was held in the House Energy and Environment Committee. There were so many people testifying in opposition to this, that they had an overflow Public Hearing on February 26th. I, along with many others, was at the Capitol until 7pm on the 24th waiting my turn, and since I was only 30 miles from the Capitol, I came back on the 26th in order to testify. You can read my testimony here. You can also read the testimony from many others – including Farm Bureau members, multiple Chambers of Commerce, family farmers, trucking companies, Oregon Transportation Association, the dairy industry, the construction industry and more. Concerned citizens came from near and far to try and talk sense into deaf ears.

Public Hearing at State Capitol on February 24, 2015

Public Hearing at State Capitol on February 24, 2015

So many concerned people tried their best to fight it! Friends, concerned citizens and legislators alike did their best to get the general public aware of this bad bill. Twitter, Facebook, articles, blogs… These are just a few I grabbed.

LCFS 5

LCFS 2

LCFS 3

LCFS 4

LCFS 6

After a 5 1/2 hour debate on the House floor on March 4th, the Republican party tried every single idea and speech and opinion out there to try and sway the Dems. It didn’t work and ultimately passed. What a colossal waste of time for all involved and for what? This will do absolutely nothing except support a faction of the “Green” industry that the left-side supports. If you are wondering where your legislator voted, here you go: The Senate vote was party lines EXCEPT Betsy Johnson seeing the light. The House vote was close: 31-29. It was a party line vote, except the following Democrats: Jeff Barker (D-Aloha), Deborah Boone (D-Cannon Beach), Caddy McKeown (D-Coos Bay), and Brad Witt (D-Clatskanie).

Unfortunately we ALL now suffer for 2 reasons: 1) We don’t have a transportation package because the Republicans refuse to move forward on one knowing what the LDFS did (and the Dems need at least 1 Republican… sidenote – it should make you think a lot if you can’t even get ONE Republican to agree with you…) and 2) our fuel prices are going to raise for absolutely no reason other than support for “clean fuels”. And according to this article, the “supporters of the state’s low-carbon fuel standard acknowledge Oregon might never meet its goal of reducing carbon emissions by 10 percent.” SMH. (And for those of you that aren’t teenage parents, that’s text-talk for Shaking My Head).

Summary: our fuel prices will go up for no reason.

Unfortunately, Governor Kate Brown signed the bill into law on March 12th, 2015.

So where are we now? Governor Kate Brown seemingly has “seen the light” and is in talks with leadership from both sides. Per the Oregonian Editorial Board: “Assuming the minority party is willing to wheel and deal, it should insist upon a couple of things: If Democrats want to subsidize low-carbon fuels, they should do so transparently and without using motor fuels as the vehicle. The low-carbon fuel standard is nothing more than a scheme for shifting money from those who buy gasoline and diesel fuel to those who produce low-carbon fuels. It’s politically useful, if somewhat dishonest, because it allows policymakers to pretend they’re not doing what they are, in effect, doing: levying a tax and using it to subsidize a favored industry. If policymakers want to pump public dollars into low-carbon fuels, they ought to do so explicitly – and prepare to explain to their constituents why the money is better spent on electric charging stations than, say, schools or state troopers.”

So, there’s a little “then and now.” It certainly makes you wonder what the future holds when it comes to this bad bill turned law. If it smelled bad when it started, then it’s a steaming pile of BS now.

Tick tock, tick tock… Harvest is around the corner!

Baler_Word Swag

Where did the time go? I don’t know if you realize this, but it’s May 14th. And to us in Oregon and in the grass seed industry, that means harvest is right around the corner. So how did I get to middle of May and not realize it? Hmmmmm… let’s see…..

The WC Port Crisis began in November, and many think it is over and have moved on. For those of us truckers and exporters, we are very aware it is not over. (See my previous blogs on the subject if interested). The contract will be ratified on May 22nd we believe, but the congestion at Ports of Tacoma and Seattle as well as the remote container yard at Northwest Container Services is very real. Daily we still struggle with repercussions from the long-term slowdown. The cost to trucking companies, farmers, and exporters have been huge. Our “new normal” is right around the corner, and I wonder what that will look like for us Oregon farmers, trucking companies, and exporters.

Trucks Seattle 3

Trucks waiting in extreme congestion at Port of Seattle

The Oregon legislative session has been a nightmare. The anti-business, anti-rural, anti-agriculture consistent themes have been one that demands the average farmer, businessperson and Oregonian to speak out like never before. Read a friend’s perspective on this here at www.oregongreenblog.com. I personally have been to the state capitol 3 times to testify against the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, diesel emission regulations, and minimum wage public hearings. Here is another friend’s perspective on the Minimum Wage bills here at www.nuttygrass.com. Many, many more bills that are important to us farmers and small businesses: legislated pesticide usage, mandatory PTO, mandatory flexible scheduling, BOLI “cease and desist” bills, and more. Countless letters, phone calls, and emails have been sent speaking out about these and making sure my local representation knows my thoughts on these matters. If you are reading this outside Oregon and are shocked that we’re dealing with all of this at one time, I agree – it’s almost unbelievable. Lastly, a local measure, Measure 2-89 in Benton County wants to ban all usage of GMO in the county. If this passes, a terrible precedent will be set for remaining counties.

NoOn2-89logo@2x

I coached a local club volleyball team through BOSS Volleyball. Yes, I coach volleyball. And love it! The courts are actually laid in one of our straw barns. As soon as we get the straw out of this particular barn, the club comes in and lays “sport court”. 6 different teams practiced 2x/week every week. Throw in 1-2 tournaments on the weekends every month, and well suffice to say I was quite busy. My daughter Kyndall was on my team, and it was a great opportunity to spend extra time with her and watch her and her friends grow as athletes. If you want my opinion on athletics and coaching – it’s a dying breed of coaches that feel we are teaching kids how to become better adults through sports. So many people have lost site of this – parents and coaches alike, and competition sometimes gets in the way. I saw this at every tournament. If you can ever find the time to volunteer as a local coach, I urge you to do so. It is one way to help our kids become contributing members of society, instilling teamwork, attitude and hard work into their core. Pretty soon, it becomes natural to use this hard work and positive attitude into every avenue of their life. A win for all!

At the BOSS Barn

At the BOSS Barn

Community Outreach – near and dear to my family’s heart. We’re part of Adopt A Farmer program through the AgriBusiness Council. We bring 180 6th-graders from Memorial Middle School in Albany, Oregon, to our farm. We had 5 stations to show them different aspects of our farm and businesses: 1) My brother, Farmer Amos, showed the kids about straw storage and even let them run the hay squeeze! 2) A local farmer, Farmer Ryan Glaser of Mid-Valley Farms, showed the kids our hazelnut orchards and taught them all about Oregon’s Hazelnuts. 3) My dad, Farmer Stan, showed the kids all of our equipment – from windrowers and combines to tractors, spray buggies and balers. But, I think Coach the Dog stole the show on this station! 4) Our Operations Manager, Farmer Eric, took the kids through the mechanic shop – starting with the truck scales where they weighed themselves as a group all at once, and finished talking about tires – some of them twice the height of the kids! – with the help of Terry, our local Les Schwab guy! 5) The final station was mine – and I showed the kids how we press the bales, containerize them and ship them overseas to customers. I explained the opportunities and challenges of working in an international marketplace, but they were more concerned about the money from around the world laid out on the table! In case you didn’t know, kids LOVE money. 🙂

Farmer Amos talking about straw bales

Farmer Amos talking about straw bales

Farmer Eric weighing kids on the truck scale

Farmer Eric weighing kids on the truck scale

Farmer Ryan talking about Oregon Hazelnuts

Farmer Ryan talking about Oregon Hazelnuts

In addition to Adopt A Farmer, we are involved with the local Albany Chamber of Commerce, bringing out their Youth Leadership and Trades Academy programs for tours on our farm. Lastly, we are involved with the Oregon Women for Agriculture and work on many projects including this great advertisement rolling down our highways and biways! Our Boshart Trucking trucks proudly haul this trailer all over Oregon – the response to it has been awesome! We love promoting “almost everything starts on a farm or ranch!”

OWA wrap_Word Swag

Then there was this little thing called Farm Mom. I laugh at that, because truly it was a huge deal! I found out on April 16th that I was the NW division winner of America’s Farmers Farm Mom of the Year! I flew to St. Louis April 22-24, at that time a national online vote was started. I found out last Thursday, May 7th, that I had the most votes and became the National Farm Mom of the Year. I know it’s a funny title, but I honestly couldn’t have picked a better one – Farm Mom, my favorite two titles for my life. I wrote a little about this in my last blog: The Most Important Crop I Grow… My Children. Along the way, I met 4 incredibly impressive women: Amy Kelsay, a dairy farmer from Indiana; Megan Seibel, a wine-grape grower and cattle farmer from Virginia; Shelley Heinrich, a cotton farmer from Texas; and Sara Ross, a corn farmer and member of Common Ground. Sara also blogs – you should check out here: Sara’s House – farm to table to you. Meeting these women in person, along with past Farm Mom’s through phone and email, I’m very grateful to be part of one incredible group.

Farm Mom_Word Swag

So, that’s where my last 6 months went! And now we’re gearing up for 2015 harvest – my favorite time of year! Gearing up for it takes a coordinated effort, and we’re in the thick of it now! Ready or not, here we go! Bring it on!

The most important crop I grow… my children.

Last Thursday, I received a call from Monsanto. A lady told me that I had been nominated and had won the NW Farm Mom of the Year. Wait, what? I hadn’t heard of this before other than an email from someone saying I would be a great candidate. How in the world did I win this? Well, the lady said, I had been nominated and apparently many had written letters on my behalf. I was asked to fly out on Wednesday – yesterday – to St. Louis to meet the 4 other division winners, to receive media training, a photoshoot, and interviews – both national and local.

Wow. I’m sitting on the plane  starting to write this now, headed towards one incredible opportunity, and have had little time to reflect on this. Humbled. Honored. Grateful. Excited. Thankful. Nervous! Farm Mom of the Year. I guess what makes me the most excited about this award are the first two words: FARM MOM. Anyone that knows me knows these are my passions.

Farming. I grew up on a grass seed farm. I started driving combine at 12 years old. This isn’t an abnormal story if you grow up in ag. Childhood was simply different for me from a lot of my friends, and I expect that my daughters will be telling the same story eventually. Summers = Harvest. A very simple fact. My family worked hard, and that’s simply all I knew. I’m realizing that our way of life is becoming more and more foreign to those living in the city. Our practices are strange, apparently questionable, and the urban/rural divide is getting larger and larger. What I see is an opportunity for a youngster to learn life skills while working a summer job on a farm and get some cash in the process – the urban dweller see’s it as “child labor.” What I see as respect and value of the farmer and the small business entrepreneur who took a risk, the urbanite see’s as someone who owes the employee a legislated, mandated higher wage, a mandated flexible schedule, and mandatory sick leave. What I see as responsible care-taking of the land through farming, the city-dweller see’s as questionable farming practices and dousing fields with chemicals. What I see as the trucking industry delivering goods to all of us – 75% of Oregon’s freight is delivered by truck – and being very thankful for the truck driver and transportation industry, city-folk see’s that truck only as a polluter. And finally what I see as Oregon being an Agricultural state proudly rooted with traditions of hard work, Portland and Eugene want to become California and adopt all of their rules and regulations.

What happened to the idea that here in America, anyone anywhere can do anything? What happened to work hard and you will succeed? You want my opinion? While our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents were working really hard, and keeping their heads down, raising a family, and expecting the lawmakers to be like-minded… well, in simple terms, they were wrong. And, we are now faced with a fight. A battle. The agricultural community is rising up, and I’m proud to be on the front lines.

Mommy-hood. Had to take a breath for this one. My heart swells with pride when talking about my 3 daughters: we lovingly call them Small, Medium and Large – a name penned by their dear Aunt Jen-Jen. My daughters will be contributing members of society. They will be givers, not takers. They will know how to “suck it up cupcake”. They will know how to work hard. These are my goals for their life. And each one is different – just like every crop is different. Our hazelnuts require a different plan than our grass seed. Some crops require constant care, while others require more time and attention during certain times of the year. But, each grow differently, look differently, bloom differently – and each are beautiful in their own right. And they each have their individual and riveting story that will be told in their own time.

Many know, some don’t, that not all of my daughters are biological. Not that it matters, it doesn’t to me, but it is a fact of my life as well as theirs. Just like learning about different crops, I’ve had to learn about what makes each one special. I learned about ADHD and learning disabilities, and a program called HELP that has changed her. I learned about asthma and allergies. I learned about encopresis and how stress affects young children’s bodies. I learned about mental health, coping skills, parenting a child that lost her biological mother. And, throughout all of this – this has made me a better MOM.

Davis family

Every family has a story… welcome to ours.

Farm. Mom. You literally couldn’t hand-pick a better title for me. I’m incredibly honored and humbled to accept this award, and learn what’s next in store for me. Like I said, I’m headed to St. Louis, and apparently more information to come about the “National Farm Mom of Year.” I’ll be learning more about it. If you want to follow this journey with me, I would be honored.

And if you’d like to vote for me, please do! Click here – one vote per day per email. Truly, I feel like I’ve already won, that just being recognized for my passion is thanks enough. But, any platform I’m given the opportunity to stand on and shout out to the masses how important Oregon’s agriculture is to us all, then I’ll take whatever someone wants to give me!

Note: Voting opens on Friday, April 24th and goes through Wednesday, May 6th. Your email is only  used as verification of 1 vote per day per email, and won’t be used in any marketing.

Port Crisis? Still. Not. Over.

Are you incredulous by this title, that we are still talking about this? You thought this was over, contract was signed? If you know me, or are an importer or exporter, or have trucks at the ports – then you know the day-in, day-out problems we are still having and knows that this crisis is far from over.

On February 20th, most of the US let out a collective sigh of relief – from the White House down to the lowly grass straw shipper. A contract had been signed! What we learned quickly is that this was a tentative agreement, needing to be ratified by both the PMA and the ILWU. Us shippers learned immediately that our constant state of chaos changed – but did not get any better. Wait times at ports for our trucks still exist to this day, congestion at the terminals is extreme, and communication from the ship lines to exporters and importers remain a “best guess.”

Approximately 90 leaders of the ILWU from the entire West Coast will met in a “Caucus” next week to review the contract. Should they decide to recommend that the contract be agreed upon, it will be submitted to the ILWU Rank and File for a 90 days review. And then a vote by secret ballot.

And then the following Journal of Commerce article comes out last night. I read this morning, and can’t do much except shake my head.

Militant ILWU faction calls for contract to be rejected

A group that calls itself the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee will sponsor a rally at 7 p.m. Pacific time on March 31 outside of the international headquarters of the ILWU on Franklin Street in San Francisco. According to a flyer distributed by the committee, six active or retired ILWU members will address the rally.

The committee spares no words in saying that it does not support the tentative coastwide agreement that was reached on Feb. 20 by the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association. “Left unchecked, it will gut the ILWU’s coastwide power and bury the last militant union in the U.S.,” the flyer states.

The tentative five-year contract maintains full employer-paid medical benefits. Longshoremen will retire with a pension that tops out at $88,800 a year. Hourly wage increases are more generous than in other contracts dating back to the 1980s. According to the PMA, full-time longshoremen last year earned on average $147,000. The hourly wage in the last year of the contract will increase to $42.18, but many longshoremen work in jobs that pay skill or overtime differentials that increase the base wage by 15 to 30 percent.

Citing the ILWU’s “proud history of class struggle and the fight for democratic principles codified in the Ten Guiding Principles,” the solidarity committee accused the ILWU leadership of flouting those principles, “using top-down control to direct longshore workers to cross picket lines and keep contract negotiations secret.” The ILWU headquarters declined to comment on the flyer.

The flyer plays loose with certain facts. It accuses the PMA of providing JOC.com with a copy of the contract. While the JOC in fact received a copy of the tentative contract, it was not provided by the PMA or any of its members.

The committee charges that the tentative contract gives employers “a free hand to automate without counter demands of shorter shifts tied to wage increases.”  In fact, the 2002 coastwide contract gave employers the right to utilize computers and information technology at their discretion, and the 2008 contract gave employers the right to introduce automated cargo-handling equipment.

The lengthy and contentious negotiations did include demands by ILWU locals for extra manning in Northern California and a guarantee of 10 hours of pay for eight hours of work for ILWU mechanics in Southern California, but those demands were turned down in the negotiation process.

In possibly the most bitter comment in this short commentary, the flyer said the tentative agreement “follows on the tail of the concessionary grain contracts at EGT and the Northwest Grain agreements.” Some forces within the union are still livid over grain contracts in 2012-13 that were negotiated by the ILWU and grain terminals in the Pacific Northwest. The international grain companies that negotiated those contracts are not members of the PMA and the grain contracts are separate from the coastwide contract.

Since the ILWU has nowhere near the leverage over the international grain companies that it has over shipping lines, the grain contracts are considered more employer-friendly in that they make it virtually impossible for the ILWU to engage in work slowdowns that give union negotiators huge leverage in contract negotiations as well as in the handling of health, safety or work-rule claims during the life of the contract.

Jurisdiction was a sticking point in the negotiations that went on for nine months and led to massive delays up and down the coast. The tentative contract grants jurisdiction to the ILWU to inspect and repair most chassis before they leave the marine terminals, even though PMA-member shipping lines no longer own the chassis.

The tentative contract will also establish a three-member panel in each of the port regions to adjudicate the health and safety and work-rule disagreements that arise frequently on the waterfront. Instead of having just one local arbitrator in Seattle-Tacoma, Portland, Oakland and Los Angeles-Long Beach as is now the case, each panel will include a member nominated by the ILWU, one by the PMA and a third who is a member of either the Federal Mediation and Conciliation service or the American Arbitration Association.

The battle continues… West Coast port crisis not over.

It’s not time to pour the champagne just yet. “Ship” hit the main-stream news fan late last week when Labor Secretary Tom Perez game both sides until Friday to settle the dispute or he would ship them off to DC to continue talks downstream from the White House. All puns intended. When news broke Friday evening that a contract had been tentatively signed, my Twitter blew up. Anyone not completely familiar with how things work thought this was over. Far from it. I know of both Ports of Oakland and Portland have both had skirmishes over the weekend. Apparently Local 10 in Oakland was found guilty of work stoppages. And the Hanjin Copenhagen is yet to sail from Terminal 6 at Port of Portland! That ship has been sitting for 19 days… We have 45 containers sitting on dock still waiting to load. Some of those containers have been there since January 15th. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that this is hurting the small businessman and farmer alike.

For a timely update aired by the Ag Information Network, see here.

Shippers have a very tough road head of them. Ship lines are trying to clear the backlog at whatever means necessary. We are fighting every day to keep ahead of schedules, getting trucks to port within the very short time-frame we are given – and us Oregonian businesses and farms are now behind the 8-ball because our options just became much more limited with Hanjin announcing they are pulling out of Terminal 6 at the Port of Portland. In one announcement, Port of Portland lost 80% of their containers business.

The complete lack of remorse and total disregard by both the PMA and ILWU for the havoc that ensued during this continuing crisis is repulsive. See very brief press release here. No “thank you for your patience”. No “we’re incredibly sorry for the suffering that America has endeavored.” And definitely no sign of “we will all work together to make sure the West Coast ports become synonymous with the best ports in the world!” Because of this and because of the economic pain and damage, we simply cannot let this happen again. We’re hearing that the contract was for 5 years. The clock is now ticking, the deadline is now set, and our next battle has been named: preventing a small group of people from holding the American economy hostage the next time the contract expires.

Wish us luck.

In the meantime, some comic relief… Here are our new names for a couple of vessels:

ship line just kidding

ship name MEHship line daylateship line almost