Farm to Fork… or Chopsticks? 

I shared previously about visiting a beef farm in Japan. Over the past few days, I’ve enjoyed some great food, visited more farms and warehouses, traveled from the south end of Japan on the Shinkansen, and now I’m in Tokyo as part of the Governor’s Trade Mission. 

Shinkansen – the “bullet train” in Japan

I always look forward to riding the Shinkansen. Comfortable, easy to navigate through the train stations, and it travels 320 km/hour (200 mph) so I can get where I need to go easily and quickly.

I ate at a “Korean BBQ” restaurant. One of my favorites! The table has a grill in the middle, and the meat comes out raw so that you cook it one piece at a time. The pictures below are all Wagyu beef. Presentation is important here in Japan as you can see. 


The next day, I was taken to dinner at a restaurant owned by one of my customers. It’s “French inspired” he says. It was underground, very cozy, and I loved the deer head on the wall! 


This customer was 3rd generation to run his feed business. He began to import feed from other countries 7 years ago (including grass straw from us!), and also added 4 restaurants to their company. Soon he will be adding a cheese-making factory and I’m excited for him and can’t wait to visit it. 

You might be asking why the restaurants and why the cheese factory… that maybe it doesn’t make sense with the animal feed company. Well, he sells feed to local beef and dairy farms and then purchases the beef to use in the restaurants and purchases the cream from the dairy for his cheese factory! Literally “farm to fork” as we would say in America. Although here in Japan, it’s chopsticks! 

After dinner, we visited an amazing place called Wine and Sweets where his cheese was already being used in the best soufflé I’d ever eaten – hand made in front of me by the owner and baked while I was enjoying a Riesling. Yummmm! 


And yes, they have forks as well. Cheers! 

From Farm to the Far East. Literally. 

I started this blog with this theme in mind: “From the truck shop to the Far East… Loving on Oregon’s Ag.” For the next 7 days, these words couldn’t be more true. I’m just arriving to Japan, and from visiting beef farms to dairy farms to warehouses to ports to attending the Governor’s Reception in Tokyo to meeting with the ATO at the US Embassy, this trip will be an accumulation of so many things I’m proud to be a part of – and I’m excited to share it with anyone reading.

International travel is exhausting, but I’m learning to appreciate what I get to see in this world. Our farm was able to bring in 102 6th grade students from Memorial Middle School just this Tuesday and I was able to have a discussion about Trade on a local level, on a domestic (US) level, and on an international level. I’m not sure how much the sixth-graders wanted to hear that, but I don’t think it’s ever too early to teach the effect and importance of America’s agriculture on the rest of the world. Take a look at the Adopt A Farmer program – it’s a great program to be a part of and oh so needed in today’s society of trying to bridge the urban-rural divide. It was very cool and timely to talk about something I would literally be doing that next day. We talked about what happens to our crops in Oregon after they leave the field – and what is involved when selling internationally, including different currency, exchange rates, cultures, language, and time zones. Enjoy pictures from the field trip and hope you stay tuned for more blogs later this week and next about my trip! 

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.

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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.
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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.

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. 

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

 

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

The Dream-makers

Flashback to last Thursday, February 11th and I’m on an airplane flying home from Washington DC. I had been there working with members of the US Congress to work through trade barriers for forage exports, as well as pushing to improve our west coast ports. But, while I’m waiting for the flight, and even while I’m walking onto the plane, I’m streaming live the minimum wage debate on the Senate Floor of the Oregon Legislature. I had to turn it off when the plane took off, and then received updates via wifi (thank goodness for modern technology!) on the flight from my friends that were watching back home. There were many who fought hard to explain why this bill should not be voted through. Ultimately, after a 6 hour debate, the minimum wage bill, SB1532-A, was voted through 16-12. On to the House now.

I’m now crying on a plane. I’m the window seat, and I have no where to go, and can’t stop crying. I know I’m tired from meetings in DC from sun up to sun down, and the daily fight to get the Oregon Legislature and beyond to understand business principles, and the importance of Oregon Agriculture and Oregon Small Business. But I’m just so damn sad. I’m sad for Oregon’s future. I’m sad for Oregon’s blind and mute “leaders”. I’m sad for all Oregonians. I’m sad for those poverty-stricken and the unemployed as I truly believe this will raise poverty and increase unemployment. I’m sad because the word “business” is looked upon with such disgust and it seems we are bad people – that we want to increase poverty for more profits. Are you kidding me? Look at me, my family and my life and what I represent – agriculture, small business, community service, family and faith. I want business to thrive – because then I can offer more jobs, higher wages, and increase the local economy. At what point did Oregonians stop believing this? I’m mostly sad at the huge disparity and lack of empathy for each side of the aisle.

So, here I am crying. And this is why… Representative Carl Wilson, District 3, on the House Floor yesterday sums it up perfectly on his floor speech. He reads:

An Ode to the Small Business Owner

There’s two types of business dreamers in this world: Entrepreneurs and Want-repreneurs. Anyone can come up with a great business idea, but it takes a special type of crazy to drop everything and will that idea into reality. As any entrepreneur will tell you, there’s a long and difficult journey between the moment inspiration strikes and the day the doors open. Even the smallest businesses take long hours, incredible sacrifice, and endless desire to make it happen. Here’s to the courageous ones, the crazy ones, the wild-eyed visionaries who never took no for an answer. Here’s to the self-starters, the bootstrappers, the credit card maxers who trade living for today for dreaming of tomorrow.  Here’s to the brave few who make the world run. Here’s to the Small Business Owner.

Representative Wilson finishes with:

“I trust that you will remember these dream-makers; these people who sacrifice everything to provide needed services for their communities. I still maintain and will always maintain that what we are apparently about to do in this chamber on minimum wage is going to be a death blow to the dreams of hundreds of these folks in the state of Oregon.”

For Salem Democrats, on the behest of Governor Kate Brown, to push an extremely dividing and possibly catastrophic decision in a few short weeks because of fear of special interests is in one word: irresponsible.

I have many ideas, and many complaints, and many reasons as to why this shouldn’t pass. To read more on the minimum debate from my perspective, read here. But I’m going to go with three big ones.

  1. It’s too fast. The fiscal impact and unintended consequences are unknown and there is no way to have properly vetted this.
  2. The wage is too high! It doesn’t account for unique needs of industries such as agriculture and food processing, among others. Again – not enough time to look into and research, and listen to those of us that know!
  3. Separating the state into three tiers based on county lines is not economically or geographically sound. Farms cross county lines, economies are significantly different in different areas of a county. For example, Linn County where I live has a larger urban area – Albany – but has much of the county in rural and timber land. Benton County has Corvallis, but also a large rural area. You could say the same for Lane County, Polk County, Marion County, Yamhill County, and others. ALSO another reason this has NOT been properly vetted and researched.

In the slim chance a legislator is reading this, I’m imploring you on behalf of small business, hard work, employment of youth, exports, transportation, rural Oregon, seniors living on a fixed income, agriculture, the strong dollar for toughness in exports, Oregon’s economy, poverty and unemployment: Vote NO on SB-1532-A. The future of OUR state depends on your sense of responsibility. I pledge I will fight beside you to give everyone a fighting chance to earn a raise, to land a job, to decrease unemployment and poverty, and to live a life they’ve earned – not one they’ve been given. I will do my part to work hard every day to keep our employees employed, and will continue to boost my local community. Don’t take that opportunity away from me. Please.

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

It’s amazing to me the disparity of opinions depending on which camp you identify with. Last night at the Oregon State Capitol, these two camps identified on whether you were “for” the minimum wage increasing or “against” the minimum wage increasing. Here’s the irony in the great divide: We all want the same thing. We all hate poverty. We all want living wages for all. We all want healthy individuals. We all want to have and be contributing members of society. The only difference between us is the ideas on how to accomplish that.

My friend Macey and I arrived at the capitol at 4:45pm and got into a line over 100 people long. This line was just for people to sign up to testify. Testimony was to start at 6pm. My greatest disappointment is the view people have for the other side. In actuality, most likely the opinion you’ve formed is wrong. And I’m talking to both sides.

Back story… One woman angrily began her testimony with this statement: “I want to point out the three men on the panel before me…”

I don’t recall the three men that sat before her, but I can imagine they looked a lot like my dad. He’s 57, white, and wears plaid a lot. Maybe a jacket or a wool vest. My guess is those three men looked like that.

Let me tell you about my dad. He’s a second generation grass seed farmer, growing up with three brothers and two sisters. They didn’t want for much, but they also didn’t have a lot. My dad worked for the family farm since he was a kid, missing weeks of high school to work on his dad’s custom spraying business for other farmers in the Willamette Valley. Realizing the family farm wouldn’t support all the brothers, him and his brother Gene started a trucking business with two trucks. They hauled potatoes, Christmas trees, watermelon, onions, lumber and anything else they could get paid for. He was gone on a “long-haul” more time than he was home. He’s mortgaged everything he owns to take risks on ideas, where some have panned out, others have failed. He farms today, along with that trucking business, and this year we are surviving. The money is coming in, but going right out in the form of equipment payments, fuel and labor. That’s okay because we get to contribute to the local community! That is what is so exciting about local, small business. We have good years and we have bad years – it’s farming. It’s life. To this day he feels guilty for missing part of my and my sister growing up years. My sister Ola and I? We’re proud of him – he did what he had to do, making sacrifices, for his family. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. Ever.

There was another sterotype mentioned multiple times from one camp: the single mom. I mentioned my friend Macey. Her story is too long to write here, but deserves to be heard. She lost her husband to cancer within a year of giving birth to their daughter and has been a single mom for now 10 years. She struggled with tens of thousands of dollars of medical debt she took it upon herself to slowly pay off over the years. She has struggled and still does. And she has had to make hard choices because it is extremely difficult to be a single mom these days – and let’s be honest at any time would it be hard to be a single mom or dad.

My advice: Don’t judge a book by its cover. Please don’t stereotype those human beings by the color of their skin, their gender, the age he/she is, whether they are single or not raising children, or the plaid he chooses to wear. Nor assume that if they fit this stereotype they automatically have to sit in one camp or the other.

Time for my FAVORITE part of the night. Two words. Malheur County. A great reporting by the Capital Press in this article: East Oregon ag interests lobby against wage hike plans. I met a woman named Sharla. Her family agri-business includes growing and a packaging facility for onions and asparagus, among other things. I was surprised to hear her farm and agri-business employs 150 people. Wow! They are located 400 yards from the Idaho border. Idaho’s minimum wage is $7.25. I asked her why she didn’t originally locate in Idaho. She said they thought about it but the community they lived in was more important. With a wage hike, though, they will be forced to re-locate and have already found a place to do so. What a travesty that would be. Their theme to the legislature was this: #CarveUsOut. I get it – can I jump on that bandwagon?

Counties

I wasn’t able to testify as the Chairs of the Committees stopped testimony at 9:00pm. Because Eastern Oregon had so many people there to testify, they were able to go first. I am glad they were all able to do so. I’m also disappointed I wasn’t able to speak about our farm and the affect an increase would have. But on the flip side, I was home in my warm bed within 30 minutes of leaving Salem. The Oregonians from the east side of the state didn’t get home until early this morning after riding in a bus all night long. Eastern Oregon: Your testimony was inspiring. Thank you.

Finally, this is directed at the Oregon Legislature. If a doctor tells me I have high blood pressure, I do. I might get a second opinion, but I’m going to believe the doctor. You know why? Because he’s a doctor, and went to medical school. I am not a doctor and I did not study the human body and medicine. If the business community is telling you we can’t do this, we can’t. You know why? Not because we want to be richer. We want to continue to employ our employees that have been with us loyally for decades. We want to continue to pay our taxes, support the local counties and state, and we want to continue promoting Oregon to the communities, states, and the world. If the agriculture community is telling you we can’t do this, we can’t. You know why? Because we farm, you don’t. We know the cost inputs, and the money we get paid for our crops. It’s not an opinion, it’s fact. And last night you heard it over, and over, and over again. Why don’t you believe us?

As for the few businesses owners that testified in support of the minimum wage hike, no one is stopping you! That’s great you give raises! We do too. An Adorable Old Guy testified last night: “If Portland wants to pay their employees more, go ahead and do so. No need to wait for this to pass.”

Twitter Min Wage

Brings me to my testimony. I’m posting my testimony here, along with Macey Wessels and Anna Scharf as we weren’t able to testify and we would like to share our story. Thank you for listening. Also – one last thing – I might wear cowboy boots and you might wear rubber boots, tennis shoes, flip-flops, or heels, but in general we all want the same thing. Oregon, let’s try to remember that.

Testimony on minimum wage_Shelly Boshart Davis

Testimony on minimum wage_Anna Scharf

Testimony on minimum wage_Macey Wessels

Macey Wessels_attachment_Holland facility

Macey Wessels_attachment_Tangent facility