“The CEO’s Report is intended to provide a very quick overview of the CEO’s activities from the prior week. It isn’t intended to provide detail about individual meetings or events, just a summary of where we are spending time and resources on behalf of our growers. If you have questions or would like more information on any topic, please contact Blake through either the League or Commission office.
Week of 7/16/17 – The main events for last week included preparations and presentations for two visiting groups; the Oregon FFA State Officers and the 2017 Korean Crop Survey Team, which was organized by US Wheat Associates. I spent an hour with the FFA group providing them with background on the wheat industry in Oregon, a brief history of the League and Commission, current national, state, and local issues, our markets, and trade issues. While they were in our building, the group also visited the Wheat Marketing Center and the Federal Grain Inspection Service. It is always nice to see such a fine, well informed, and well-spoken group of young people take an interest in wheat.
The Korean Team included top executives of 4 large milling companies in Korea, who visited Oregon, Washington, and Montana. A similar team visits each summer to get an early read on annual crop conditions, quality, and markets. Korea is one of our largest customers, so this is a very important team every year. I spent an hour with the group on Thursday, presenting information on our SW, HRW, and HRS crops and on our PNW wheat quality program. I also connected with them for their final dinner and assisted with their visit to Tom Duyckâ€™s farm to see some of the 2017 crop in the field. They were impressed with how the crop is looking and enjoyed a walk-through on one of the OSU variety trial sites. Special thanks to Tom Duyck for the farm visit and Darren Padget for providing the team with an evening boat tour of the Portland waterfront.
The remainder of the week, after getting everything ready for the two presentations, went toward an OFS Board meeting and an interview with representatives of the Japan Times newspaper, who were interested in learning more about Oregon wheat and our relationship with customers in Japan.
Week of 7/9/17 – The US Wheat Summer Conference in Annapolis, MD, took up the first few days of the week. Lots of updates on trade issues, crop conditions, and markets, along with the changing of the guard as Vince Peterson took over for Alan Tracy as USW President and Mike Miller stepped up to the role as USW Chairman for the next year. The balance of the week was mostly spent working on federal tax reform and appropriations issue with NAWG and engaging with a Korean Team that was working at the Wheat Marketing Center.
Week of 7/2/17 – The short 4th of July week was also the final week of the Oregon legislative session, mostly focused on passage of agency and OSU Statewides budgets and a scaled-down transportation package. Other work for the week included a NAWG conference call on proposed funding for federal research in the House appropriations bill, providing some current crop information to USW staff in China, and submitting formal requests for USDA-ARS and NIFA research funding for falling number work to Senator Merkley’s office. The requests match up to those made on the House side earlier in the year. The week closed with travel on Saturday to the USW Summer Conference in Annapolis, MD.
Week of 6/25/17 – The last week of the fiscal year for both the League and Commission was spent on administrative work, necessary, but hard on the laptop battery. First up was the material for the next Oregon Wheat magazine issue; my column, a full article on the visit by NAWG representatives to our Board meeting and the CBARC Field Day, and a short piece on trade agreements, along with editing on other content for the issue. I also worked on revisions to the League Policy manual, the contract between the League and NAWG, and communicated with our Congressional delegation on the upcoming NAFTA renegotiation.
The Legislative session is in its final couple of weeks, with budget and tax bills getting the most attention. With Amanda Daltonâ€™s help, we weighed in on the revised Transportation Plan, protecting funding for ODAâ€™s wildlife services program, and several tax proposals.
Week of 6/18/17 – The week was bookended by legislative work on two tax measures, HB 2830 and HB 2060A, that would have harmed wheat farmers and the wheat industry. Early in the week, HB 2830, one of several proposals we opposed that would have shifted Oregonâ€™s business tax system from income taxes to gross receipts taxes, failed to pass in the Joint Committee on Tax Reform. Responding to that failure, the House Revenue Committee passed HB 2060A, which effectively raises tax rates for small farmers and ranchers. In spite of wide and vocal opposition, this bill passed the House on a largely party line vote on Friday.
In between the legislative work, I assisted with a farm tour for a trade team of milling and grain trading company representatives from China, handled some farm bill issues with NAWG, and started work on some of the Commission and League paperwork needed to close the current fiscal year and get contracts in place for the next year.
Week of 6/11/17 – Last week opened with a Sunday drive to Pendleton for the Monday meetings of the League Executive Committee and Board of Directors. Both sessions went well with extended discussion of Oregon legislative issues, the Trump Administration’s recommended budget for FY 2018, and the next Farm Bill. The Board reviewed our financial condition (very good) and approved a budget for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1. After a short break in the late afternoon, the Board reassembled to have dinner with NAWG CEO Chandler Goule, NAWG President David Schemm, and NAWG Director of Communications Caitlin Eannello. Goule and Schemm gave us a detailed review of Farm Bill and trade issues, answered questions, and got feedback from Board Members on a variety of issues.
The CBARC Field Day was held on Tuesday, with a variety of research presentations from OSU and ARS scientists. Goule and Schemm spoke twice; briefly during the introductory session and at length over lunch, covering Farm Bill and trade issues, and taking questions from growers. The NAWG representatives spent the balance of the morning listening to the various research presentations and engaging growers in one-on-one conversations. I think growers were very positive about the chance to hear directly from our national leaders. After the CBARC program wrapped up, I went out to the Ruggs site to get a more in-depth review of the OSU wheat breeding program and yield trials.
I attended the Sherman Station Field Day on Wednesday and did a quick drive-by of the Azure Farm property, to see how the weed conditions were developing, before heading back to the west side. I had conversations with growers on a variety of issues while at the Field Day.
The balance of the week was spent catching-up on legislative issues and attending an OFS Executive Committee meeting on Friday.
Week of 6/4/17 – Two weeks of fairly steady travel started with a final day of semi-frantic preparations for the upcoming Commission meeting. With Tana Simpson’s assistance, we finalized minutes, financials, and other materials, including a compilation of key slides from the USW World Staff Conference. For the first time in my six years, I was able to attend one of our golf events, in this case, the Morrow-Gilliam Golf Scramble in Arlington (anyone who watched knows that ‘attended’ is a much more accurate term than ‘played’ in my case).
The Commission meeting and budget hearing was held on Wednesday at the Sage Center. The Commissioners adopted a budget for FY 17/18, elected new officers, welcomed new Commissioner Dan Steiner (handler position), listened to the World Staff Conference presentation, and took care of other business.
I took in the Gilliam County Crop Tour on Thursday before heading home. I was able to get a first-hand look at some of the problems with the outbreak of Morman crickets and provided a legislative and Farm Bill briefing over lunch. The balance of the week was taken up by legislative issues and preparations for the League Board meeting.
Week of 5/28/17 – The short Memorial Day week was mostly dedicated to preparing a variety of materials for the upcoming Board/Commission meetings and Field Days. We hosted a Trade Team of executives from small and mid-size Japanese milling companies, presenting information on current crop conditions and Commission programs, especially those related to improving wheat quality. I also committed significant block of time to reviewing the Trump Administration’s FY 2018 budget proposal, trying to understand all the proposed cuts to what we consider vital Farm Bill programs.
Week of 5/21/17 – The week started early with Sunday travel to the USW World Staff Conference in Estes Park, CO. Held every other year, the WSC is an excellent opportunity to connect with USW staff from all over the world in a single venue and hear their review of wheat markets, customer needs, opportunities , and challenges. It is also a great chance to compare notes with staff and growers from other wheat states.
While I was away we provided testimony, with Amanda Dalton’s help, in opposition to a bill that would make GMO crop patent holders liable for damages when GMO plants are found in non-GMO fields. A number of our growers also submitted statements opposing the legislation.
At the end of the week, I was again focused on the Sherman County noxious weed issue. Our group of Sherman County wheat growers, plus Fast, Hanson, and myself met with Lauri Aunan, one of Governor Brown’s Natural Resource Policy Advisors, to discuss the issue and seek the Governor’s support for the County’s weed ordinance and the process to enforce effective control of noxious weeds. Here again the growers provided excellent comments and emphasized the importance of controlling noxious weeds to all of agriculture. Aunan was supportive and appreciated the chance to hear our perspectives.
Week of 5/14/17 – The Azure Farms noxious weed violation in Sherman County was a major focus for the week, starting with an OWGL Board conference call on Monday to review the situation and discuss a plan of action. On Tuesday, a group of Sherman County growers, led by Bryan Cranston, OWGL Sherman County President Ryan Thompson, and League Secretary/Treasurer Alan von Borstel, along with Katie Fast (OFS), myself, and Senator Bill Hansell, met with ODA Deputy Director Lisa Hanson to discuss the situation, ODA’s role and authority, and explore options to get effective weed control on the Azure farm property. Sherman County held a public hearing on the issue Wednesday afternoon, and received excellent and extensive testimony from local wheat growers about the importance of controlling noxious weeds and the damage done to surrounding farms by Azure’s repeated failure to adequately control their weeds. I prepared and delivered testimony on behalf of the League at the hearing and issued a press release to the media. Media coverage of the hearing was very good, especially by the Capital Press (links to several stories can be found on the Oregon Wheat website), much better than the misleading social media campaign mounted by Azure Farms. Finally, working with Katie Fast, we reached out to the Governor’s staff and scheduled a meeting for next week educate them on the issue and seek their support for the continued implementation of the noxious weed control ordinances.
An Oregonians for Food and Shelter Board meeting and a general briefing on the wheat industry for a representative of Japan’s Zen-Noh Group, completed the week.
Week Of 5/7/17 – The week started slow, with preparations for a meeting of OR commodity commission representatives with ODA Director Alexis Taylor and a League Executive Committee meeting. The ODA/Commission meeting provided a good opportunity to review programs and issues with the new ODA Director. The EC reviewed and recommended a budget for next fiscal year and received a legislative report from Amanda Dalton. The proposed budget will be considered by the full OWGL Board at their next meeting on June 12th.
The last part of the week was mostly taken up by the Sherman County noxious weed issue. Local growers have asked the County to take action to control noxious weeds on property operated by Azure Farms, an organic producer. The problem has been developing for years and Azure Farms has failed to meet its responsibility to control weeds on its property. Instead of responding to the County’s notice calling for a weed management plan, Azure launched a very deceptive social media campaign, including an interview on the Lars Larson show, to try and force the County to drop its enforcement effort. We worked to provide accurate information to the media, organized a meeting with ODA for local growers, and will be supporting enforcement of the weed control ordinances.
Week of 4/30/17 – Much of the week was dedicated to finishing the research and writing for my article for the next Oregon Wheat magazine. I also worked with Sally to review and edit all the other content for the issue. Normal work monitoring the legislative session and some organizational work for several NAWG Officers and Executives to visit Oregon in June rounded out the week.
Week of 4/23/17 – Last week was a pretty light week as I took 3 days off to spend time with family and celebrate my grandson’s 6th birthday. It was a nice break, but as always it was followed by the need to catch-up on everything that happened while I was out, mostly relating to the legislature, congress, and the Administration.
Besides the catch-up, I had a chance join with USW Portland staff, Commission Chair Darren Padget and representative from Idaho, to meet and share dinner with a team of Japanese milling executives. I also began research on an article on declining wheat acres for the next magazine issue.
Week of 4/16/17 – The week was bookended by Salem work. Monday was spent at the Legislature and with the natural resources lobby. I testified on behalf of the League on funding for the OSU Statewides and had a good meeting with Senator Hansell on wheat research funding. Friday found me participating in an OFS Executive Committee meeting; it is a very busy time for OFS between legislative issues and local ballot measures.
Most of the rest of the week was taken up by the annual meeting of State Wheat Commission execs. It is always fascinating to get updates on markets and local issues impacting wheat from around the country. This year we were joined by Vince Peterson, the incoming President of US Wheat Associates for a discussion of international markets and USW programs.
Week of 4/9/17 – The week was dominated by an Oregon Wheat Commission meeting in The Dalles and a grower meeting in Klamath Falls. The Commission meeting was mostly dedicated to adopting a draft budget for FY 17/18, which will be available for public comment at their June meeting. The Klamath meeting was well attended and included a marketing update from Dan Steiner, an update on wheat varieties from Dr. Mike Flowers, and my legislative update.
I also worked on the MOU and budget for the 2017 Tri-State Convention and prepared testimony for an upcoming Legislative hearing on funding for the OSU Statewides.
Week of 4/2/17 – The week opened with a meeting of the OSU Cereal Variety Advisory Committee to review progress in the barley and wheat breeding programs and the possible release of a new hard white winter wheat variety this year. This was followed by travel to the League office to spend some time finalizing a draft budget for OWGL and taking care of some other work. I returned to Portland for the end of the week to help put on a “Growers Workshop” event for a group of employees of Mid-Columbia Producers.
I also worked with Amanda Dalton to submit written testimony to the Legislature on behalf of the League on a Paid Family Leave measure and the next Connect Oregon funding bill.
Week of 3/26/17 – The week opened with a day in Salem to connect with other members of the ag and natural resources lobby and testify at a hearing on SB 928 and 929, two bills that would greatly restrict the use of neonicotinoid pesticides in Oregon. While I participate in many conference calls on legislative issues and lobby activities, it is important to be there in-person occasionally. The neonic hearing was as serious in subject matter as it was colorful in the number of attendees who showed up in bee and butterfly costumes. I assume their intent was to demonstrate their passion and commitment to banning neonicotenoids to protect pollinators, but I don’t know for certain. The many farmers and ag representatives in attendance did a great job making the case that these bills should not move forward.
Much of the rest of the week was spent in the office, focused on a line-by-line review of the League and Commission budgets with an eye toward developing budget proposals for FY 2017/18.
I also spent some time working on the pesticide general permit and falling number issues, reaching out to our Congressional delegation with requests on both fronts. Compliments to our PNW partners, especially at the Washington Association of Wheat Growers, for their work on the falling number research funding issues.
3/19/17 – The Oregon Legislature continued to require most of my time and attention last week. Comments and testimony were prepared on several major issues: SB 500 which would effectively eliminate the requirement that claims for damages from a pesticide application must be reported to and investigated by ODA; HB 3087 which would create a paid family leave program partially paid for by all employers; and HB 2705, 2706, and 2707 which would require measuring and reporting water use from wells and diversions, place an annual fee on water rights, and fund new groundwater studies by Oregon Water Resources Department. We opposed all these bills and copies of our written testimony can be found on the League’s website in the Legislative News section under the Wheat Producers tab. Our lobbyist, Amanda Dalton engaged countless other bills as the Legislature begins approaching the first cutoff date for bills in the Session.
Separate from the bills having hearings during the week, I also worked on the Pesticide General Permit being developed by DEQ.
I attended most of the Wheat Marketing Center Board of Directors meeting at the end of the week and joined with members of the Japanese Grain Importers Association, exporters, USW, and other guests for the Annual Cherry Blossom Celebration in Portland.
Week of 3/12/17 – Issues at the OR Legislature and Congress took priority during the week. I prepared material and testified on two GE related bills, HB 2469 and 2739, and joined Amanda Dalton for a meeting with Rep. Greg Smith on funding for CBARC. HB 2469 would roll back the seed preemption protection that was passed in 2013, again allowing local jurisdictions to regulate the planting of GE crops. My comments were focused on supporting the principle that growers should have the right to choose what they grow and their production method and on the importance of protecting future access to biotechnology and gene editing advances. HB 2739 would make holders of GMO/GE patents liable if their products turned up in a farmers field or on public lands without permission. My comments on HB 2739 were directed at the potential impact on the OSU wheat breeding program (loss of access to any new traits) and on the fact that the proposal wouldn’t have been helpful in dealing with the 2013 GE wheat event. Copies of my testimony can be found on the League’s website.
At the national level, I worked with Senator Wyden’s office on some ag and trade questions for the Senate Finance Committee’s confirmation hearing for Robert Lighthizer to be the next U.S. Trade Representative. I also worked with NAWG staff on some falling number materials for next week’s National Wheat Improvement Committee’s visit to DC to lobby for research funding.
The week wrapped up with a meeting of the Oregonians for Food and Shelter Board. It is disappointing to see how many harmful proposals are under consideration by the Legislature or in local ballot measures, especially in the pesticides arena, but encouraging to see the energy and determination across the ag and natural resource communities to confront the challenges.
Week of 3/5/17 – It was very nice to have a few days in the office to catch-up on several weeks of accumulated emails and other correspondence. There were plenty of legislative issues to consider and some follow-up to do with our Congressional delegation on fire/APH and falling number issues.
I did make a short trip to the eastside to spend some time in the Pendleton office, attend an Oregon Wheat Foundation Board meeting, and make a presentation on the new Worker Protection Standards and give a legislative report to a Sherman and Wasco county grower dinner.
Week of 2/26/17 The final jam packed week of February started with our annual Grower’s Workshop. We had a very engaged group of growers and family members who spent a couple of days with us in Portland to learn about how the Commission works, how their assessment dollars are used, how wheat is graded and loaded for export, how customers use the wheat they grow to make products, and what is happening in domestic and international markets. The growers were very positive about the Workshop.
From the Grower Workshop, I headed out to San Antonio for the NAWG meeting held in conjunction with the Commodity Classic. The NAWG meeting was almost exclusively focused on setting wheat’s priorities for the next farm bill.
Worked in around the meetings and travel was preparation of my column and an article on the DC and Salem lobby trips for the magazine.
Week of 2/19/17 – Monday found me with a good cup of coffee (actually several cups), reading through 14 research and funding proposals for FY2018, submitted to the Commission. It took many hours to go through everything, but it was necessary background to prepare for the Commission meetings later in the week. The Wheat Industry Advisory Committee (WIAC), made up of Commission and OSU College of Ag representatives kicked off these meetings with a detailed discussion of OSU budget issues and how they impact wheat research, Extension, and facilities like CBARC. After the WIAC meeting, the Commission began to hear presentations from individual researchers about their proposed projects, funding needs, and potential returns to growers. The presentations provided good information and background to Commissioners and will be helpful in constructing the FY 2018 budget. The Commission meeting continued into Thursday, with additional discussion on research projects, a report on the USW Winter Conference, market updates, and other issues.
Most of the rest of the week was focused on legislative issues, including property taxes on farm land and equipment, the Pesticide General Permit, and carbon cap and trade
Week of 2/12/17 – The week found me back on the road again, starting with the League’s annual visit to Salem for EC and Board meetings, our reception for legislators, the celebration of Oregon’s birthday as a state, and our grower lobby day. All of our events were very well attended and successful. We had 14 growers and 2 OSU ag students participate in our lobby day and we were able to visit with 26 legislators (or their staff). Over 40 legislators, along with other guests, attended our reception. Governor Brown joined us to cut the cake for the Oregon Birthday celebration in the Capitol Galleria and made some nice comments about the importance of Oregon wheat.
Right after the Salem meetings, I headed to Spokane for the regional falling number research meeting. Friday found me back in Salem for an Oregonians for Food and Shelter meeting.
Preparations for the upcoming Commission meeting and research review were worked in around the meetings and travel.
Week of 2/5/17 – After surviving the trip to Washington, DC, it was time to focus on finalizing the plans and materials for the League Board meeting and lobby visits set for next week. Thanks to lots of help from Amanda Dalton and Sally and Marilyn in the League office, we got our Board meeting program settled, confirmed our speakers, prepared our 1-pager of key issues for our legislator visits, invited legislators and guests to our reception, scheduled a long list of legislator appointments for our lobby day, and organized a panel of growers for a presentation on the wheat industry to the House Committee on Economic Development and Trade.
I also put together materials for an OR Wheat Foundation Board meeting and a joint meeting of Sherman County wheat growers and OR Farm Bureau members. Unfortunately, both meetings were casualties of the weather, but only after I was halfway to Pendleton on Wednesday. The slow drive back and forth through the Gorge, helped me appreciate the difficulties the extended winter has caused to the eastside.
Week of 1/29/17 – The trip to Washington, DC, for the National Association of Wheat Growers/US Wheat Associates Winter Conference was the focus for the entire week. My week started on Sunday with travel to DC, so we would be able to travel out to Beltsville, MD first thing Monday morning to meet with representatives of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. Our discussions, with several National Program Leaders for ARS, focused on funding for the ARS-Pendleton facility and staff. Joining me for this meeting were Tyler Hansell, Alan von Borstel, Bob Newtson, and Darren Padget. The growers did a great job of explaining the importance of the research effort at ARS-Pendleton, making the case to restore full funding in the FY 2018 budget. We will not know how successful we were until the budget proposals come out.
In separate meetings with ARS and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture, we teamed with representatives from WA and ID to press for funding for falling number research.
Our lobby team, Dana Tuckness, Brent Cheyne, Hansell, and von Borstel, also met with representatives of USDA’s RMA, FSA, and NRCS to discuss, crop insurance and APH issues, conservation programs, falling numbers, and other issues. All the agency folks were happy to meet with us and hear our concerns, but there was clearly an air of hesitancy on their part about making any commitments or policy statements until the Trump Administration appointees are in place.
We were able to connect with most of our Congressional delegation, including in-person visits with Senators Wyden and Merkley, and Representatives Walden, Schrader, and Bonamici. Our “asks” focused on support for our most critical Farm Bill programs, research funding for ARS-Pendleton and falling number work, support for the WTO cases against China, protecting critical infrastructure (like the Columbia and Snake River navigation system) from ESA challenge, and pressing RMA to address our APH-fire issue. Our visits were very positive.
The NAWG and USW conference agendas were pretty standard fare; lots of focus on preparing for the next Farm Bill, increasing funding for the MAP and FMD programs that are critical for the USW international marketing efforts, industry communications, the new Administration’s approach to trade, and other issues.
Week of 1/22/17 – The bulk of the week was spent on preparations for the NAWG/USW Winter Conference in Washington, DC, including our briefing papers and other materials for our lobby visits to our Congressional delegation and federal agencies. Our briefing papers are focused on the next farm bill, funding for ARS-Pendleton, support for the WTO actions against China, and forcing RMA to address our issue with APH adjustments for fire damages. A special emphasis, coordinated with WA and ID, will be placed on getting federal funding for a major research effort on falling numbers. A mid-week conference call, with the League’s Executive Committee, was held to review the materials and plans for the DC trip.
I also attended an ODA meeting on key farm bill programs and an ORULE meeting to hear presentations on developing a new transportation plan by House Speaker Tina Kotek, Senator Lee Beyer, and Karmen Fore from Governor Brown’s staff.
Week of 1/15/17 – While the Oregon legislative session doesn’t officially begin for another couple of weeks, it seemed that work to prepare for the session consumed most of last week. I attended an Oregonians for Food and Shelter Board meeting and a ag/natural resources lobby meeting, both focused on reviewing bills that have already been filed. In addition, Amanda Dalton and I also sat down and did a comprehensive review of legislative proposals; discussing OWGL positions and strategies. There will be many more proposals to consider when the session begins. Unfortunately, the recent trend of harmful ag, natural resource, labor, budget, and tax bills appears to be continuing for the 2017 session. There will be plenty to talk about when we hold our lobby days in Salem on Feb. 13th and 14th.
Other tasks for the week included preparing a summary of comments received on the USW Strategic Plan for the Commissioners, attending the Dunn Carney Ag Summit, and interviewing Bob VanderZanden, a Washington County farmer interested in being appointed as the State Director of the USDA Farm Service Agency.
Week of 1/8/17 – The work on creating a research initiative focused on falling number issues continued this week, with a meeting of Tri-State Commission representatives in Portland. The group developed more complete descriptions of the various research questions to be addressed and our “ask” for federal research funding. Work by the state execs continued through the week to get everything down on paper. There were also two NAWG conference calls on getting change in how crop insurance handles quality adjustments like low falling numbers.
I was able to participate in one of the OSU Extension meetings in the Valley (second one was cancelled due to the snow/ice storm that shut down much of OR) and provided a short presentation on current League and Commission activities and the Trump transition process. The balance of the week was getting started on appointments and materials for our DC lobby visits to agencies and our Congressional delegation.
Week of 1/1/17 – With 2016 in the rearview mirror, 2017 opened with a reminder that there really is a winter season in the PNW. Completing work on materials for the magazine and catching up on emails, bills, and other stuff that accumulated over the holidays occupied the first part of the week. I attended a meeting (one of many over the next few weeks) of the ag/natural resource lobby to review issues and prepare for the 2017 legislative session. I also did preparatory work for meetings next week, including a Tri-State Commission working group meeting on falling number research and OSU Extension meetings in the W. Valley.
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