Week of February 24, 2020
Blake - It seemed somehow fitting that my last active week on the job would find me on the road from Tuesday to Friday. With Amanda H. at the IGP Milling Course, I went with the Executive Committee and Brent Cheyne to the NAWG meetings held in conjunction with the 2020 Commodity Classic in San Antonio. The NAWG meetings focused on setting a budget for the 2020/21 fiscal year, which really came down to balancing budget cuts and additional revenue sources to offset the loss of dues from North Dakota. They were successful in striking a balance that will work for next year, but there will continue to be challenges going forward. Other topics included a check-in on the strategic plan and review of new and old policy resolutions.
The ongoing drama at the Oregon Legislature continued through the week, but any further passage of legislation is blocked unless the Republicans return to the session.
Looking forward, I will be wrapping up a few topics with Amanda H. that we have not covered yet, cleaning up a few files, and taking care of some administrative details in the next few days. Once those things are done I’ll be on vacation through the month of March, but on-call as needed if there are questions I can help with. Then its time to make this retirement gig a reality. This will be my last CEO Report, so Lori and I want to thank all of you again for eight wonderful years with Oregon Wheat.
Amanda - Along with two of our Oregon Wheat Commissioners, I had the opportunity to participate in the IGP-KSU flour milling course. Designed specifically for wheat commissions, the course enhances an understanding of all of the aspects of production. The course focus areas and learning included wheat cleaning, milling math, impact of wheat quality/characteristics, milling and baking labs and more.This week saw the walkout of the Senate and House Republicans as proposed cap and trade legislation was pushed out of committee without due process. The draft EIS on the Columbia-Snake River dams was released on Friday and notably rejects the removal of these dams which are critical to movement of wheat to market. The market to Kenya (and by extension Uganda) opened up this week, but overall the news for all markets, including wheat, is challenging with the spread of the coronavirus. Finally, OWC staff did a great job hosting the growers workshop and OWGL leadership participated in the Commodity Classic and NAWG meetings.
Week of February 18, 2020
Blake - The saying about “same song, different verse” applied to the week of the 16th as the Legislature continued its frantic efforts to jam major legislation through the short session. We continued to actively work a variety of issues, with the chlorpyrifos ban, technical fixes to the CAT, wildfire, and Cap and Trade continuing to draw most of our attention. Mid-week it looked like our work on the CAT was going to be lost, but we were happy to see that the amendments we were seeking, improvements on how to calculate cost of goods sold for farms using cash accounting, providing options for a wholesaler (handler) to determine their percentage of out-of-state sales, and exempting crop insurance claim payments from the definition of taxable business activity, all made it into HB 4009 that passed out of the House Revenue Committee. Unfortunately, we didn’t see much success on most of our other legislative priorities, but it may all be moot as it looks more and more likely that the Senate Republicans will leave the session to block the quorum needed to pass the Cap and Trade bill.
The end of the week found us in Corvallis for the Commission’s Annual Research Review and a Commission meeting. Both sessions provided a great opportunity to interact with OSU scientists and College of Agriculture Dean Alan Sams and to tour the campus research facilities.
Amanda - This week involved Oregon Wheat Commission related meetings, beginning with program tours and research proposal reviews in Corvallis. Visiting lab facilities provided a new level of understanding of the wheat genetics research at OSU and the capabilities of the cereal quality lab. The research proposal and conversations with scientists added depth to the weed resistance screening and management underway. Research reviews were followed by a meeting of the Commission. As it was a ‘short’ week for me at Oregon Wheat due to finalizing activities at MCEDD, Blake handled the legislative session activities with the CAT technical fixes moving out of committee, the chlopryifos bill approved through the House and moved to Senate committee and an ever-expanding wildfire bill. With concerns around cap and trade, we anticipate significant moves next week which will shape the entire trajectory of the session. On the OWGL side, we issued a press release on the upcoming draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Columbia River and Lower Snake River systems, encouraging our members to submit comments.
Week of February 10, 2020
Blake – The Legislative session again dominated the week. Two new issues, the timber industry’s decision to enter into negotiations with environmental interests on forest practice issues and Governor Brown’s letter to Washington’s Governor Inslee supporting the removal of the lower Snake River dams, drew lots of discussion and concern. The forestry negotiations don’t involve ag directly, but many issues that will be addressed could set precedents for us down the road. Governor Brown’s letter just adds more pressure to the debate about the SR dams and, I think, marks the first time the State of Oregon has taken such an aggressive position on the issue.
Toward the end of the week, Amanda H. and I participated in a meeting with ODA and other commodity commission execs to review commissions rules and administrative procedures. And went to Salem with League EC members for the annual cake-cutting ceremony to celebrate Oregon’s birthday. We were able to meet with several legislators on CAT ‘fixes” and the potential chlorpyrifos ban.
Amanda – Following tradition, OWGL spent the day at the capitol on February 14th. The timing of hearings and bill deadlines made for a light day of meetings, but we celebrated Oregon Wheat's contributions to the state with Representative Boshart Davis cutting a cake in the Capitol Galleria. Throughout the week, Oregon's legislative session required close attention with particular focus on Corporate Activities Tax technical fix considerations critical to our growers, wildfire hearings and cap and trade bills. In office time involved preparations for the Oregon Wheat Commission meetings next week. Tana has a full group for the February Grower's Workshop and she has put together another educational agenda. We participated in the Oregon Department of Agriculture/Department of Justice's 'Commission Roundup' which reinforced important mechanisms of commission operations. Finally, I continued work with our members advancing a carbon center proposal and met my last commissioner at the Oregon Consular Corps event.
Week of February 3, 2020
Blake – With the start of the 2020 Legislative session, much of my attention went to working, with Amanda H., Amanda D. and the other ag/natural resource interests on bills concerning Cap and Trade, technical fixes to the CAT, a potential ban on chlorpyrifos pesticides, and wildfire. The short session moves very quickly with amendments, hearings and work sessions moving with very little notice or time for review, so much of my engagement was via conference calls and text messages. With Amanda D. and the Dalton Advocacy staff working things in Salem, I spent the middle of the week on the road traveling to Pendleton for some time in the League office, to La Grande for the Union/Baker growers meeting, to The Dalles for League EC and Board meetings, and to Rufus for the Wasco/Sherman growers meeting.
Amanda – The week was split between the Pendleton and Portland offices, with meetings in Rufus and The Dalles thrown in the middle. The OWGL Executive Committee and full Board met in The Dalles, with a robust agenda. OWGL leadership established individual goals for the upcoming year, many related to the growth of membership to enhance our collective voice at the federal and state level. Staff is following up on a number of areas in which the board provided guidance, including exploring opportunities for Association Health plans, assessing the dues structure, expanding our reach and preparing to distribute Best Management Practices. With the legislative session underway, Blake and I had a series of conference calls with lobby groups, as many ag entities collectively work on CAT technical fixes, wildfire bills and challenges with cap and trade. Time in the OWC and OWGL offices involved working through administrative items: getting set up with accounts, meeting with the OWGL accountant, and assessing options for OWC tech providers. Finally, this week involved my first presentation at the Sherman/Wasco Counties grower's outreach meeting, attending the celebration for the Japanese Emperor's birthday, responding to inquiries from legislative staff on trade related issues and participating in the initial Stakeholder Panel call for the Columbia Basin Agricultural Research Center Director search.