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From our growers around the state, guest columns

OWGL Board Members Provide Comments at DEQ Town Halls on Cap & Reduce

OWGL Officers and Board Members provided comments at three town halls this month regarding the proposed DEQ Cap & Reduce focused on requests to:
• Reward Proactive Investments by Farmers and ranchers.
• Protect Wheat Markets and mitigate impacts to consumers and farm families.
• Protect low-income and/or rural residents who often drive longer distances for critical services.
• Ensure farmers and foresters have a seat at the table on the Rulemaking Advisory Committee.

Morrow County President, Erin Heideman, shared her story at this week's townhall.

My name is Erin Heideman, I am a fifth-generation farmer. My husband and I farm around five thousand acres of wheat per year. All of our crop is shipped to the pacific rim via the Columbia River and the Port of Portland.

As Wheat farmers we operate on thin profit margins. Increases to farm inputs, coupled with higher transportation costs to ship wheat to markets could put my families farms out of business. The DEQ should do everything possible to mitigate impacts to farm families like mine. My goal is to pass our farm to one of my three sons and this tax could increase our costs by nearly 15,000 per year.

Secondly, I live 57 miles to a grocery store. If I want to go to Costco, it is 120 miles each way. This includes any major medical access my family and I have. Yes, this is choice for our family, but as this proposal is written, I am being punished for being a farmer and choosing to feed a global nation as generations of our families have. I lobbied at the state capitol building this past February and expressed my concern to a state senator from Portland about this exact topic and his solution to me was to buy a hybrid SUV.

Six years ago, we invested over a quarter million dollars to purchase a no-till seed drill, which would enable us to make fewer passes over our fields and help prevent soil erosion on our farmland. This also comes with GPS and precision ag technology that prevents us from overlapping any bit of ground we have already gone over thus requiring fewer tractor hours and inputs. We have reduced our fuel bill by 30% over this amount of time as a result of this investment, that we are still paying for. As stewards of the land, we know the importance of making improvements to farming practices and as a mom, I am working my tail off for the opportunity for my boys to farm if they choose. A consideration DEQ must make is how I will be rewarded for being proactive and innovative before being mandated to do so.

My grandfather once said, we are caretakers and guardians of this land for a short time, we must preserve it and pass it on to the next generation in a better state. I do not want to harm that, in which provides for me and my family. However, to be penalized for my choice of residency and occupation is unfair. As a farmer, I would like to have a seat at this table and invite any of you to join me for a day in the field. The structure of the rules advisory committee does not prioritize voices from production ag presently and I am asking for that opportunity. It is critical that there be a voice for agriculture at the table.

Learning the Ropes in D.C.

Erin with her family during harvest in Morrow Co. 2019. 
January 2020
First timer narrative by Morrow County President, Erin Hansell-Heideman

I thought I was just going along to learn the ropes. After all, it was my first trip to ‘The Hill’ in any capacity other than a tourist. I didn’t think I would actually have to talk to anyone official, other than a quick introduction, since I was traveling with the pros. Blake, Amanda and the executive team would direct the conversation, I could just observe and be present. That strategy worked for three appointments before we split up to accommodate schedules running a bit long. I was now going to have to actually talk to a US Congressman, in their office, on their turf and with their staff. This was unnerving. I know about wheat production and related topics, I live it! But, could I articulate that to a member of congress without stumbling over myself? Could I speak on behalf of anyone else in this industry appropriately and give justice to our organization?

Evidently, my FFA training paid off. I said what needed saying at the time and thanked my stars that our state wheat team had the talking points laid out to follow. It really wasn’t as nerve wracking as I had worked it up to be.

Another reason I was in DC, was to complete the second part to the Bayer Crop Science Wheat Industry Leaders of Tomorrow program, WILOT. This two-part course series helps wheat growers, like myself, be able to speak articulately and professionally about our industry. This has been one of the best training lineups I’ve participated in; and I’ve taken part in a few. It was poignant, relevant and a little uncomfortable at times. Doing a live interview in front of a room of fellow wheat folks and then replaying the video to critique it as a group right after was rough. Yet, no question that it made a significant improvement in the way I communicate.

Some take-a-ways I had with this experience;
1. Talking about what you do and love to a congressman isn’t as scary as it sounds.
2. Know your why. Why do you do what you do? Why do others need to know?
3. Never wear heels in DC.
4. Trust our organizations’ leadership team to do the right thing. They’re pretty amazing.
5. Be willing to step outside your comfort zone for the greater good, our industry future.

The bottom line is that we have to do a better job as an organization and as individuals to tell our story. We have to be able, and willing, to travel to our lawmakers and explain why topics like glysophate is critical in our operations and how trade wars affect our budget. While we know that we are doing the right thing, how are we telling others? Or are we? Our farm succession plans are going to change dramatically if we don’t make the choice to be involved at a level greater than our industry propel forward.

Local wheat farmers at National Leadership!

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Local wheat farmers selected for National Leadership Program

Washington, D.C.: Clint Carlson, a Morrow County producer currently the Oregon Wheat Growers League (OWGL) State President, Brent Cheyne, a producer in Klamath Falls currently the National Wheat Growers Secretary and Erin Heideman, a Morrow County producer currently OWGL county president, just returned from the Syngenta Leadership At Its Best Program in Raleigh, NC and Washington, D.C.

Now more than ever, public opinion, government policy, regulation, and even consumer attitudes have direct impact on the way farmers and agribusiness operate.As a result, the need for effective leadership and advocacy for agriculture has never been greater.To help meet this need, Syngenta sponsors Leadership At Its Best program, partnering with ag organization to develop and prepare their leaders with a robust ag advocacy conference.

Participants experienced refreshed modules based on today’s leading thoughts, ideas and techniques while focusing on various aspects of leadership training and priority issues facing agriculture.The conference ended for the group on Capitol Hill with time spent using their recent training visiting with congressman from around the nation. “As agriculturalists, we know we need to tell our story and be advocates of our industry,” said Erin Heideman. “The Syngenta Leadership program helped give us the skills and confidence to actually do it.”

In addition to the National Wheat Growers Association, other organizations represented included the Agriculture Retailer Association, National Soybean Growers, National Corn Growers Association and National Agricultural Aviation Association. For over 90 years after Oregon wheat producers first came together to work for the common interest, OWGL remains hard at work promoting wheat interests and providing a means for wheat growers to work together. From advocacy work in Salem to providing key input on federal farm legislation, the voice of Oregon grain producers is being heard through the efforts of their Oregon Wheat Growers League.

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