Capital press. (Salem, OR) 19??-current, October 09, 2015, Page 6, Image 6

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October 9, 2015
Editorials are written by or
approved by members of the
Capital Press Editorial Board.
All other commentary pieces are
the opinions of the authors but
not necessarily this newspaper.
Editorial Board
Managing Editor
Mike O’Brien
Joe Beach
Carl Sampson Online:
O ur V iew
Teenagers harvest an important lesson
arvest is a special time of
year in rural America. In
the area surrounding tiny
Shelley, Idaho, — population 4,409
— it’s even more special, because
of a tradition its farmers and high
schools have maintained through
the years.
Generations of students from
such schools as Shelley High
School and West Jefferson High
School have pitched in to help with
the potato harvest. The students
receive two weeks off to work
on area farms during this most
important time of year. By doing
that, they earn money for college
or other activities and the farmers
get the help they need to get their
crops in.
Though many farmers have
mechanized their potato harvest,
others still rely on the cadre of
teenagers to sort and move potatoes
— or whatever other chores need to
be done.
In our estimation, that’s the
way it should be. Not so long ago,
other areas of the country relied on
teenagers to help pick apples and
other fruit, strawberries and other
crops. A casual conversation on the
subject will still bring up comments
such as, “I used to do that when I
was a teenager” or “That’s how I
paid for college.”
While it still takes place in
some areas, state and federal
regulators discourage farmers from
employing teens, who are ready,
willing — and need the work.
But when teens help with
harvest, something more occurs.
A connection is forged between
the sweet, hard work of the farm
and the next generation. No matter
where those teens head once they
graduate from high school, they
will remember the long hours spent
sorting potatoes or doing other jobs
on the farm.
And when some Internet
blowhard offers a fiction-based
theory about how to farm, those
students will be able to correct them.
A further benefit is that
harvest helps teens to become a
contributing part of the community.
They realize they are part of
something bigger than themselves.
Almost everyone who lives in
the country understands that they
depend on their neighbors, and
their neighbors depend on them.
When someone needs help, it’s
common for neighbors, friends —
and even total strangers — to pitch
During the best of times such as
harvest and the worst of times, they
know to step forward whenever
and wherever they are needed.
Whether it’s branding time, a
wildfire threatening the ranch or
anything else, neighbors know to
help out each other.
In a very real sense, that lesson
may be as important as any others
those teenagers will learn in the
Pick for ag board
‘Wolf-friendly beef’ idea patronizing to ranchers out of step with
Oregon agriculture
O ur V iew
here isn’t anyone who hasn’t said
something that sounded better in
their head than it did when they
said it out loud.
That’s what we thought when we
heard that conservation groups in
Washington participating on the state’s
wolf advisory panel suggested helping
ranchers by creating a premium label
for “wolf-friendly beef” for producers
who employ Washington Department
of Fish and Wildlife wolf protection
Dan Paul, state director of The
Humane Society of the United
States, said as with cage-free eggs,
some consumers would be willing to
pay more for beef raised with wolf
protection measures.
First, we’d point out that all beef
raised on grazing land in wolf country
is “wolf-friendly.” It all can fall prey.
Ranchers in Washington and Oregon
can’t legally shoot a wolf, as they are
protected either by state or federal law.
In fact, we would argue beef protected
by extensive measures championed by
the panel is less friendly to wolves. If
the measures work — and producers
say the results are mixed at best —
wolves have to work harder for their
Second, we think the number of
people who would pay more for beef in
order to somehow help wolves would
be small.
Though we don’t necessarily think
it’s true, people who buy cage-free
eggs believe they’re getting a better
quality product because of the way
hens are treated. The reasoning goes
For the Capital Press
Rik Dalvit/For the Capital Press
that cage-free hens are exposed to less
disease and stress, therefore their eggs
are better.
But there is no corresponding
perceived quality enhancement for
“wolf-friendly” beef. The benefits from
such measures go exclusively to the
wolves and their champions.
Ranchers are quick to point out that
to recoup the cost of the suggested
counter-measures, “wolf-friendly”
products would have to be priced
50 percent more than comparable
conventional (wolf hostile?) products.
We’ll give the wolf advocates
the benefit of the doubt that they are
sincere in their desire to help ranchers
cope with wolves on the range. But a
new marketing ploy is not a substitute
for a viable management plan that
includes a full range of control options,
including lethal measures for problem
And this is why ranchers are
frustrated with efforts they find, at best,
The Cattle Producers of Washington
has withdrawn from the Wolf Advisory
Group, calling it “inept and pointless”
and saying it has prevented any action
by the state Department of Fish and
Wildlife in dealing with wolves that kill
Though there are some with
more strident views, most ranchers
at least grudgingly accept that the
reintroduction of wolves into the West
is a fait accompli. They know they’ll
have to find a way to survive in a
new paradigm that includes another
Conversely, wolf advocates and
government wildlife agencies must also
accept that ranchers can’t be expected
to provide wolves an unlimited buffet.
The tab must be paid, or the losses be
State-sponsored elimination of
ranchers is no more palatable than the
wholesale extermination of wolves.
Impending deadline could stop rail shipments in their tracks
For the Capital Press
pring planting may seem
quite far off, but farmers
are already looking ahead
with a wary eye on something
that may derail all their plans —
a nationwide railroad shutdown.
Unable to comply with the loom-
ing Dec. 31 deadline for imple-
menting positive train control,
railroads are warning customers
that they might stop rolling alto-
gether — and soon, unless Con-
gress gives them more time.
Positive train control is a
GPS-based train control system
designed to prevent collisions
and over-speed derailments.
Under the Rail Safety Improve-
ment Act of 2008, railroads are
required to implement PTC sys-
tems by the end of this year on
mainline tracks that carry “toxic
by inhalation,” or TIH materials
like anhydrous ammonia — a
key fertilizer ingredient — as
well as passenger traffic.
BNSF, Union Pacific and oth-
er large rail carriers say they’ve
Erin Anthony
been working on PTC since
the mandate was put in place in
2008, but it’s a very large, com-
plex system made up of multiple
independent technologies, many
of which didn’t exist seven years
According to information
from the Federal Railroad Ad-
ministration and the railroads
themselves, no Class I freight
railroad will be in compliance
with PTC requirements by the
end of the year. At least one
railroad — BNSF — has said
if Congress doesn’t extend the
deadline, it plans on stopping all
traffic on lines that are required
to have PTC installed, and they
won’t wait until the end of the
year to do so.
To ensure there are no TIH
shipments on their systems as
of Jan. 1, 2016, many railroads
plan on issuing TIH notices prior
Letters policy
Write to us: Capital Press welcomes
letters to the editor on issues of interest
to farmers, ranchers and the agribusiness
to Thanksgiving. Faced with the
likelihood of fewer rail shipments
in the last quarter of this year and
potentially no shipments in early
2016, fertilizer manufacturers,
who work around the clock to
ensure an adequate supply for
on-time planting, will probably
cut way back on production, ac-
cording to the Fertilizer Institute.
And even if — and that’s a very
big “if” — fertilizer manufac-
turers don’t slow down, fewer
shipments in late 2015 will be a
big problem for spring planting
in 2016 because rail shipments of
fertilizer are distributed equally
across the year to meet demand.
The American Farm Bu-
reau Federation and other or-
ganizations, including the U.S.
Chamber of Commerce and
the National Retail Federation,
highlighted the catastrophic
consequences that would follow
a shutdown of large segments of
the nation’s freight rail network,
in a letter to Transportation
Secretary Anthony Foxx. From
farm inputs and goods to coal,
automobiles, retail consumer
goods and chemicals like those
used to purify water for drink-
ing, a major service disruption
would have cascading impacts
on the nation’s food, energy
and water supplies, as well as
transportation, construction and
nearly every sector of the U.S.
As compliance with the PTC
mandate is simply not achievable,
the groups are urging Congress to
act by Oct. 31 to extend the dead-
line to allow railroads enough
time to put the system in place.
In its multiyear highway bill, the
Senate has given the railroads an-
other three years to meet the PTC
deadline, but the House has yet to
act on its version of the bill.
Unless Congress acts it’s
not only rail shipments that will
be grinding to a halt; farmers,
ranchers and the rural commu-
nities and the national economy
they support will also be well off
Erin Anthony is editor of
the American Farm Bureau
Federation’s FBNews e-news-
letter and website.
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include a photograph of the author.
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Send letters via email to opinions@capital- E-mailed letters are preferred and
require less time to process, which could
result in quicker publication. Letters may also
be sent to P.O. Box 2048, Salem, OR 97308; or
ecently, Oregon Gov.
Kate Brown appointed
Marty Myers, general
manager of Threemile Can-
yon Farms LLC, a subsidiary
of North Dakota-based R.D.
Offutt Co., to the state’s Board
of Agriculture. In appointing
Myers, the governor over-
looked a family farmer, Mon-
mouth dairyman Jon Bansen,
who had also applied for the
position. This appointment
sent a message to agricultur-
al producers across Oregon
that Governor Brown, when
given a choice, will side with
corporate agribusiness over
hard-working family farmers.
While Myers is a nice man,
the fact is he represents an
out-of-state corporation with
a checkered past in our state.
Threemile Canyon Farms is
the very definition of a factory
farm, confining over 60,000
cows in an intensive milk pro-
duction operation where the
cows never graze on pasture.
Over the years the facility has
been at the center of several
controversies, including labor
violations, allegations of ani-
mal abuse, and a major source
of air pollution.
In 2005, Threemile re-
vealed they were releasing
5.6 million pounds of am-
monia into the air each year,
a byproduct of decompos-
ing liquefied manure. The
U.S. Forest Service fingered
Threemile’s ammonia as one
of two major sources of acid
rain and haze in the Columbia
Rather than mitigating am-
monia emissions, Threemile
lobbied for the operation to
be exempted from Oregon
clean air laws. During a Dairy
Air Quality Task Force creat-
ed by the Legislature, Myers
was instrumental in crafting a
“do-nothing” plan of action.
Myers stands in stark con-
trast with Monmouth dairy-
man Jon Bansen. Unlike My-
ers, who lives in the Portland
area, Bansen lives and works
on his farm with his wife and
children. He is a third-gener-
ation dairy farmer producing
high-quality organic milk for
the Organic Valley Coopera-
tive. Bansen’s farm, Double
J Jerseys, is a pasture-based
system, where the cows are
grazed rotationally outdoors
nearly year-round on 600
The appointment of Myers
over Bansen should raise the
eyebrows and the concerns
of farmers across Oregon.
Notably, a 2013 Oregon Em-
ployment Department report
found that between 2002 and
2007, shortly after Threemile
doubled the number of dairy
cows in the state, nine family
dairy farms went out of busi-
ness every month on average.
Factory-scale dairy op-
erations across the country
have expanded herds, driv-
ing down milk prices. Family
dairy farmers haven’t been
able to compete, and many
have closed down their farms.
Increased Asian demand for
milk products is likely to in-
crease this problem in Oregon.
Dramatically increasing Ore-
gon cow numbers to meet this
demand, as some have argued
for, won’t help independent
family dairies. If anything,
our state will see a surge in the
growth of dairy production
from “Threemile-esque” op-
erations. Not only will these
massive factory farms present
significant challenges for the
communities in which they
set up shop, they will make it
even more difficult for inde-
pendent producers to compete
— possibly driving the final
nail into the coffin of many al-
ready-struggling independent
dairy farmers.
should also draw consider-
able scrutiny of the appoint-
ment process for the Oregon
Board of Agriculture. Unlike
most agency boards and com-
missions, appointments to
the Board of Agriculture are
not confirmed by the Senate.
This allows the Department
of Agriculture and the gover-
nor’s office to work in secre-
cy to secure the appointment
of their preference without
any public scrutiny. Further,
the Board of Agriculture is
exempt from Oregon Govern-
ment Ethics requirements that
public officials provide state-
ments of economic interest to
ensure financial conflicts of
interest are disclosed and ad-
This is not good govern-
At a time when Oregonians
have cause to be on high alert
for inappropriate conduct at
the highest levels of state gov-
ernment, it would appear that
this appointment to the Board
of Agriculture is simply more
of the same “pay-to-play” poli-
tics that we’ve seen in the past.
Threemile Canyon Farms LLC
has spent $178,500 on lobby-
ing in Oregon since 2012, and
gave $30,000 to Gov. John
Kitzhaber’s re-election cam-
paign in 2014.
It’s time for serious reform
to prevent the kind of back-
room dealings that allowed
an out-of-state corporation to
gain a seat on Oregon’s Board
of Agriculture. With nearly 85
percent of Oregon farms fam-
ily-owned and -operated, and
most small and mid-sized,
Governor Brown’s appoint-
ment is completely out of step
with the future of Oregon ag-
Kendra Kimbirauskas is
a third-generation producer
and currently raises a variety
of pasture-raised livestock in
Linn County. She is co-found-
er of the group Friends of
Family Farmers and chief ex-
ecutive officer for the Socially
Responsible Agricultural