Farm Bureau leaders say lawmakers need to hear about benefits of ag operations

By MITCH LIES

Capital Press

ALBANY, Ore. -- Oregon Farm Bureau leadership at a Willamette Valley Ag Expo luncheon Nov. 18 urged farmers to get involved with politics and tell their story.

"Nobody tells a story about your farm better than you do," Oregon Farm Bureau President Barry Bushue said. "A single trip to the statehouse and talking to legislators about the value of your operation will make all the difference in the world."

Bushue urged farmers to send letters to congressional delegates and donate to political action funds.

"Even though this is a terrible time to ask farmers to reach into their pocket, there has never been a better time for us to engage," Bushue said.

"We actually have a Legislature that is split, which means there is going to have to be discourse and discussion," Bushue said.

Oregon House Democrats lost six seats in the Nov. 2 election, going from a 36-24 super majority to a 30-30 Democrat-Republican split.

Representatives over the next few weeks will determine which party gets the House speaker position and who leads committees.

"A lot is at stake for us over the next few weeks," Bushue said. "The committee chairs and the make-up of those committees determine which legislation gets priority and which legislation doesn't.

"You can have a piece of that by simply showing up and telling your story," he said.

State representatives are considering operating under split leadership, with co-speakers and co-committee chairs, Oregon Farm Bureau Government Affairs Director Katie Fast said.

Fast said parties also could try to "flip" a representative -- induce a Democrat to vote for a Republican speaker or vice versa.

Roseburg Republican Bruce Hanna and Clackamas Democrat Dave Hunt were chosen earlier this month to lead their respective parties.

In the Senate, Democrats lost their 18-12 super majority in the Nov. 2 midterm elections, but maintained a 16-14 advantage. Sen. Peter Courtney, D-Salem, was re-named Senate President. Portland Democrat Diane Rosenbaum and John Day Republican Ted Ferrioli were selected to lead their respective parties.

Fast said the Farm Bureau generally was pleased with the election outcomes.

"Our goal ... was to break that super majority and bring some balance to the Legislature, and that is something that we accomplished," she said.

"We'll see some very agriculture- and business-friendly legislators moving to Salem this next year that we are very positive about working with," Fast said.

The Farm Bureau was disappointed in the outcome of the governor's race, Fast said. Former Gov. John Kitzhaber edged Republican candidate Chris Dudley.

But Bushue said the Bureau is optimistic it can work with Kitzhaber.

"We had access to Gov. Kitzhaber in the past, and I have no reason to think we won't have access to him now," Bushue said.

"We will work with Gov. Kitzhaber and whatever administration he sets up," Bushue said.

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