As a youth, Mary Anne Nash had a front-row seat to the devastation environmental regulations can inflict on a natural-resource business.
She watched as the federal government booted her parents off their Central Oregon grazing allotment to protect salmon. Then, after relocating to what she described as “the driest part of the Oregon,” she watched as her parents struggled to obtain a county building permit in sage grouse country.
“It was tough to deal with,” she said, “particularly for my parents, who weren’t interested in the legal side of running a ranch. They just wanted to run their operation.”
Nash, the new public policy counsel for the Oregon Farm Bureau, today is embracing an opportunity to help ease regulations for farmers and ranchers who, like her parents, just want to run their operations.
She and Jenny Dresler, the Farm Bureau’s new government affairs associate, joined Oregon’s largest farm organization earlier this month. Dresler replaced Ian Tolleson, who left the Farm Bureau to take a similar position with Northwest Food Processors Association. Nash replaced Mike Freese, who left to join Association Oregon Industries as vice president of government affairs.
“One of the biggest reasons I wanted to work with Farm Bureau is to see if we can’t make it a little less frustrating to be in this business,” Nash said.
Nash traces her interest in natural resources policy to the experiences of her youth. In high school, as a member of FFA, she even won a state public speaking contest, speaking about opportunities for the environmental community and the natural resources community to work together.
“I think it still is one of the biggest challenges (for the two communities to work together), but I don’t think the solution is as easy as I thought it was when I was 18,” she said. “There is such a fundamentally different perspective about the right way to use the land.”
Nash graduated from Oregon State University, where she studied environmental economics, then from the University of Oregon’s School of Law, before joining the Portland law firm Schwabe Williamson and Wyatt, where she advised clients on natural resources issues.
Nash said she thoroughly enjoyed working with individual farmers and ranchers while at Schwabe Williamson, but she believes she can better affect natural resources policy at the government level than at the court level.
“I thought that working on the front end, and seeing if we can’t actually fix some policies that can be ineffective, would be the most effective way to serve the industry,” Nash said.
Dresler, formerly policy analyst for the Senate Republican Caucus, brings an equal interest in natural resources industries to her position as government affairs associate.
“I have focused on agriculture and natural resources policy throughout my career to date,” she said. “I see this (position) as a really good fit.”
In addition to working with Senate Republicans, Dresler said she has also worked extensively with Senate Democrats.
“Being in the caucus office gave me a lot of exposure on the floor,” she said. “I was on the floor every day with all the members, and I have built relationships on both sides of the aisle.”
Katie Fast, vice president of public policy at the Farm Bureau, said she is looking forward to working with both Nash and Dresler.
“Both have the perfect combination of life experience and work experience, and they are able to hit the ground running at Farm Bureau,” Fast said. “We’re excited to have them on board.”