By Eric Tegethoff, Oregon News Service
SALEM, Ore. -- With tensions high in Salem as lawmakers begin work on a cap-and-invest bill, one organization is reminding legislators that voices in agriculture are not a monolith on this issue.
The Oregon Climate and Agriculture Network, representing more than 250 farmers and ranchers across the state, is calling for strong climate action this session, including passing the cap-and-invest bill.
Taylor Starr, executive director of White Oak Farm in Southern Oregon, believes many of the farm lobbying groups against cap-and-invest are in the pocket of the big ag industry.
"Getting a balanced perspective from the agricultural community and the small-farming community and the organic-farming community," he said, "you see that there's a lot of farmers who are experiencing already the impacts of climate change and are really excited about the possibilities with this bill."
Starr said he is concerned about growing drought in the region and bigger wildfire seasons, which can be hazardous to his workers as well as his crops.
Other groups, such as Timber Unity, believe a bill to cap emissions threatens their livelihood. The group of loggers, truckers and farmers is to hold a rally in Salem on Thursday, the same day as the bill's second public hearing.
Mimi Casteel, a grower with Hope Well Wine in Salem, said she understands the razor's edge on which agricultural producers live. However, she added, this bill has robust protections for farms and forests. She said she thinks the agricultural sector can play a big role in reversing the effects of climate change.
"This bill makes space to start those conversations and start breaking down the fence lines that we think are between us," she said, "because we all are truly the front lines of what stands to be our only defense against the climate stress that's coming."
Sarah Deumling, who owns Zena Forest Products with her family in the Willamette Valley outside Salem, said her forest has lost more than 10% of its Douglas fir trees in the past seven years from the effects of a warming climate. She said she believes climate change is the biggest threat to Oregonians' way of life.
"We would like a much stronger climate bill than the one that has appeared in the Legislature so far," she said, "but we feel strongly that the cost of inaction will be much greater to us than the cost of action."
The text of Senate Bill 1530 is online at olis.leg.state.or.us.