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OFB Board member Peter Kenagy asks gubernatorial candidate Bud Pierce for his thoughts on preserving valuable farmland from urban sprawl.

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OFB 3rd VP Barb Iverson welcomes one of 15 candidates to speak to Farm Bureau leaders on Aug. 3.

As the 2016 election season ramps up, Oregon farmers and ranchers are taking a close look at which candidates would fight hardest for agriculture in the state legislature.

On Aug. 3 at the OFB headquarters in Salem, Farm Bureau leaders had the opportunity to interview 15 contenders for state office and get a sense of where they stand on priority ag issues.

The goal for these political hopefuls: earn an endorsement from Oregon Farm Bureau, the state’s largest general agriculture organization.

The goal for Farm Bureau: determine which candidates understand, value, and respect agriculture and its contributions to Oregon’s economy, environment, and quality of life.

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From left are OFB Board members Lyndon Kerns, YF&R Chair Jason Flowers, Dean Freeborn, Kevin Westfall, and Dalton Straus.

“We gathered a diverse group of farmers and ranchers to ask candidates about their positions on important issues,” said OFB Board member Dean Freeborn. “Talking to them face-to-face is a lot more effective than reading a pamphlet.”

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OFB Board member Sharon Waterman makes a point that while protecting wildlife is important, so is protecting Oregon’s family farms and ranches.

Among the topics covered were:

  • OFB’s opposition to Measure 97 (formerly Initiative Petition 28), the gross receipts tax akin to a hidden sales tax that would hurt all Oregonians.
  • The urgent need to bring the Port of Portland back to full capacity.
  • Protecting farmland from urban sprawl.
  • How the Oregon Dept. of Agriculture should have the authority to regulate agriculture — not individual counties.
  • The importance of water storage for agriculture.
  • OFB’s support of the Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife’s decision to delist the gray wolf from the state Endangered Species Act under the Oregon Wolf Plan due to the species’ healthy-and-growing population.
  • OFB’s opposition to a national monument designation in the Owyhee Canyonlands.
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A diverse group of farmers and ranchers from around the state came to the OFB headquarters in Salem on Aug. 3 to interview 15 candidates seeking OFB’s endorsement.

“It’s also important that candidates realize that farmers are price takers, not price makers,” said OFB 4th VP and Women’s Advisory Council Chair Mickey Killingsworth. “We can’t simply pass along higher costs from new regulations on to our customers.”

Each of the 15 candidates made their best case for OFB’s support. It’s no surprise; Farm Bureau represents 7,000 family farmers and ranchers; boasts an informed, engaged, and passionate grassroots membership; and has earned great respect at the capitol for its effectiveness.

“An endorsement from Oregon Farm Bureau is very valuable,” said Freeborn.

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OFB Director of Public Policy Jenny Dresler and Ron Noble, candidate for HD 24, who said about water storage, “Whatever we do, we need to make sure we have the ability to raise crops and feed our families.”

OFB’s endorsements will be announced in October and will be based on ongoing interviews and research, the voting records of incumbents, and input from county Farm Bureau leaders.

“We support candidates who will stand up for agriculture in the legislature and will have an open door for Farm Bureau in policy discussions,” said OFB Director of Public Policy Jenny Dresler.

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Laura Morrett, candidate for HD 20, thanked Farm Bureau members for “raising food for society and your contributions to the state economy.”

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Running for Secretary of State, Rep. Dennis Richardson said he “wants to make sure that business in Oregon is not overburdened with regulations.”

Story & photos by Oregon Farm Bureau