Why we must unite and support our small farmers of Cascadia


Why we must unite and support our small farmers of Cascadia

Conversations Among Farmers

Editor's note: This is the first post from guest contributor Tim Steury, who edits Washington State Magazine in Pullman, Washington, and works a small farm just south of Potlatch, Idaho.
At one time Oregon and the Pacific NorthWest was more unified because of concern over losing valuable agricultual land. I think we must go back to that focus! We must help our small farmers. Support organic not chemically induced fertilizers. Stop the loss of prime agricultural land to land develpoers (if not turn back suburban sprawl). Replant trees as barriers from run off and erosion. And now with the low snow pack and lack of normal rain fall we are in "Big Shit" (sorry for the blunt Anglo-Saxon) of trouble! Earlier this week I read an article posted in this indy about Ecotopia and was reminded of Oregon "back in the day" when pro environment was part of the political dialogue for all the political parties. What was in that article was:

"Callenbach only paid passing attention to agriculture in Ecotopia. But in Oregon, it is the root and the soul of secessionism. Keep in mind, SB 100 was crafted by a rural dairy farmer, Hector Macpherson, and ramrodded through by Gov. Tom McCall—both Republicans—and passed by a legislature controlled by urban Democrats. It was, first and foremost, a farmland preservation act. No more compelling evidence of its success can be found than by comparing South King County to the Willamette Valley. Sitting in the shadows of volcanos, both valleys are filled with some of the richest soil in the world. Over the last 30 years, however, South King County has only grown industrial and suburban sprawl. The Willamette Valley, its long-range form envisioned by landscape architect Lawrence Halprin during McCall's tenure, sprouted world-class turf, wine, and nursery industries and a growing network of organic farms.

Yet, if SB 100 and the '72 plan clearly provided the architecture for Ecotopian Oregon, the system updates since have failed to provide protection from political viruses infecting the rest of the country. SB 100 and the '72 Downtown Plan began as revolts, but the divides between sides—rural and urban, business and neighborhoods, Dems and Republicans—were resolved by finding the common interests held by all as Citizens. In recent years, however, a redistricting has occurred in which the Citizens are increasingly under attack by a coalition party best named the Advocates.

The Advocates can be conservative or liberal, rural or urban, free enterprisers or communists. What they share isn't an ideology, it's guidance by ideology. As Citizens search for consensus through deliberation and informed compromise, Advocates regulate, litigate, and pass ballot initiatives. As Citizens work for what's best for the city and state as a whole, Advocates only want to win—at any cost.

This new two-party system first surfaced in 1991 when the Advocates narrowly passed Oregon's first property tax rollback measure. Poof! The unifying theme of healthy schools funded by a healthy local tax base disappeared. The depletion of timber, the rise of high-tech, the globalization of agriculture, and perhaps most pivotally, the expansion of the suburbs have all further empowered the Advocates. Urban and rural mutual dependence—moreover, mutual understanding— disappeared. Disagreements are no longer decided by finding the pragmatic middle ground of long-term, shared economic health and livability; they are decided by a suburban plurality that slides to whichever end of the Advocate spectrum offers the brightest spin."

That part of the article struck a cord with me on how fucked up we have become, because of this Tax/Tax-cut War that has been waging in Oregon. Both sides of the issue striking causalties that ofcourse in any war are actually innocent (police, schools, fire, healthcare, property owners and many others). We need to reform our funding at the same time focus on our environment and other parts of the social contract that any governmental system must comply with. I personally can not see any reform in any of this as part of a corrupt system as the Fascist Empire was call the United States. Infact I can safely say it will become worse . We are loosing what it meant to be Oregonians, Washingtonians or Cascadians in general. We are being sucked of our vital fluids and the unqueness of who we were. Cascadians.

Anyway the article I wanted to post:

March 30, 2005
Conversations Among Farmers

Editor's note: This is the first post from guest contributor Tim Steury, who edits Washington State Magazine in Pullman, Washington, and works a small farm just south of Potlatch, Idaho.

Finally, we're getting some moisture in the Inland NW, at least enough to slightly loosen the knot gripping the stomach of anyone who makes a living by putting seeds in the ground. By the end of last month, the driest February on record, area farmers were genuinely panicked. Every conversation with our neighbor, who's been farming the surrounding land for four decades, was about the weather.

No different from usual farmer conversation, I guess. Just more intense. "Never seen anything like it," he'd say over and over.

So even though they spend more time listening to market reports and talk show windbags than climate scientists as they ride around in their tractors and pickups, these guys might be increasingly sensitive to news such as findings from this new study out of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL).

With colleagues at PNNL and Washington State University, natural resource economist Michael J. Scott conducted a decade-long study of the effect of global warming on the Yakima Valley. The Yakima Valley comprises 370,000 irrigated acres of apples, grapes, pears, and a host of other fruits and vegetables.

The model the scientists used assumed no overall change in precipitation, just water availability maintained by snowpack and reservoirs. They figured the effects by applying 80 years of drought data to their projections.

According to Scott, "The expected losses to agriculture alonge in the Yakima Valley over the next several decades will be between $92 million at 2 degrees centigrade warming and $163 million a year at 4 degrees." This would equal nearly a quarter of the total current value of the crop.

Scott proposes his modeling not as prophecy, but as a way to plan. Maybe Yakima growers should consider taking out more water dependent crops such as tree fruit and put in more grapes.

That sounds great, to a point. But we can drink only so much wine, even from the Yakima Valley. And over here, further east on the Palouse, grapes aren't an option. The winters are just a bit too harsh. But wait, it's warming, isn't it?

Maybe they haven't tuned into Scott's specific predictions yet, but farmers are paying attention. Even the Capital Press, not exactly a paragon of progressive agriculture or politics, ran a headline above the fold on a recent front page acknowledging the "reality" of global climate change.

We don't irrigate here on the Palouse. Still, maybe we'll see more farmers going to no-till to conserve moisture and buffer strange months like this February. Or maybe we'll see more hay or permanent pasture. Unfortunately, farmers here are discouraged economically from considering anything other than the traditional wheat, peas and lentils. Land values around here are artificially inflated because of subsidies, putting costs too high to grow anything other than subsidized wheat.

But you never know what another record dry month could do for people's thinking.