Farm Bureau and Property Rights

One would think that of all people farmers, who make their living off the land, would respect private property rights and want to protect them. For many farmers that may be the case, but it would be naive to think that it is true of the Oregon Farm Bureau.

In recent news stories, it has been reported that the Farm Bureau supports efforts by Democrat Governor Ted Kulongoski and Democrat leaders in the state legislature to suspend voter-approved Measure 37, which is arguably the most important property rights measure to pass in this country in decades. (Measure 37 requires government to compensate property owners for any loss in value caused by a government imposed restriction on the use of their land, or remove the restriction. It passed with 61 percent of the vote.)

The Farm Bureau says it supports suspending implementation of Measure 37, because it wants to limit development in rural areas to make more land available for farming. Well, folks, that’s only part of the story. In reality however, like with most issues, the Farm Bureau’s position on Measure 37 is just about money. In fact, they told me so.

When I was the Republican nominee for governor in 1998, I met with the Oregon Farm Bureau at their state headquarters in Salem, hopelessly seeking their endorsement. In that meeting, I talked to them about property rights and about changing Oregon’s land use laws to allow people who own property in the country to build a house on their land. The leaders of the Farm Bureau made it crystal clear to me that day that they did not support such a move.

Frankly, I was shocked by their response. They informed me that if someone owned 10 or 20 or 40 acres in the country, and the laws were changed so they could build a home on their land, that 10 or 20 or 40-acre parcel would instantly be worth a lot more money than if no home could be built on it. Their expressed position was: Farmers have a right to expand their business just like any other businessman does. They told me that if people could not build a house on their land, then farmers could buy it from them cheaper, because there really isn’t much else the owners could do with it, except sell it.

From a ruthless business perspective, I am sure the Oregon Farm Bureau is exactly right. Morally, however, their position is reprehensible.

Even to this day, I remember clearly how I responded to their stated position. I asked them if I understood their position correctly, that indeed what they wanted to do was to use the power of government to stop other people from being able to use their land, so farmers could buy it cheaper. Incredibly, they acknowledged that I had correctly stated their position.

The Oregon Farm Bureau may claim they want to preserve farmland, but what they mean by that is they don’t want people to be able to build a house on their land, because then farmers can’t buy it for an artificially low price. Pretty much everyone familiar with real estate knows that a 10-acre parcel that you can build a house on is worth probably two to five times as much as a 10-acre parcel that you can’t.

It should be noted that Oregon has a Right to Farm law that prohibits people, who choose to build a home in a farm zone, from suing over such things as farm noise, too much dust, or the spraying of pesticides. Therefore, avoiding such complaints cannot be the primary reason why the Farm Bureau wants to keep people from building a residence in the country.

In all fairness, it should also be noted that not all farmers are working to undermine private property rights. In fact, some of the county farm bureaus enthusiastically supported Measure 37 and unlike the state bureau continue to do so.

As the author of Measure Seven, the voter-approved 2000 measure that started the modern day property rights revival in Oregon, I can say with conviction that the problem with Measure 37 is not that it is all that ambiguous. The problem is this: The powers that be, the governor, most of the Democrats in the legislature, most of the judges on our appellate courts, and most of the cities and counties in the state don’t like the measure and are throwing out every red herring and setting off every smokescreen they can to stall implementation of it until they can find a way to get rid of it.

The people spoke, twice in fact, and the politicians are still saying they aren’t sure what the people intended. They understand, alright. They just don’t like what they heard. You can rest assured the powers that be wouldn’t be so “confused”, if they liked what the people had said, when they passed Measure 37 by an overwhelming margin.

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Posted by at 10:44 | Posted in Measure 37 | 7 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Actually, the plan isn’t to suspend M37. In fact the Guv’s plan would allow many of the M37 claims to go forward.

    SB505 specifically states as such–and that’s the Guv’s bill.

    If we’re going to have a discussion about this issue, let’s make it a completely honest one, shall we Bill?

    The time frame for counties to review the mass numbers of claims is completely unwieldy. SB505 will allow counties to properly review the larger claims that will have a great deal of impact.

    What is the rush on these, anyway? Why the hurry to push these things through without scrutiny by the public and the counties? Cuz that’s really what it boils down to.

    • Chris McMullen

      I’ll tell you what the hurry is, Carla. The longer the gummint has to ‘process’ claims, the less they’ll have to approve them (or compensate the claimant).

      Case in point: Multnomah county is still stalling Dorothy English’s claim, hoping she’ll pass away before they’re forced into action.

      Portland and the state of Oregon has a long history of screwing property owners over. Moreover, they had every opportunity to fix these oppressive land-use regulations. Now they’re trying again to weasel out of their responsibilities.

      • Captain_Anon

        not true. the county waived the rules, and now she’s pissed because they county wants to apply the same building requirements that everyone else goes through, including you, me, and any other M37 claimant. the oregonian just recently reported that the reason dorothy is upset is because she wants to have a 1953 building code. can’t go back in time for that. that’s definitely health and safety. she’s just arguing to argue because she’s done it for so long, she doesn’t know what else to do. she got what she asked for, now she wants to ask for more. and ask ridiculous things at that.

  • Homer12

    The Guvs fiddling to “allow many of the M37 claims to go forward” should read “would allow 15% to go forward”. I ask my kind self, since when did 15% become “many”?

    • Captain_Anon

      15% of over 7000 claims is over 1050 claims that could be moved forward. those claims are the ones that sold the measure to the people of oregon. Farmers, who originally supported the measure because they wanted to build a house on their property to retire on, are now understanding that developers and lawyers are waiving bagfuls of money in front of thier neighbors to divide thier 200-acres into over 200 home sites. THAT, can have a HUGE impact on farmers. yes, we are a right to farm state, but that doesn’t stop people from filing frivolous lawsuits. not too long ago someone filed a suit to sue Michael Jordan and Nike because the guy looked like Jordan. Stupid lawsuit, yes. frivolous, yes. and yet Jordan and Nike had to pay to defend it and have it thrown out in court. same happens with farmers people with money who dont like the burning of fields, or the smell on manure or the sound of tractors at 5am complain and complain and complain and sue. and you mutiply that by the 200 new dwellings adjacent to the farm, and it becomes costly, and difficult to do a family business that has been legal forever.

      I think it’s telling that the farm bureau who whole heartedly supported M37 has reversed it’s position. the thing is, they aren’t the only ones. when people realized what was happening with these huge subdivision requests and the mall, and the pumice mine, and the aggregate mine…. people realized they were sold something completely different than what it was turning out to be.

  • Jerry

    My only hope is that claiments sue the governor personally for his illegal activities in trying to rewrite the law.

  • bob jones

    If the local governments need more time to make sure the claims are valid and to process the many claims then they should legislate the for more time. The claims should be handled on a first come first serve basis. Why don’t they just be clear on what they really need instead of the smoke and mirrors. Any person could read sb 505 and conclude it is not really what Ted k. says it is.

    The majority ruled on M37! let it!

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