Gimme, Gimme, Gimme

Oregon’s once proud and independent agriculture industry has relegated itself to the status of a spoiled child. Not content with the enormous public and private subsidies the industry already receives, it is screaming for more. An industry that was once a symbol of American can-do has become the country’s largest welfare case.

The agriculture industry is by far the most heavily subsidized industry in the state and country. Direct subsidies include ridiculously low taxes on agricultural land and water and electricity rates only a small percentage of those paid by residential or industrial users. The agriculture industry is further indirectly subsidized by taxpayers in the forms of low or no cost housing for ag workers and benefits from social programs for low income workers. But all that is not enough for this whining child.

As voters were approving Measure 37 by a 61% margin, its opponents, including the some members of the Ag industry, were whining that it was all about greed. Now they claim that Measure 49 is all about balance and equity. They have it exactly backwards.

Measure 37 was about providing equity to Landowners who had been robbed of their property rights under SB100 and other legislation. In 1973 Republicans agreed to go along with Democrats and pass SB100 on the condition that when the legislature returned in two years, the issue of compensation for landowners was addressed. The Democrats broke their word and kept the issue off the floor. Politicians and special interests argued that since 100% of the property’s value had not been taken it wasn’t really a taking and sleazy activist judges agreed. It took over thirty years and two ballot measures, but a small percentage of those landowners who lost their rights under SB100 (those who had not subsequently sold their land or died) finally had them restored under Measure 37.

The second Measure 37 passed an alliance of opponents of property rights and greedy, self-serving individuals and their representative organizations began to craft a repeal.

Many farmers farm on leased land. A very small portion of that leased farmland has had the same ownership since before SB100 was passed, which means its owners are eligible to file a Measure 37 claim for either compensation or development rights. Almost everyone eligible for a Measure 37 claim is old – remember, almost all of them had to have had their land since before 1973 to qualify for a Measure 37 claim. Many of these people would probably want to develop their land to provide security for their old age and security for their families. If they can’t develop the land, their only option is to keep farming (a tough and dangerous job at any age, not something a lot of folks want to spend their golden years doing) sell cheap, or to lease the land to someone else. Greedy farmers, nurserymen and vintners support Measure 49 because it preserves their ability to purchase and/or keep using someone else’s land at rates far below market value.

Farmers, nurserymen and vintners who claim measure 49 is about anything other than enriching themselves at the expense of others are lying through their teeth.

I have always gone out of my way to purchase Oregon grown agricultural products. I will now go out of my way to avoid purchasing Oregn agricultural products.