Bureau keeps eye on lawmakers
Five-term Oregon Farm Bureau President Barry Bushue
speaks at the 76th Annual Oregon Farm Convention.
Bushue also is vice president of the American Farm
Bureau. - Mitch Lies/Capital Press
touches on estate taxes, union organizing laws and grass seed
CITY, Ore. - During a sweeping president's report at the
Oregon Farm Bureau's 76th annual convention here Tuesday, Dec.
9, five-term Oregon Farm Bureau President Barry Bushue said
new, Democratic-controlled legislative bodies in Oregon and in
Washington, D.C., present stiff challenges for agriculture.
Bushue, who also is vice president of the American Farm Bureau
Federation, said he expects President-elect Barack Obama and
the new Congress to adopt an aggressive agenda beginning in
Among several items being watched closely by the American Farm
Bureau, Bushue said, is an estate tax due to be reinstated in
2011 with a top tax rate of 55 percent and with a $1 million
In 2009, only families exceeding $3.5 million in gross assets
are subject to the federal estate tax. The tax is due to
expire in 2010 for one year.
"Congress will hopefully choose to address the estate taxes in
2009, rather than allow the repeal to take effect in 2010 as
it is scheduled to do," Bushue said.
Bushue said the American Farm Bureau also is anticipating
Congress to adopt the controversial Employee Free Choice Act,
which would strip employees of the right to a secret ballot to
determine whether they want to unionize.
"Instead ballots will be replaced with so-called "card check,"
replacing freedom of choice with the potential for
intimidation," Bushue said.
"I wonder if members of Congress who have indicated they will
vote for this egregious legislation would like their own
elections determined by cards signed at coffee shops across
"Good public policy is often trumped by politics," Bushue
said. "These labor issues have been cases in point and will
likely continue to be."
Bushue also addressed concerns surrounding the proposed rule
to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from dairies and other
confined animal feeding operations.
CAFOs have been caught up in efforts by the EPA to regulate
greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles. While the EPA has
indicated it has no desire to regulate CAFO emissions in its
final rule, the AFBF is watching the proceedings closely and
weighing in on the rule's possible effects on agriculture,
"Their currently are no administrative rules or legislative
proposals to make this happen, but the Farm Bureau would be
remiss if it did not keep ahead of this curve," Bushue said.
"We want to make sure that even if EPA does not want to
regulate us, that activists do not litigate them into doing
On a state level, Bushue said he was discouraged to see Gov.
Ted Kulongoski include fees to eliminate field burning in his
"Despite full discussions by the Legislature this past session
- who did not pass legislation on this issue - and a full
investigation by the governor's own Environmental Quality
Commission - that found insufficient data to show a need for a
ban - the governor has ignored these public policy bodies and
is going it alone. (He is) including the expenditure of scarce
dollars more urgently needed elsewhere."
Bushue also said it has been difficult for the state Farm
Bureau to embrace the governor's climate change agenda,
particularly in light of the fact the Bureau has been thwarted
in attempts to get better representation on the governor's
climate change task force.
"Our repeated request for better representation of agriculture
producers on the task force has been largely ignored," he
"These and other actions by the executive branch are
particularly frustrating considering our huge efforts to help
the governor pass Measure 49," Bushue said.
"In addition to working to further the education of
legislators on the value of agriculture, we are going to have
to continue to increase our efforts to try and engage the
executive branch as well."
"We need them to understand the link between the land and the
necessity for all of the other tools needed to continue to
produce the world's safest and most affordable food supply."
Staff writer Mitch Lies is based in Salem. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.