Larry Meyer

The Argus Observer

ONTARIO 

The state Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources is conducting a hearing on Senate Bill 1530 with the focus on proposed cap and trade which puts a cost on carbon reduction, taking testimony for more than two hours Thursday afternoon, with plans to continue the hearing on Saturday, starting at 11 a.m. (Mountain Time). 

Chairman Michael Dembrow at the beginning of Thursday’s session said 2,000 to 3,000 pieces of written testimony had already been submitted to the committee and the record will remain open until Tuesday. 

Lead off witness, given oral testimony by phone, at the invitation of Sen. Lynn Findley, was Kenneth Jensen, a Vale area farmer. 

In his testimony, also submitted in printed form, Jensen noted that he has made several changes in his farming practices including no till and strip till farming in order to promote “massive carbon sequesting” into the soils.

“This required new farm implement, GPS guidance and conversion to all sprinkler irrigation,” Jensen said. 

His second investment was installing solar panels to supply electricity for irrigation wells, shops and houses, producing more than 700,000 watts of solar panels at 26 meters.

“We produced more than we used [last year].” Jensen said. 

Noting that he now has a negative carbon footprint, Jensen said, “Agriculture in Oregon can play a great role in lowering our state’s carbon emissions,” but that change requires money which farmers are “very short” of.

“Adding carbon taxes on us will make us completely unprofitable and unable to afford any change let alone stay in business,” he said. “Instead of taxing us out of business, we need to find a way to educate farmers on how to make changes that reduce CO2 and at the same time be globally competitive.”

Paul Andrus, Union County Commissioner, there should be ecological and economic studies done on the possible impacts on all 36 counties. He said the emergency clause should be removed from the bill to allow more consideration and public comment. He also opposes carveouts and exemptions in the bill.

Mark Albertson, Lake County Commissioner, recalled how the efforts to save the spotted owl virtually brought the timber industry in that county to a halt and downtown storefronts in Lake View are still empty. 

“Do not to that to us again,” he said, referring to the possible impact of a carbon tax.

He said there needs to be good science.

Wallowa County Commissioner Todd Nash said the bill needs to be simplified.

“We don’t know how to respond. We don’t know what it is.” 

Larry Meyer is a news reporter at The Argus Observer. He can be reached at (541) 823-4813 or by emailing larrym@argusobserver.com. To comment on this story, go to www.argusobserver.com.

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