Don't pass it, don't sign it
We must be ever watchful and diligent in our efforts to maintain a semblance of freedom of choice in this ever-eroding democracy. Today, I am referring to Senate Bill 633, another attempt of biotech agriculture to take local authority away from counties in Oregon concerning seed and agricultural issues. After receiving more negative response last winter and spring than any other proposed bill in just about forever, someone has now attached it to the current PERS legislation that is very likely to pass because of its retirement benefits to our public servants.
This bill appeared just after Jackson County Initiative 15-119 made it onto the May 2014 ballot and would ban GMO crops in Jackson County and obviously was in response to our efforts here to take a stand for local, sustainable, healthy and natural agriculture.
If anyone doubts these claims, please let them research GMOs and their links with toxic pesticides, concurrent modern health problems, soil degradation, ultimately lower yields, less marketability and dependence on biotech companies for seed year after year.
Don't sign it governor. Don't pass it legislators. Big mistake.
Ashland continues building on top of floodplains
Colorado just experienced a 1,000-year flood event. States along the Mississippi have experienced 100- and 500-year floods every few years. Data show that the intensity of storms has been increasing, and models indicate that storm severity is expected to continue to increase. How do we prepare for this "New Normal"? One way to protect lives and real estate is to restore floodplains so they can hold water during high flows, and remove structures from vulnerable areas like wetlands. Many cities are changing their zoning and permitting processes in response to climate change.
What is Ashland doing? Ashland plans to continue filling in and building on top of floodplains. I was informed of this at a planning meeting when I expressed my concern for the planned Normal Avenue development that, similar to the high-density Clay Street housing, will be built surrounding and on top of a large wetland. In fact, I was scoffed at because, as one Commissioner put it, "all of Hunter Park was once a wetland."
What will happen when Ashland gets its 100- or 1,000-year storm event? Where will the water that used to fill all of those wetlands go? Don't get me wrong — I love the concept of infill to reduce sprawl, but not at the expense of people's safety. Instead, use the area for public open space and educational resource that is much needed in that part of town, allowing the wetlands to function as flood protection. There will be a public hearing Oct. 8.
SB 633 is an affront to state's organic sector
How ironic that Governor Kitzhaber wants a statewide ban on local control of agriculture during Eat Local Week on order to get PERS reform. SB633 makes local initiatives like our Measure 15-119 illegal statewide. SB633 is an affront to Oregon's respected organic and natural food trade sector, which is a significant economic contributor to the state — experiencing double digit growth most every year for the last decade. Oregon ranks fifth in the nation for its number of organic farms: as of 2010 there were more than 444 certified organic farms operating on over 156,000 acres. As the recent GE wheat contamination discovery in eastern Oregon demonstrated, Oregon's farmers face serious economic losses when their products are rejected by consumers and major markets due to the threat of GE contamination. Jackson County agriculture today is predominantly non-GMO, and we should keep it that way. The alternative is to see Jackson County agricultural lands turned into a giant, corporate-controlled GMO seed farm with tenant sharecroppers forced to spray ever more dangerous pesticides to meet their contractual requirements. Is that your vision for a healthy safe place to live? If not, Vote Yes on Measure 15-119 in May 2014.