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Ranchers worried about water rights law

Local ranchers heard warnings about potential legislative efforts to weaken or repeal Oregon’s 1909 water rights laws, reports of lawsuits challenging grazing rights, and discussed the politics of endangered species protection of wolves during the Baker County Livestock Associations annual meeting Saturday in Baker City.

Mike Colton, who was elected to replaced Cal Ransom as the Association’s president, said listening sessions on water rights issues orchestrated by westside legislators appear to him to be part of a plan to rewrite Oregon’s almost century-old water rights law.

“It’s huge. It’s beyond huge,” Colton said.

He said it’s important for ranchers to attend the sessions and submit written comments to the House Environment and Energy Committee to make sure the agricultural industry’s perspective is represented in the development of any revisions of the 1909 water rights laws.

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Hard times float entrepreneurial dreams

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Baker City Herald/John Collins
These rocky economic times, when companies are tightening budgets and cutting staff, might be the perfect time for people to reach for their entrepreneurial dreams.

Kari Waldhaus, a business coach with The Entrepreneur’s Source in Baker City, said there’s always opportunities for people with the right combination of skills and ambition to take control of their future through business ownership.

“The unemployment rate has soared within the past several months. Yet there are opportunities that can be pursued in business ownership, particularly in the franchise sector,” Waldhaus said.

“I provide a no-cost coaching service to help people find the right business,” Waldhaus said. “We have over 400 franchise businesses in all shapes and sizes across 80 different industries — everything from fast food and restaurants to service businesses.”

“There is a franchise out there for anyone that will fit their objectives and goals,” Waldhaus said.

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‘World’s toughest saws’ plant nears completion

Cutters Edge moving global headquarters to Baker City


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Cutters Edge gets siding and insulation Tuesday as building construction continues for the company located next to OTEC. Gyllenberg Construction employees are Ron Forester, below, and Mark Sexton with Ty Findley in the lift.
When the going gets tough, the tough move to Baker City, where a new manufacturing plant is under construction by Cutters Edge, makers of the toughest saws in the world for cutting steel and concrete.

“Construction is scheduled for completion by the end of November and we’ll begin moving in the first week of December,” said Tom Ruzich, who founded Cutters Edge in Julian, Calif., in 1987 during one of the nation’s previous recessions.

Ruzich said he started looking for a new location about three years ago after the largest wildfire in California’s recorded history destroyed three properties he owned. While his Cutters Edge plant in Southern California escaped the fire, he said the ongoing fire threat, a labor shortage and the soaring cost of doing business in a mountain resort and retirement town one hour from San Diego prompted him to make the move to Baker City.

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Everyone knows it’s windy

The governor’s economic revitalization team works with city and county officials to site windfarms well and streamline the process


Just because there aren’t any windfarm applications before the Baker County Planning Department doesn’t mean the county can’t plan how wind turbines will be sited in the years to come.

A team sent by Gov. Ted Kulongoski helped county and state officials begin thinking about the process Tuesday.

Kulongoski’s Economic Revitalization Team regional team leader Scott Fairley said Baker County was chosen for the meeting because there could soon be wind turbine construction here and that the planning process can benefit from input from affected state agencies — including the Department of Energy, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Land Conservation and Developmen — early in the process.

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Bailout includes varied tax benefits

While the purpose of the $700 billion federal bailout bill was touted by President Bush and congressional leaders as a rescue of the nation’s financial system, the final bill approved by Congress includes a number of tax benefits added to garner enough support from holdout Republicans and conservative Democrats to pass it.

Those tax benefits include an extension of tax forgiveness on the cancellation of mortgage debt; extended protections preventing middle income families from being subject to the alternative minimum tax; extended tax deductions for residents of states without income taxes; deductions for elementary and secondary school teachers; and continued provisions allowing banks to make tax-free distributions from IRAs for charitable purposes.

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Grasshoppers worse in 2009?

Ag practices, weird weather could explain hopper populations


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Baker County Extension Agent Cory Parsons points to the epicenter of the 2008 grasshopper infestation: Baker County. Entomologist Helmut Rogg warned things could get worse for Baker County growers next year without an aggressive grasshopper control program next spring. (Baker City Herald/Ed Merriman)
Entomologist Helmuth Rogg warned Baker County growers of a potential major grasshopper outbreak in the making for 2009 during meetings in Baker City and Haines.

Rogg said the grasshopper infestation that exploded across Baker, Union and Wallow counties in 2007 zeroed in on Baker County in 2008, reaching densities as high as 200 grasshoppers per square yard in several locations around Haines, Sparta and Medical Springs.

Cory Parsons, Oregon State University Extension agent for Baker County, pointed to maps on the wall showing how the 2008 grasshopper infestation exploded in Baker County, but tapered off in Union and Wallowa counties, compared to 2007.

In 2007, the grasshopper infestation covered about 6,000 in all three counties, with densities as high as 50 grasshoppers per square yard. By comparison, Parsons said around 7,000 acres in Baker County along were infested with grasshoppers in 2008.

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County’s share of conservation payments exceeds $1 million

Over the next few weeks, nearly $28 million in payments is being disbursed to Oregon farmers and ranchers participating in conservation programs, according to Larry Frey, state executive director for USDA’s Farm Service Agency in Oregon.

Of that statewide total, about $1.1 million will go to farmers and ranchers in Baker County, said Trent Luschen, Baker County FSA executive director.

Luschen said the program works cooperatively with producers to conserve soil and enhance water quality in streams and rivers, as well as wildlife habitat and air quality.

Nationwide, more than $1.7 billion in conservation payments are being made by FSA on 34.7 million acres across the country.

The payments announced Wednesday are annual rental payments earned on Oregon’s 563,592 acres enrolled in fiscal year 2008 in USDA conservation programs, including the Conservation Reserve Program, Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program and its predecessor, the Continuous Sign-Up Program.

Luschen said checks mailed out this week went to growers signed up under all three conservation programs administered by the FSA.

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Specialty crops grown locally included in grant program

Grants have been awarded to promote or improve three Baker County crops — potatoes, mint and grass seed.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture announced five grant awards Friday totaling $116,000 in federal funds authorizing a new specialty crops program under the 2008 Farm Bill.

The ODA received 10 applications for funding from the USDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. Five applicants were given grants ranging from $14,000 to $30,000 for a total of $116,000 to help promote products or develop new processes and practices.

While most USDA funding has targeted program crops like wheat and corn for decades, Gary Roth, administrator of the ODA’s Agricultural Development and Marketing Division, said it’s a nice change that the 2008 Farm Bill included funds for some of Oregon’s numerous specialty crops.

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The brink of a new Industrial Revolution?

Panelists at a PubTalk in Baker City excited about future of sustainable business


The era of litigation and lock-up-the-land mentality is giving way to a new sustainable business model that could fuel a 21st century economic boom comparable to the Industrial Revolution, panelists said at Thursday’s PubTalk in Baker City.

Speakers discussed changes in the environmental mindset and opportunities for businesses, farmers and ranchers, and would-be entrepreneurs to hitch a ride on the emerging sustainable business revolution.

“We’re no longer blinded by greenies; we have a profit model and know how to make it work,” said Jake Jacobs, Baker County economic developer.

“Sustainability is a global market wave potentially larger than the Industrial Revolution,” Jacobs said. Given the abundant natural resources and sustainable attitude reflected in Baker City’s commitment to preserving its historic downtown, Jacobs said cashing in on the sustainable business model “is something we ought to be able to do in Baker City.”

While the color green used to represent a hands-off, preservationist mentality, Jacobs said that with the new focus on sustainability, “green is the color of money.”

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Wheat growers wonder: Sell now, or later?

Marketing specialist said wheat prices probably will continue to decline


Prospects for wheat prices to rebound above the current $5.90 per bushel Portland delivered price don’t look good, given plunging stock markets and relatively good weather around the world.

Dan Steiner, a grain marketing specialist for both Pendleton Grain Growers and Morrow County Grain Growers, delivered that message Wednesday as areas growers were signing up to attend today’s video wheat marketing meetings being broadcast simultaneously at Oregon State University Extension offices across the state, including in Baker City.

In mid-August Steiner was advising growers to sell at least some of their wheat crop at the prices offered then — $8.40 a bushel for soft white wheat delivered to Portland, or the $9.25 September futures price.

At that time, Steiner reminded growers that, compared to historical wheat prices in the $3 to $5 range, $8.40 to $9.25 was a good price that would provide most growers with a profit, even after paying soaring costs for fuel, fertilizers and pesticides.

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