Heading off a proposed tax on cow burps and and similar gaseous emissions from the animals’ other ends, preserving ranchers’ water, property and grazing rights and their ability to protect livestock from wolves before they bite, are among the issues the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association will focus on when the Legislature convenes Jan. 13.
Cattle groups are worried about potential regulations that could affect their industry in the coming year.(Baker City Herald/Kathy Orr)
“Some people are proposing a per-head tax on cattle for their perceived contributions to greenhouse gas,” said Bill Moore, president of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association.
Moore, who raises between 1,000 and 1,100 head of Angus crossbred cattle near Unity in Baker County, said the cattle industry opposes a move afoot at the state and national level to tax digestive gases emitted by cattle.
“There’s quite a bit of activity on clean air and clean water,” Moore said. “The fear is that we might be facing some burdensome regulations.”
“We expect water law to be a big issue in the Legislature. There are some legislators who would like to rewrite Oregon law governing water rights from the headwaters to the ocean,” Moore said.
“We are so dependent on water in Eastern Oregon; we need to keep an eye on it,” Moore said. “The OCA is working proactively to represent members, so if new water law comes out, we understand it, and it is not just sent down the river by legislators in the Willamette Valley.”
Given the decline in state and national tax revenues stemming from the economic downturn, Moore said the state is facing a $1.3 billion budget shortfall, so he expects action on budget cuts, as well as potential tax and fee increases, to be a focal point for the 2009 Legislature.
“Every state agency has been told by the governor’s office to generate new budget cuts,” Moore said. “We’ll be watching the impacts on the agencies we work with, like the Oregon Department of Agriculture.”
Funding for programs designed to protect animal health are important to the cattle industry, and the OCA will fight to preserve funds for those and other programs important to the cattle industry.
Moore said budget cuts could also serve as an impediment to new regulations opposed which the cattle industry and other agriculture groups oppose.
“If legislation is proposed for new regulatory programs, they’re going to have to come up with funding for them,” he said. “That won’t be easy with the budget shortfall.”
A key message the OCA will be asking legislators to keep in mind is that the cattle industry is an important part of the state and national economy that should be nurtured, protected and promoted instead of being regulated to the brink of extinction, as happened to Oregon’s once-thriving timber industry.
Moore said he’d like westside legislators to spend some time in Eastern Oregon getting to know the people and learning about the perspectives of cattlemen and other eastside residents on natural resource issues before casting votes on regulations.
“The cattle industry makes a huge contribution to the state and national economy, providing wildlife habitat and open space, but we need to make a buck to stay in business and keep doing that,” Moore said.
With a Democratic governor and president, and Democrats controlling both houses of the state Legislature and Congress, Moore said, “the big fear is that we might be facing some burdensome regulations” that spell doom for America’s cattle industry.
“Hopefully they will represent everyone, not just the biggest cities,” Moore said.