I traveled to Washington, D.C. along with our OAN executive director, Jeff Stone, and the chairwoman of our Government Relations Committee, Leigh Geschwill of F & B Farms & Nursery. We were there to represent the Oregon Association of Nurseries, and to lobby for the needs and priorities of Oregon’s nursery industry.
This was my first trip to our nation’s capital and it was one of the best experiences of my professional life. We had a full docket of meetings lined up with key officials and members of Oregon’s Congressional delegation — 14 meetings in two days! There was not one cancellation. Each meeting was meaningful and laid the groundwork for future progress.
One of the main reasons for our success was the previous visits to D.C. that the OAN has made. Over many years of in-person meetings, the OAN has developed an ever-growing list of contacts and has built relationships with new, up-and-coming staff. This investment in time and relationships over the years ensures that our voice is heard by the right people, and they in turn can ensure our message is echoed in government.
In our face-to-face meetings, we covered several important topics.
One was a new trucking bill that would allow trucks to be loaded without having the time count against the driver’s maximum number of hours on the road.
Another was labor. We need a legal, available and willing workforce.
Finally, we invited many of the people to tour some of Oregon’s growing operations so they can make connections with businesses in their district (if applicable) and simply see what we do and what challenges we face. We will be following up with officials, so please let us know if you’re an OAN member and wish to host a tour.
One of my many takeaways from this experience was that the government is very large — not much of a surprise with that. It does demonstrate the importance of casting a wide net of connections. We can fill an important role by connecting and streamlining the communication between all entities. Just the sheer size of government alone shows how difficult this task of aligning parties to help our industry thrive.
Our voice needs to be heard. When we speak out, it makes a big difference. When Tom Fessler went to the Oregon Legislature to discuss the effects of the state’s proposed carbon tax legislation on his business, and all our businesses, it turned a lot of heads. People noticed and they listened.
It doesn’t mean we will prevail on this particular issue. At press time for this issue, it didn’t look great. Sometimes it’s about containing the damage, or just getting our objections on record. The effort on behalf of our growers and our industry is always necessary and worthwhile, nonetheless.
Thank you to all of you who make our industry strong and whose relentless support echoes over many years. Though our industry evolves, we will always need a few basic things — water, labor and sun.
I hope this is a great growing season for you that will yield the results you are looking for. Please remember to support or industry. If you are unsure of how to help, just reach out to us and the OAN office and we can connect you to make sure your voice is heard.