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GMO DEBATE: Good Neighbor Farmers PAC
Ian Tolleson -- spokesperson for Oregon Farm Bureau and Good Neighbors Farmer PAC
QUESTION: How are you involved with the Oregon Farm Bureau and Good Neighbors Farmer PAC? What are the organizations trying to do with Measure 15-119?
-- We are trying to defeat the measure. We feel that all forms of agriculture are important and we want that available to all farmers in Jackson County.
QUESTION: What has the campaign been like? What are the struggles? Who have you been talking to?
-- We've been talking to a lot of people, the campaign's been going well. We were out at auctions last weekend, had a lot of people giving away signs and we got rid of all of the signs we brought. So, it's been going great. We have the websites up at protectoregonfarmers.com, Facebook. We're getting out some commercials, some radio ads -- all in all, we're plugging away, getting some pretty good results and getting our message out there.
QUESTION: What has been the response to your campaign?
-- I think by-and-large the response has been great. A lot of people don't know what a GMO is, so it's been a lot of education, which I think is a great opportunity for us. A lot of people are asking some questions, a lot of good questions. It's just an opportunity to engage people and let them know why we're here and what this is about and what the risks are for not only agriculture, but for Jackson County voters with the costs that can be incurred.
QUESTION: So, what are the risks and the costs?
-- The risks are private property risks, having people come on to farms, having crop, I'll say crop police get out there and tell people what they can and can not farm. I think the risks to Jackson County residents overall is just the cost to the county. Danny Jordan said the cost may be up to $219,000 a year. For the first year there are some abatement costs that are higher. These Southern Oregon counties, such as Jackson County, that are already struggling with revenues, I just don't know if that's a cost that they can afford now at this moment.
QUESTION: Some farmers are concerned the GMO seeds can ruin their crops and make it so they aren't truly organic.
-- Cross-pollination is a big issue in this campaign, but I think it's important to know that cross-pollination has always been an issue for the last 10,000 years of farming. Whatever type of technology a farmer uses, there's always that risk. Genetically engineered crops have only been around since 1996, so that's a new risk. However, the United States Department of Agriculture, their organic program allows for some inorganic material in their crops. So, [farmers] don't lose organic certification and, quite frankly, it's rather disingenuous to say that they're going to be harmed when those crops have an allowable presence of genetically engineered material in their crops.
QUESTION: Talk about how much money has been raised for the campaign. (See campaign contributions HERE)
-- Yeah, so when we started the campaign we knew it was going to cost resources, we didn't know exactly how much, we didn't know how much we were going to get. But it's been a pleasant surprise to see agricultural interests from across the whole country. Agriculture is really a small knit community. We look out for one another and when there is a perceived risk to one of our family members, all of them step up. And I think that's what you're seeing in this campaign. We have a lot of grower money, beet organizations, farm bureaus from not only across Oregon, their different counties, but across the state. So, there's really all aspects of agriculture who say "you know what? This isn't right. There's a risk here and we don't feel you can pit one form of agriculture against another." I think that's what you're seeing now.
QUESTION: What's your experience with farms?
-- I grew up kind of in a rural part of Springfield and I was constantly working on cattle ranches with my friend and his family. So, whether it's getting the hay out or feeding the cows or what have you, inbetween that and football practice or school, i did that a lot. My family is heavily involved in forestry and then I've been working with Oregon Farm Bureau for quite some time. I've seen it on the ground and at the policy level.
QUESTION: What do you think this will come down to as far as the debate and measure? What will be some of those key components and the deciding factor?
-- I think the main important thing is the cost. Do Jackson County residents want to pay for crop police or do they want to pay for county services such as public safety, veterans services, libraries. I think that's what it's going to really boil down to. There's always that old adage that you vote with your pocket book and I think this is where this comes in to play.
QUESTION: How has the campaign opposition been?
-- It's been great. We haven't seen them a whole lot. We're trying to set up some debates with them, so hopefully they'll respond. We'll get a good venue and time for that to happen. We definitely look forward to talking about our story because we think we have a really important story to tell. There's been farmers and ranchers in this area that have been doing great work for a long time and we would like to see that continue.
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