Friday, August 18, 2006

The Farm Bill is a burning issue … literally

By Elaine Shein

Time is ticking — anyone who wishes to submit formal input, as long as they want, into what they believe should be in the Farm Bill for 2007, from a Western point of view — has until this Sunday to do so. Other brief comments can be given beyond that date, following instructions found at

This week the Senator Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry held a Farm Bill Field Hearing in Redmond, Ore. (See for stories and audio clips).

One of the topics discussed was forestry, how it was affected by the 2002 Farm Bill and what changes should be made in future farm bills.

Some people in the audience noted that the speaker from the department of forestry had a longer speaking opportunity than the closely monitored maximum three minutes that other speakers had for their opening comments. There were 12 speakers in total that morning.

The chairman of the committee, Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said in a later interview that one of the reasons he was so interested and had so many questions on forestry was that a day earlier he saw forest fires first-hand. Senator Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) had flown in a helicopter with Chambliss and they covered a lot of ground, examining some of the fires as well as efforts to fight them.

It seemed appropriate that during the hearing at the South Sisters hall on the Deschutes Fair and Expo grounds, the roar of planes could be occasionally heard from the nearby airport as they took off to fight fires at nearby Lake George.

While the smoke could be detected at Redmond, it was much worse at Sisters, where it was noticeably hazy in the streets and was stinging the eyes. The longest lineups in town were at an outside bulletin board with fire information, and at the local homemade ice cream shop along the main road through town. It was obvious a lot of tourists, as well as local residents, wanted to know which areas were dangerous or no longer open to them.

Why should people care about what’s in the next Farm Bill? There are so many parts to it, not just supporting certain commodities. Part of it includes food stamps, school lunches, conservation programs, and yes, fighting fires. If people want to have a say on what should or shouldn’t be done on forestry lands to help prevent — or to salvage logs after — fires, they should also take the time to write in their opinions to the committee.

As for the parts of Oregon and other parts of the nation that are burning, good luck to the firefighters on the ground and also by air. May they be successful at the dangerous work they do, but also may they return safely to their homes later.

Links: Capital Press Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutritious and Forestry


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