Tag: Oregon (page 2 of 4)

Leadership: A Family Tradition

by Mitch Lies

From left to right: Neal, Pamela, daugther Lauren Lucht

From left to right: Neal, Pamela, daugther Lauren Lucht

For Pamela Lucht, providing leadership to community and agricultural organizations is a family tradition.

Pamela, administrative manager for the family’s business, Northwest Transplants in Molalla, has served as treasurer on several boards and committees over the years, including six years as the Molalla FFA Alumni Chapter’s treasurer.

Recently, she took over as treasurer for Oregon Aglink.

“(Oregon Aglink Executive Director) Geoff Horning asked me if I would do it, and I said yes, because there was a need and I believe in what Oregon Aglink is doing,” Pamela said.

Her commitment to Oregon Aglink adds to the Lucht family’s legacy of leadership that dates back to Charlie Lucht, father of her husband, Neal.

Neal, president of the Oregon FFA Foundation and chairman of the Molalla River School District’s Board of Directors, tells a story about how he once asked Charlie why he participated in so many boards and committees.

“He looked at me incredulously and said: ‘Who else would you have do it?’ Leadership happens,” Neal said. “If the right people don’t choose to, the wrong people will. There is never an option for no leadership.’”

In addition to serving as treasurer of Oregon Aglink, Pamela and her farm participate in the organization’s popular Adopt a Farmer program.

“The Adopt a Farmer program is relatively new to us,” Pamela said, “and we are really excited about it.”

“My favorite thing is just seeing the kids get engaged and ask questions, and seeing the lightbulb come on when they start to understand the process,” said Neal and Pamela’s daughter, Lauren, who is the marketing director for Northwest Transplants.

“It is really fun to see that lightbulb come on,” added Neal, “to see that connection that somebody actually grows everything I eat.”

“I hope we are inspiring some entrepreneurship among some of those kids, too,” Pamela said.

That spirit of entrepreneurship has long been present in Northwest Transplants. The business started with just 11 greenhouses when Neal and Pamela purchased it from the Lucht family’s Crestview Farms in 1990.

Today Northwest Transplants operates 92 greenhouses, moving about 80 million seedlings a year through the operation.

The business’s origin came from the realization that the transplant technology they provide offers many benefits to producers, especially as the industry and consumer needs began to change.

“When I was growing up, we worked with transplants, but typically in old technologies,” Neal said. “We’d looked at other areas of the country and appreciated how they utilized their greenhouse plug-tray plants for field planting. But the management and production logistics had never really been thought out for the production of a variety of crops in our temperate climate.”

The farm sought advice from Oregon State Extension advisors and others, but found that no one had answers.

“They told us we really just couldn’t do it here,” Neal said. “So we spent three years working on solving the program of what combination of greenhouse management and technologies could be made into a commercial seedling production venture. We developed some of our own concepts on climate modification and greenhouse management to fit our economic resource of a seasonal climate.”

“Now we grow over 300 varieties of crops each year,” Lauren said, “including everything from medicinal herbs, such as stinging nettle, to traditional cold crops and crops that thrive in specific environments, like peppers and sweet potato.”

Although Northwest Transplants operates solely on a contract basis, its business model includes much more than simply taking orders from farmers.

“Many times we have to look at what growing trends are out there. How might we impact those crop systems for the future? What technologies can we bring with our ability to control climate to affect the outcome of that particular crop and affect its profitability?” Neal said.

“We do our research, and many times take it to our customers,” he added. ‘We are constantly managing our relationships with our customers, rather than just sitting back and waiting for a contract. We’ve always tried to stay focused on how can we grow the success of a particular grower and improve profitability on their farm.”

Northwest Transplants works with about 200 growers, both large and small, Neal said. The farm produces plugs in unique soil mixtures that are tailored for individual crops. The ingredients in their blends are sourced from all over the world. The organic mixture they produce, for example, calls for peat moss from Northeast Canada, vermiculite from South Africa or China, and another ingredient, which Neal wouldn’t reveal, from Northwest Canada.

Northwest Transplants today is in the process of completing what Neal described as the final phase of maxing out the capacity of the operation’s existing 20-acre site. The family farm recently purchased a 100-acre site across the street from its operation, which the family plans to use, at least in part, for production agriculture.

One thing certain to be in the mix for the Lucht family’s future is a continued emphasis on providing leadership to community and agricultural organizations.

“We are just really passionate about giving back,” said Lauren, who is a member of Oregon Aglink’s Adopt a Farmer Committee. “If you have the capability to lead, we believe you have the responsibility.”

 

Labels Matter. Unless They Don’t.

geoff horning oregon aglinkMy first reaction was one of relief. Then it was the fear of the unknown and then even a little bit of depression. Of course, the depression may have been a result of the lackluster performance of the Oregon Ducks on the gridiron.

My life changed forever on September 8, 2015. During the previous two weeks I had lost nearly 20 pounds of muscle mass. I felt fine, or so I thought. But, I was shrinking and it was starting to scare me. I was convinced I was dying of cancer. At the urging of friends I decided denial was the incorrect path and went to the doctor.

Good news. It wasn’t cancer. The diagnosis, however, shocked me. I was active, ate modestly healthy and certainly wasn’t obese by any definition. Still, my blood sugar was so high my doctor suspects that if I had remained in denial, they would have found me in a coma within a couple of weeks. The diagnosis: type 2 diabetes, likely triggered by an allergic reaction I had earlier in the year to an antibiotic for a sinus infection.

Though I knew a few people with diabetes, I really didn’t know anything about the disease other than “don’t eat sweets.” Oh, how simplistic and incorrect that statement is.

I’ll be honest. I’d never paid attention to labels before. To me they were all just a marketing ploy. Now, before I purchase anything I’m looking for specific things such as carbohydrates, fiber and sodium. Is it really whole grain, or has it been processed and simply labeled as a wheat product? What’s the serving size? Does it have good fat or bad fat?

I’m lucky. In a very short amount of time I was able to get my diabetes under control through diet and exercise. Still, every single time I eat or drink something I have to pay attention and know these answers. My life literally depends upon it. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

I’m not alone. There are hundreds of legitimate health reasons why people need to pay attention to the food they consume. The label is an important tool that helps us live healthy and productive lives.

Labels matter. Unless they don’t.

Millions upon millions of dollars are being spent throughout the United States in an effort to ensure our food is labeled if GMO technology is being used. Huh? What? I’m perplexed. Other than fear of not understanding, am I missing something?

In fact, I’m insulted. I need accurate food labels to maintain my health. Telling me it’s a Genetically Modified Organism literally tells me nothing at all. GMO is a term used for a process and not a specific product. It has multiple applications. If I wasn’t informed, I would think that it’s a specific product that I need to watch for. An unscientific study on my Facebook page indicated exactly that. Or worse.

Consumers who don’t want to eat genetically modified foods can already buy non-GMO food, which is clearly labeled and has become a thriving niche industry. Heck, on a recent trip through my local Fred Meyer garden center I stumbled across their marketing of GMO free herbs. Seriously? But a growing chorus says that’s not enough: Critics of GMOs want all food that uses genetically modified ingredients to be labeled as well, despite the lack of scientific evidence that the distinction carries any difference.

In recent weeks, in order to comply with a Vermont law that requires labeling by July 1, major food manufacturers like ConAgra Foods, General Mills and Kellogg’s amongst others announced plans to label food items that have GMOs, despite being opposed to the Vermont legislation. They argue that a federal standard, not a patchwork of state laws, should be the norm.

While I can understand their decision, I disagree wholeheartedly. As somebody who now understands the importance of knowing what’s in his food, a GMO label of any kind is not providing me with any beneficial information and is simply creating an atmosphere of fear at a time when we’re going to need science more than ever to feed the world. The epidemic of scaring people about their food may have larger consequences than the diabetes epidemic sweeping across America.

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Geoff Horning, Executive Director

Oregon Agriculture Needs to Be More Proactive

geoff horningWhen it comes to being a fan of sports, I’m a pessimist. After 44 years of second place finishes, I expect my heart to be broken. I tend to live the rest of my life, though, as an optimist. A belief that common sense will rule the day. Listening to the political debates and testimony on the 400+ bills in Salem’s “short” session, I’m starting to think that common sense is being thrown out with the baby and the bath water.

Many of the issues have no impact on your ability to produce the food and fiber that are basic needs of everybody, but so many of them have unintended consequences that I fear we’re driving the family farmer out of business.

Oregon Aglink has taken great strides over the past several years to tell your story. Others, such as Oregon Women for Ag, Oregon Ag Fest, Farmers Ending Hunger, to name just a few, are doing a magnificent job of telling your story as well. It’s not hard to find positive publicity for an industry that is still the very foundation of this State.

Are we making progress? Absolutely. If you sit down and have a conversation with the majority of Oregonians I think you’ll find most are very respectful, almost reverent about the lifestyle and important role of local producers.

But (there’s always a but), those same Oregonians typically shrug their shoulders at the issues and challenges facing our industry. It’s not because they are mean spirited or even ignorant. They truly do trust you to feed their family. It has much more to do with the fact that they are so consumed with their busy lives that they don’t take the time to know what’s going on outside of their small community. They don’t care about the things that impact your ability to produce their food and fiber.

What they do learn comes from sound bites and social media. And, guess who has the funding resources and the loudest megaphone to dictate that message in Oregon? It’s definitely not the natural resources community. That leads to poor legislation and a constituency that thinks good things are happening because “it feels like the right thing to do.”

Research conducted by Oregon Aglink is very clear. The general public trusts the farmer more than anybody in the food chain. If I’m out telling your story by myself, you might as well hire a used car salesman to do my job. My credibility with the general public isn’t much better. Why? Because it’s perceived that I’m a hired gun only out for a paycheck. That’s not true, but perception is reality.

The good news is that Oregon Aglink is focused on making you the face of Oregon agriculture. Throughout 2016 we’ll be running a series of television commercials in Portland, Eugene and Medford. The entire focus of the “I am Oregon Agriculture” campaign will be about making a connection with Oregonians that local agriculture is made up of 98 percent family farms. With farm families telling that story.

The Adopt a Farmer Program, now in 47 schools and reaching almost 5,000 middle school students throughout Oregon, was specifically designed with the idea of connecting those students with one particular farmer throughout the school year. An emphasis of the program is putting a focus on the people and families who make up the farm.

Will these programs have instant impact? Probably not. We’ve got to play the long game, but to do that we need all of you to become more proactive. Get involved. Tell your story through us, or through one of the other great organizations that represents you. We have to make you the face of our industry before the family farm becomes extinct.

Growing and Developing Adopt a Farmer in the Classroom

Sprouts, buds, blossoms and baby animals – it’s that time of year again for growth and development. This is also true for the Adopt a Farmer program. Looking to wrap up its fifth school year, Adopt a Farmer classroom activities are the most varied and thought-provoking ever.

While this reflects the variety of Oregon agriculture represented in Adopt a Farmer, it also is a testament to our farmers’ creativity, flexibility and excitement about participating in the program.

rancher keith nantz in the classroom

Rancher Keith at Scott School in North Portland

One of the most popular activities is the Farming Simulation game where groups of students allocate wheat, perennial ryegrass, sweet corn, green beans and strawberries across 1,000 acres and then calculate their projected income. Next, students roll the dice and their farmer reads the outcomes of their crops based on their dice roll so they can calculate their actual profit or loss. Students discuss risk and reward, local and global economics, and realize the importance of diversification in farming. One of our adopted farmers modified the crops in this simulation to include hazelnuts, canola, wine grapes, while another even made a new version for nurseries. One to reflect a cow-calf operation and decision-making is in the works!

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Students work on graphing milk production at Beach School in North Portland

“What’s wrong with that cow?” exclaimed a student in Marcela Zivcovik’s sixth grade classroom at Beach School in North Portland. Chris Eggert of Mayfield Dairy in Aurora was leading a graphing activity based on milk production. Students compared their four graphs and noticed one cow’s production had declined significantly over a 7-day period. Farmer Chris then helped students brainstorm reasons why her milk production may have declined. They thought she may be a smaller animal, sick or stressed. Farmer Chris talked about how he uses technology to help keep a tab on animal health.

turf buddies in the classroom

Farmer Denver makes turf buddies with St. Paul School students

During the initial years of the program, most farm-school pairs made Turf Buddies and played the Farm Simulation. This school year alone, we have had more than 16 different activities done in more than 40 classrooms across the state! Ranging from energy, physical versus chemical change and soil health to farm-to-table webs and Oregon ag smell tests, students are connecting what they are reading about in textbooks with the real world, on the farm.

helle ruddenklau adopt a farmer

Farmer Helle visits with students at Yamhill-Carlton Intermediate School

Flexibility is one of the biggest strengths of the Adopt a Farmer program. Combining the needs of the classroom with the resources of the farm and farmer is allowing the program to grow and develop to accommodate the great diversity of Oregon agriculture with the variety of grade and achievement levels in schools across the state.

The Weather, The Economy and Economic Espionage

By Mitch Lies

Photos by Mallory Phelan

andres bergero bank of the westHigh consumer confidence supported by high home values and cheap oil provide an opportune time for agribusinesses to expand, according to a Bank of the West vice president to speak at Oregon Aglink’s annual meeting, Jan. 21 in Woodburn.

Andres Bergero, vice president and foreign exchange sales manager of Bank of the West’s Capital Markets Division, added that he expects the elements favoring expansion to remain in place for at least the next two years.

“These are the times to think about expansion, because right now, you can ride that wave of consumer confidence,” Bergero said. “You can expand because you’ll know the consumers will be there.

myron miles annual meeting“With oil prices down, American consumers are spending more, and that it not going to stop,” he said. “This parade has two to three years to go before it changes. That is how long a major change in the economy would take to deflect the consumer direction.

“The U.S. is poised to have a really good year in 2016 and 2017, as well,” he said.

Bergero’s presentation was part of a slate that included a look at how El Nino is influencing weather and insights into economic espionage.

In addition to propping up consumer confidence, Bergero said low oil prices also are lowering transportation costs for farmers, providing another good opportunity for farm expansion.

Bergero added that with Iran coming into the market, with Saudi Arabia maintaining production levels and with declining demand, he believes oil prices will stay low.

“Your cost, your margins for delivering and receiving goods are as low as they’ve been in a long, long time,” he said. “It’s time to think about what else can you do? What more can you do? What more markets can you reach?”

One element hampering economic prosperity in the farm sector is the strong U.S. dollar, Bergero said. Coupled with high unemployment in much of Europe, a relatively weak Chinese yuan and a volatile Chinese stock market, exporters “are not in the driver’s seat,” Bergero said.

Bergero added that the economic situation in China may trend lower, and that further Bank of China monitory actions may occur, including further rate cuts and even additional Yuan devaluations.molly mccarger annual meeting

“They are struggling,” he said, “and that chaos and lack of confidence in the market will continue to erode.

“I think the situation is much dire than they are predicting, and the yuan will continue to go down,” he said. “In fact, China is talking about another 5 to 10 percent devaluation of their currency.”

In Europe, Spain is experienced an unemployment rate of 25 percent, he said, and that’s not counting young adults from the age of 19 to 26. “Add that, and unemployment is closer to 40 percent,” he said, “and it is not that much different in Portugal.

“The only good light in the Eurozone is Germany,” he said. “They continue to export and to build.”

Bergero closed his presentation by advising participants to “look for low-hanging fruit to help fix whatever short-comings you may have. You should think about what can I do differently now, knowing that the consumers will be there in the next 12 to 24 months, knowing that interest rates will be low, knowing that oil will be low and knowing that the dollar is strong,” he said.

IMGJon Sorenson, a special agent with the FBI in Portland, followed Bergero’s presentation with tips for farm businesses to avoid economic espionage.

“You might think you won’t be targeted,” Sorenson said, “but you should realize you are a target.”

Intellectual property theft can result in lost revenue, lost jobs and damaged reputations, Sorenson said.

Among best practices Sorenson shared with meeting participants was to recognize your business’ vulnerability and to fix those risks.

“Make sure you have virus-scanning software,” Sorenson said. “Make sure you have firewalls. Make sure you destroy or wipe out any information on a hard drive before giving it back to a vendor or donating it.”

He advised businesses to conduct annual training to educate employees about risks.

“Have periodic training to remind employees of security threats that are out there,” Sorenson said. “And establish a reporting program, so that if someone has a suspicious contact or they click on an email and are afraid they got a virus on their computer, they have a path they can take to report it.”

When traveling to a foreign country, Sorenson advised participants to be careful about leaving items in hotel rooms that contain sensitive information.

“I have heard stories where people have left computers in their rooms, and people have accessed their computers by entering their rooms,” he said. “When traveling, make sure you keep computers and cellphones with you.”

When hosting a tour group, be aware that surreptitious individuals can access offices, plug a thumb drive into a computer, and download sensitive information.

Sorenson urged participants to call the FBI with any problems or questions.

“So many countries like to cut corners and steal what we have manufactured just to keep up with us,” he said. “Our job with the FBI is to try to help producers – whether it is ranchers, businesses, farmers – stop that economic espionage from happening.

“If you have problems or questions, please don’t hesitate to call the FBI and we’ll work with you to try to figure the whole situation out,” he said.

Sorenson was followed by Andy Bryant, a hydrologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Portland.andy bryant NOAA hydrologist

Bryant said that as of mid-January, snowpack in most of Oregon was about 10 percent higher than average, and in some areas, 80 percent higher.

That is in stark contrast to last year, when snowpack was at record low levels in much of Oregon, primarily due to high temperatures.

“Starting in December and January of last winter, all the way through the summer, we had very high temperatures,” Bryant said. “Typically, we were four to ten degrees above average on a monthly basis for much of the state.”

Between June 1 and Aug. 31 of last year, Bryant said the city of Portland broke the previous record for average daily high temperature by more than two degrees.

“Typically, when we break a record like that over the course of two or three months, we maybe break it by a tenth or two of a degree,” he said. “So it was a very significant period of hot weather.”

Bryant said to expect precipitation to slow in the spring, given that Oregon typically experiences warmer and drier than average spring conditions during El Nino.

“I know we’ve been wet, but we’ll see what things look like once we go all the way through March and April,” Bryant said.

“We’re not expecting a lot of precipitation, based on previous El Ninos,” he said.

He added that the outlook is for above-average temperatures continuing into the summer months.

“What we had last summer was really extreme, so we’re not expecting a repeat of that, but the overall trend is for above-average temperatures,” he said.

As for the water-supply forecast, he said to expect ample supplies in much of the state. The Willamette River at Salem, for example, is looking at about 90 percent of average, he said. “That is slightly below average, but for our needs here in the Willamette Valley, it would be plenty of water.”

Looking further out, Bryant said that forecasters are expecting a La Nina event to take place next year, which typically brings cooler and wetter temperatures in the Pacific Northwest.

 

Fourth Generation Farm Girl

By Mitch Lies

Lori & BrotherAs U.S. citizens drift further from the farm, efforts to educate urban residents about the economic, environmental and social benefits of agriculture become more valuable. That is the sentiment of Lori Pavlicek, the new president of Oregon Aglink and self-described “fourth-generation farm girl from Mount Angel.”

As president, Pavlicek said she hopes to continue growing the organization’s signature programs, including Adopt a Farmer and the Road Crop Signs, in an effort to keep with Oregon Aglink’s aim to educate urban Oregonians about agriculture.

She singled out the Adopt a Farmer program as particularly important.

“Bringing farms to urban kids who don’t have any idea of what farming is about is an integral part of our organization, and extremely important,” Pavlicek said.

The Road Crop Signs program she said also is invaluable in keeping agriculture in front of urban residents.

“It makes people look out and realize, ‘Oh, we’re in an ag area. I wonder what they grow here,’” she said. “It helps get people thinking about agriculture and where it is being done.”

Pavlicek also singled out Denim & Diamonds as a key event she plans to focus on during her tenure, both because of its fund-raising capacity and because it serves as an opportunity to recognize individuals and organizations that have excelled in advocating agriculture to Oregonians. The 2016 awards dinner and auction is scheduled Friday, November 18 at the Oregon Convention Center.

Pavlicek comes by her advocacy for agriculture naturally. The mother of two grew up working the family’s farm, 4B Farms, Inc., and continues to do so today, serving as office manager. She co-owns the farm with her brother, Jeff Butsch, and parents, Jim and Donna Butsch. (Pavlicek’s husband, Derek, is from an agricultural community, but works for Daimler Trucks North America.)

Pavlicek holds a bachelor’s of science degree in business from George Fox College in Newberg, and she has experience in helping start and manage a yogurt store in Tualatin. She came back to the farm in 1988 when the former office manager left the position.

The diverse farm raises hops, garlic, grass seed, filberts, squash for seed, beans and corn, among other crops.

Pavlicek’s commitment to community goes beyond her advocacy for agriculture. She also is president of the Mount Angel Community Foundation and is secretary of the Providence-Benedictine Nursing Center Board.

Pavlicek also served eighteen years on the Mount Angel Oktoberfest Board of Directors, before taking over as president of the foundation in 2010.

“I believe in community involvement,” she said. “If you don’t support your community, than you can’t expect anyone else to.”

Pavlicek said she is attracted to Oregon Aglink because of its commitment to promote the business, education and social benefits of agriculture.

“Farmers can be too busy to get involved in the promotion of agriculture, so I took an interest in that early on,” Pavlicek said. “That is where I gravitated to.”

Pavlicek also likes that Oregon Aglink stays out of politics. “It doesn’t take sides, which I think is important,” she said. “It is all about awareness of where food and fiber comes from and educating urban residents about the state’s natural resources.”

Geoff Horning, executive director of Oregon Aglink said he is excited to have Pavlicek leading the organization.

“Lori is such a great listener. She is not the most vocal person in a meeting, because she’s busy listening to the various points of view,” Horning said. “When she does speak, however, everybody in the room pays attention, because they know she’s heard the conversation from every angle and is making an informed decision or recommendation.

“We’re excited to have her leading our association over the next year,” he said.

Pavlicek, meanwhile, said she is honored to be serving as president in this, the 50th year of the organization. “This year we will be celebrating Oregon Aglink, which has been 50 years in the making,” Pavlicek said. “I’m honored to be selected as president and look forward to serving the organization in the upcoming year and beyond.”

A Subject That Has More Teeth Than Less

Lori PavlicekAs I’m sitting in an airport pondering what direction I want to take my first editorial with the newly minted Oregon Aglink, I’m overhearing people complain about their overbooked and delayed flights, seating that is too tight, and the lively debate about the Presidential race.  I would be a fool to take on the pros and cons of the election, and that topic definitely doesn’t fall under the “Warm and Fuzzy” category, but the airline complaints stem from the fact that more people are traveling and there are fewer flights to get them where they need to go. Sadly, it isn’t going to get any better.

With my first column I want to focus on a more positive, quality verses quantity, subject. Something true Oregonians would understand.  As I mull this thought around, I start to think about the number of people moving into Oregon.  Why wouldn’t they? We don’t get hit with devastating fluctuations in weather or natural catastrophes on a regular basis. Despite the drought of 2015, we still have plenty of water in most places, which leads to all sorts of great outdoor opportunities and a great farming environment. People are drawn to our rural charm. Our state has a lot going for it.  But, Oregon isn’t the only state with population growth; data shows we will be expected to feed more than 9 billion people by 2050. That’s only 34 years from now!

This topic has teeth, especially looking at it from a producer’s point of view.  How do we plan to accomplish this feat of producing enough food and fiber with limited availability of land, water, plant protectants, and having to work under constant scrutiny and constraints?  Granted, technology will play a major role, but we as business owners have to work on our image. Perception is reality, and right now our perceived perception to the public is mixed at best. Working with the Adopt a Farmer program has opened my eyes to the fact we have a long ways to go.  The good news, though, is that whether it’s our Adopt a Farmer program, or FFA and Ag in the Classroom, we are hitting the very ages we need to engage.  These grass roots efforts have an easy story to tell if we get behind them with our financial and intellectual support.  We need to enlighten the naïve and misinformed.  Remember, there is going to be more and more of the misinformed as the years go by, so we have to start now.

Organizations such as Oregon Aglink, the Oregon Farm Bureau, Oregon Women for Ag, or any of the other hard working organizations that dedicate their time to getting our voice heard, are here to serve you. Help us help you!

As you know, it will be an uphill battle for the Natural Resource Industry and for anyone dedicated to creating food and fiber, to gain a foothold.  Thirty-four years is not that long so we need to start the pendulum swinging our direction.

In spite of the microscope we live under, I’m optimistic for the future of agriculture.  I see progress being made in technology, and in the classroom.   Oregon Aglink is working hard at “cultivating common ground” between farmers and the urban consumer, along with putting a face on the family farm.  We represent a pretty cool industry. That is something to smile about.  🙂

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Lori Pavlicek, 4B Farms

Oregon Aglink

geoff horningEven simple change can be difficult. I had a friend in college who simply couldn’t function if she didn’t have a specific type of pen to write with. Perhaps she was onto something, as today she’s one of the most successful persons I know both professionally and personally.

How difficult is change? I just texted her to inquire about her pen of choice. She sent me back a photo of her holding that same pen. Some things change, and some things stay the same. I can’t help but laugh at this little idiosyncrasy even today.

Now imagine changing a brand that is 50-years-old and has name recognition throughout the industry. It’s not a decision that comes lightly, or without more than a few conversations. It took us nine years of discussions before we pulled the trigger, but times are changing, and so are we.

At Denim & Diamonds, ABC President Molly McCargar announced to the more than 550 present that the Agri-Business Council of Oregon is now officially doing business as Oregon Aglink.

Why? While the decision is complex, the answer is fairly simple.

When the Agri-Business Council of Oregon was founded in 1966, our industry was still revered by most people, even those who live in Portland, Eugene and Salem. They may not have understood natural resources, but they appreciated and respected the work that was being done. Even in urban settings, being a farmer or rancher was a very noble profession. Agri-business was a term universally respected.

Today? Outside of natural resource circles, not so much.

Agri-business is looked at through a lens of distrust by most Oregonians. Research conducted a couple years ago by the Agri-Business Council of Oregon showed that those in urban centers trusted the individual farmer, but agri-business was not trustworthy, and in fact was deemed as corrupt and almost evil.

Now imagine being members of the Agri-Business Council of Oregon. Our spokespeople are the very farmers and ranchers who are universally beloved and respected. Yet, when representing a link between producers and the consumers – the name of the organization was getting in the way of the message.

The Adopt a Farmer program provides our industry with an awesome opportunity to have in-depth conversations with students, teachers and parents. Many of the conversations revolve around pesticide application, the debate surrounding GMO technology and the safety of our food. The depth of their questions are sincere. Rarely with a hint of malice. They just want to be informed.

More and more people want to know where their food and fiber comes from, how it was produced, and even the famous Portlandia skit isn’t too far off. Some do want to know what the name of their chicken is that they’re about to eat. When having that conversation the board of directors decided it’s time to soften our presentation. We want to be that trusted link for the consumer to come to. We want to be that comfortable pen that you can’t live without.

We are the Oregon Aglink.

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Going the Extra Mile

by Heather Burson

NORPACThe phrase ‘a friend in need is a friend indeed’ is one that is used to describe someone who’s always there whenever needed. Someone who goes the extra mile and genuinely cares about being there for others. In Oregon’s vegetable processing industry, the equivalent is a person who dedicates their career to helping Oregon’s vegetable growers achieve success. Putting in the time to do whatever they can to boost sales and move product locally and around the world. That person is Chuck Palmquist. Today, Palmquist is vice president of sales and services at NORPAC. It is the culmination of a 42-year journey, the seeds of which were planted long before this.

In fact, Palmquist’s career happens to be the continuation of a very familiar subject. “I have always been around farmers and farming,” Palmquist says. Palmquist grew up on a small farm near Mt. Angel, where his dad grew hops, grain and boysenberries, among other things. From an early age he was either helping out on the farm or helping pick crops like green beans and strawberries. Later on, Palmquist attended Oregon State University where this experience helped lead him towards graduation with a degree in food science and technology.

He went on from there to land his first job at Stayton Canning Company in 1973 as a quality assurance supervisor. This job involved “being on a production shift, making sure that everything we did met all our requirements in terms of food safety and quality,” says Palmquist. Palmquist spent four years at Stayton Canning Company, then pursued a series of other jobs culminating in his return to Stayton Canning Company in 1983 as a production shift supervisor. Three years after his return, the consortium of seven companies that made up North Pacific Canners and Packers had dwindled down, leaving Stayton Canning Company as the only one left. Seizing an opportunity, they took the North Pacific Canners and Packers name as their own and changed it to the acronym NORPAC.

At this time, Palmquist found himself moving on through a series of other job titles at NORPAC, starting with repack scheduling manager. Special projects manager was next, and it was during this time that NORPAC’s Hermiston plant was built. Palmquist became its engineering manager. Then, in 1996, NORPAC had acquired Stone Mill Foods and he became its general manager for two years. When Stone Mill Foods sold, Palmquist came back as the manager of NORPAC’s packing facility.

“This was probably my favorite,” Palmquist says, “the day-to-day seeing something produced, there’s a lot of satisfaction in that.”

He remained in this position until the president of NORPAC’s sales agency, located in Lake Oswego, retired in 2007. When this happened, Palmquist became general manager of NORPAC’s sales agency office. An office NORPAC held until everything was consolidated to its current location in 2014. Palmquist transitioned to vice president of sales and services in 2009, and has remained in this position ever since. It’s one he’s proud to serve in as “part of this organization, owned by 240 family farmers.” Yet also, a role he remains humble about. “Our mission in life is to give them (farmers) access to the marketplace and we remember that every day. My role is to be part of that whole organization and keep that going,” Palmquist says. Others, like NORPAC grower Molly McCargar of Pearmine Farms, would say Palmquist has done way more than that.

“Chuck is a hardworking guy who has a big role in the outcome of the crops we grow,” says McCargar, “Providing market access for our vegetables is what he does, and if he wasn’t doing it, then, well let’s just say, I’d probably have a lot of inventory.”
McCargar first met Palmquist about 10 years ago at a NORPAC annual meeting, and they continued to cross paths. Located close to NORPAC, Pearmine Farms became a frequent stop on tours for current and potential buyers of NORPAC products. An occurrence that led McCargar to ask Palmquist to accompany her on an Adopt a Farmer classroom visit in 2011. Not long after, he joined McCargar on ABC’s Board of Directors where he has remained to this day.

Cindy Cook, of Cook Family Farms, met Palmquist in much the same way. As a grower for NORPAC, she got to know him through Cook Family Farms’ relationship with NORPAC over the past 10 years. At the same time, much like McCargar, she’s also gotten to know him as a fellow ABC board member and friend. “He is a stable presence on the ABC board,” Cook says, “always willing to support and provide vegetable products for Denim & Diamonds and other functions.” McCargar adds that, “If there was ever a need for something from Chuck, he was right there to ask and get it.”

Indeed, Palmquist’s time at NORPAC has been more than just changes of positions, or giving farmers access to the marketplace. It has led to and solidified many friendships he will miss as he prepares to retire next year. Retirement, for Palmquist, holds many things, catching up with friends who’ve already retired, volunteering, and spending more time with his wife Sara, their four sons and their grandchild. Although he looks forward to these and other adventures, he will always be grateful for his time spent at NORPAC. “It’s been a great place to work. I’ve had many great opportunities with NORPAC,” says Palmquist, “I’ve never gotten tired of what I did. I’ve really appreciated being part of this whole industry and working for NORPAC.”

Tis the Season to Start Tax Planning

By Curtis Sawyer, CPA and Eric Groves, CPA

As another year draws near to a close, we reflect on things that transpired in 2015 as we begin to plan for a full and prosperous new year. An important element of planning is a forward look at the coming tax season. To jumpstart a conversation with your tax professionals, here is a brief look at a few opportunities for tax savings.

Income Averaging for Federal Returns

Federal statutes allow farmers to spread a portion of their current year farming income equally over the three previous tax years. This treatment can make sense for any of the following reasons:

  • Your current year taxable income places you in a higher marginal tax bracket than prior years. Income earned at the higher rate can be applied retroactively to prior years with lower rates.
  • The farm income averaging election has not been utilized in earlier years. The IRS will let you amend prior years’ filings to capture those benefits.
  • Starting in 2013, high-income farmers saw an increase from 35 percent to 39.6 percent in the top tier of federal taxes. By averaging income back to 2012, you can take advantage of a 35 percent marginal rate on some of your earnings.
  • You anticipate higher income or higher tax rates in the future. Applying income averaging for 2012-2015 sets you up for profitable use of this treatment in future years.

IRS Schedule J captures the farm income averaging calculation. Your tax professionals can help you assess the benefits and provide the proper reporting.

Favorable Tax Treatment for Oregon Farmers

In a special election at the close of its 2013 session, the Oregon legislature granted a tax break for individuals who receive flow-through income from an active trade or business. Such flow-through income typically originates from an S-corporation or a multi-member limited liability company (LLC).

 

Amount of Pass-Through Income New Applicable Tax Rate Old Rate
Less than $250,000 7.00% 9.00%
$250,001 – $500,000 7.20%
$500,001 – $1,000,000 7.60%
$1,000,001 – $2,500,000 8.00%
$2,500,001 to $5,000,000 9.00%
More than $5,000,000 9.90% 9.90%

 

If your Oregon-based farm has already been organized as an S-corporation or a multi-member LLC, then you’ll enjoy lower Oregon tax rates in 2015. If not, you should consider whether the tax benefits offset the incremental effort to restructure your business. Your tax professionals can provide estimates of savings as well as ballpark figures for one-time and recurring costs.

Net Investment Income Tax

In the wake of the Affordable Care Act, Congress authorized the imposition of a 3.8 percent net investment income tax on individuals with significant modified adjusted gross income (AGI). In particular, once a married couple filing jointly reports AGI in excess of $250,000, a 3.8 percent incremental tax applies to all passive income beyond that threshold. Individuals cross the mark at $200,000.

If you are active in your farm business, there are two sources of investment income that can bypass this incremental tax. If you or an LLC in which you hold an interest owns the land and buildings on which the farm operates, then your “self-rental” income will not be subject to the 3.8 percent tax. In like fashion, if you serve as the farm’s creditor, then the interest income earned through this arrangement is not subject to the 3.8 percent tax. In both cases, the word ACTIVE plays a significant role in determining tax treatment. Your tax professionals can review the qualifications and help you assemble appropriate documentation to support your case. At a minimum, the following actions should be taken:

  • Prepare and execute an appropriate rental agreement between the property owner(s) and the farming business. Make sure that all rents align with fair market values.
  • Prepare and execute lending agreements to address monies loaned by individuals to the farming business. Use interest rates consistent with other creditors in the marketplace based on the type of loan, the duration, and risk assessment.
  • Where possible, incorporate a description of the role the property owner (or lender) plays in the ongoing management of the farm. This documentation strengthens the case for “active” participation.

Planning Ahead

We’ve highlighted just a few of the items that should be on your radar as you sit at the planning table with your tax professionals. Please contact us at (503)-620-4489 if you’d like to review these opportunities or discuss other options for tax savings.

 

Sawyer, Curtis 2015 Curtis Sawyer, CPA, has been providing tax compliance, planning and consulting services to his clients for nearly 10 years. He works closely with businesses across several industries with an emphasis on agriculture, farming, cooperatives, manufacturing and their owners. He also presents on topics including regulatory reform, the Affordable Care Acts, and tax savings strategies such as IC-DISCs.

 

AKT Lake Oswego Eric Groves, CPA, provides assurance services including audits, reviews and compilations to agriculture and farming, food processing, and manufacturing companies to help them achieve their goals. He also specializes in financial consulting and employee benefit plan audits for the firm.

 

 

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