Not so fast on SB 2327

Warning…political post ahead. But it’s worth a read, especially if you live in North Dakota.

I recently became aware of a bill that’s being pushed through the North Dakota legislature. And I’m not sure if the word “pushed” even gets close to describing how quickly it’s being hurried along. In fact, it only spent 90 minutes in committee on the Senate side before getting a “Do-Pass” recommendation. Not bad for a bill that’s 153 pages in length. (And yes, I’ve read the whole thing.)

Let me break down a few of my concerns:

  1. This bill creates, in essence, a state Environmental Protection Agency. I’m not sure yet if I’m for or against the creation of a state EPA, but I do know that it should take some time and thought in order to make sure it’s done right. Not just cut and paste certain sections of the existing century code and call it a day.
  2. This bill creates a new division of government. Yes, it’s true that there is already an existing Division of Environmental Health that exists under the Department of Health. This would take that department and make it its own division. Is there something wrong with the current system? Is there a benefit for the new division that we aren’t being made aware of? Grant dollars? Federal money? What’s the carrot for more government when a division already exists? I understand the desire to streamline. But when the department seems to be just a cut-and-paste model of what’s already in place…I don’t understand the point.

    All 153 pages of SB 2327 printed and reviewed.

  3. “Zero fiscal impact.” Come again? You’re going to create a new division of government…with no money? Yes, I know that the bill provides that “any special funds or accounts administered or under the control of the state department of health which relate to environmental quality functions transferred to the department of environmental quality must be transferred to the administration and control of the department of environmental quality.” (Engrossed Senate Bill No. 2327, lines 24-27, pg. 2) Which is a messy way of saying that any money appropriated for environmental stuff now moved into the new department will also be transferred to the department. But can you really start a new division of government with NO added expenses? Even if you just shuffle around existing employees – aren’t there extra costs? What about letterheads? Business cards? Office space? Compensation for council members? Not one more dime will be spent? I’m almost interested in seeing this pass, just to watch this happen. (Not really…that’s sarcasm.)
  4. Speaking of council. There’s a new one in town. The “Environmental review advisory council,” will be established, consisting of 11 members. All appointed by the governor. The members must be: a representative of county or municipal government; a representative of manufacturing and processing; a representative of the solid fuels industry; a representative of the liquid and gas fuels industry; a representative of agriculture; a representative of the solid waste industry; a representative of the hazardous waste industry; a representative of the thermal electric generators industry; a representative of the environmental sciences; the state engineer; and the state geologist. Energy is well-represented – and agriculture gets one seat at the table. Seems a little lopsided to me, for an agency that will dictate what a lot of agriculture will look like in the future.
  5. Did I mention the head of this new division will also be appointed by the governor? The director, as well as the council as a whole, will be appointed to serve “at the pleasure of the governor.” Environmental quality and the people will have no say in who will serve, except by vote of the governor. I’m sorry, but as our elected officials become more and more removed from agriculture, I am not comfortable relying on one person’s ability to know what is best for the diverse world of agriculture we are in. Can one person adequately represent the ranchers of Dickinson, the valley sugar beet farmers, organic growers, niche markets, wheat growers, hog farmers, dairy farms and everything in between? We can’t agree amongst ourselves most days – how would one person be able to encompass it all?

I could go on for longer, but you can read it all yourself if you’d like.

I’m all for streamlining systems and making government more efficient whenever we can…I just am not sure creating a new division will accomplish this. I’ve never seen a situation in which adding more government makes it easier to maneuver and understand. But maybe this would be a first.

Highlighters make me happy.

I’ve spent no less than seven hours studying, discussing and considering this bill. I printed 153 pages of text, made several calls and emails, and delayed my calving checks a few times because I was in a zone with reading and research. (Don’t tell Mark.) In all, I’ve already spent significantly more time than the committee did before issuing a DO PASS. And my monetary investment with printing costs and time spent is somehow more than the fiscal impact that this bill will have on my state.

Excuse me while I go check cows…at least out there I’m well aware of the dung I may step in. I hope I’ve given you a few things to think about. And if you’re just as concerned as I am, there will be a committee hearing for the House at 9 a.m. on Friday, March 3. Maybe your voice should be heard.

The Un-American American

The last month or so has been an amazing study on current American society. I’ve quickly realized that we have a booming problem of passive-aggressive social media outbursts, mostly proclaiming that people are not inherently political – and then they continue on with a political rant.

Pledge Allegiance

Every day during our last Mayo trip, George would stop and say the Pledge of Allegiance to this flag. He was only 6, and he gets it.

Let me be clear: I’m a political person. I enjoy politics. I have definite ideas of what I would like to see our country look like in the future. I want to be engaged, involved and abreast of the topics. I will tell you, straight up, how I feel. And not with vaguebooking.

Let me just get a few thoughts off my chest:

  1. You have the right to vote. Although I encourage you to exercise that right, guess what? It’s also your right not to vote. And when you choose not to vote, then I have the right to minimize your influence on my opinion. That’s how it works.
  2. If you don’t believe in the “process” of government, then why are you shocked when it doesn’t work for you? Get involved. Make it work. Understand.
  3. Guess what? Every American has elected officials that represent them at some level of government. We, as citizens, control who sits in those offices. Don’t like them? Vote for someone else. Encourage your neighbors to do the same (maybe make sure they’re in the same political district…I don’t encourage voter fraud. lol). Don’t like any of the choices? Run. Unless you can’t – legally. But if that’s the case, maybe you shouldn’t be protesting so loud.
  4. You have the right to protest. But you don’t have a right to endanger others while doing so. Including blocking school buses full of children, throwing homemade bombs at law enforcement and leaving a mess behind that others are forced to clean up. I’ll defend your right to protest. But when your protest damages the very environment you proclaim to protect? I question your authenticity.
  5. Have a complaint? Better have a solution to go with it. Complaining just to rant is fine. Just don’t do it on social media. That’s why everyone needs a BFF to rant to – Facebook is not your BFF.

I get it. Life is hard. Things don’t always go like we want. Our candidates may lose. Some laws aren’t passed. Budgets are cut. Spenditures may skyrocket. And we all should have an opinion on those things.

But let’s truly use the American rights we’ve been given. Because if we don’t – well, then don’t be surprised when the un-American Americans begin to take over.

Clean water, wildlife and parks – but dirty politics

Let me clarify a few things: First and foremost, I’m a mother. My four boys are my sun, moon and stars, even when they drive me crazy. On top of that, I’m a farmer, a rancher, an agriculture advocate, a student, a blogger, a paralegal, a softball player, a writer and someone who enjoys having a fun time. I am not an economist, a tax expert, a politician (yet), an accountant, a lawyer…none of those things.

boys on first day of school

I have four reasons for writing…and here they are.

So when I write, I write from the heart, I do my research and I write my opinion. It’s how I view the world, and the $18 per year that I spend on this site gives me the right to share those views as I see fit, within legal reason. If you want to point out what you see as flaws in my reasoning, I’m OK with that. But be careful what you wish for – because I like research. And I like information. And I like to share.

Recently one of my posts on Measure 5 apparently ruffled some feathers. I was told that my “pie analogy” was flawed. I actually find that funny, because one of the “Yes on 5” ads brings up the same analogy. Stating something along the lines that there’s still “enough to go around.”

He stated that this proposed constitutional amendment does not affect the general fund. I think he needs to double check that. Unless, of course, my research is all flawed. And it’s possible, since I’m not paid to do this professionally.

Check out the numbers yourself:

Oil Tax allocations for 2011-13 biennium

So that little issue should be answered. Yes, Measure 5 would seem to have an impact on the whole “pie” thing. But let’s say that wasn’t an issue. There’s still a lot of flaws here.

Let me check off my biggest concerns:

1) Mandated spending in our state constitution. How many times can I emphasize that this is a bad idea?

2) An extraordinary amount of money with no clear plan. It sets up a fund where money can be “granted” to projects that are approved by a board of people (only one is specifically a farmer).  $150 million per year. Almost $3 million per week. Yikes. I was told that it’s really not all that much money. I’m sorry, but as a mother of a child that has been diagnosed with a rare metabolic condition, I could only imagine what that type of money could do for research into a cure. Not that much money? I shudder to think of the type of world we’re heading towards, when you can scoff at that type of funding.

Yes, our family values the outdoors. But the type of funding tied to this constitutional amendment could change the world for a lot of kids in our state...including George's.

Yes, our family values the outdoors. But the type of funding tied to this constitutional amendment could change the world for a lot of kids in our state…including George’s.

3) I wonder if they forgot that our last legislative session passed a similar fund already. Oh, that’s right, though…they can’t buy land with that money.

4) We have some real needs in our state that this money can address. There are children with rare conditions that slip through the cracks. There is research that can be funded. There are advances that can be made.

I have no desire to get into a mudslinging fight. But I cannot put my children’s future at risk with this type of irresponsible mandate.

Do we really want to keep North Dakota’s traditions alive? Then let’s take care of the water, the air, the land the right way. Because it’s the right thing to do. That’s the North Dakota tradition.

My sunset tonight was just as beautiful as it was yesterday – and it will be beautiful tomorrow, too.

The anatomy of a farmer

I was told recently, point blank, that “agriculture is a man’s world.” And I will freely admit that my first reaction was not a very pleasant one. Yes, it made me angry. Very angry.

Are there certain situations that being a man is helpful? Sure. I must admit that there are many men stronger than I am, but then again, I’m also stronger than a lot of guys I know, too. It all boils down to the situation. But I also am quite certain that politics is not one of those situations. Your gender does not…and should not…EVER make an impact on your ability to be elected to serve in office.

Yet, it became painfully obvious last weekend that we have so much work to do on this front.

So let me start by explaining to you what a farmer looks like…from head to toe:

A farmer is required to be a person capable of wearing many hats – from accountant to nurse to scientist to engineer. A farmer’s head is full of so much information, and also full of contacts, for those questions that they can’t answer. A farmer knows how to make the best out of a sticky situation, and knows when to call in reinforcements. Facial hair has never been a requirement…although, I must admit, it would come in handy come winter.

Fashion has little to do with farming...warmth, on the other hand...

Fashion has little to do with farming…warmth, on the other hand…

A farmer has a mouth that can communicate the needs of the farm, to a variety of audiences. From legislators to neighbors to school kids to friends and family – a farmer knows that in order to preserve our work for future generations, we need to start engaging people more. It does not matter if those lips are covered in lip stick, lip gloss, chapstick or whiskers…the message is the same.

A farmer has broad shoulders – more in a figurative sense than anything. A farmer is able to carry the weight of the current growing season, worrying about changes in the weather, all while enjoying the miracle of each season. Whether it be watching a new calf learn to walk, watching a new crop erupt from the ground, watching baby chicks develop their first feathers, or watching a sick animal slowly recover – a farmer takes responsibility for what happens on the farm, good and bad.

A farmer has strong hands. They are able to be involved in almost every aspect of the farm. From gently handling an injured animal, to convincing a rusty bolt to budge, to writing out checks to pay for inputs to folding them in prayer at the end of the day…a farmer’s hands hold more strength than many would guess. Whether or not your nails are polished doesn’t matter.

teamwork, farmwork

Two different sets of hands working for a common goal…does it matter which were replaced with a woman’s hand?

A farmer has a caring heart. A farmer strives to do what is best for the land…and the job…that she loves. This includes protecting the land for the generations to come. A farmer also knows that they are not in this fight alone, and that there are so many involved in the process of being successful.

A farmer has a pair of feet that can walk miles in other’s shoes, and never skip a beat. A farmer can wear a pair of work boots all day, slip on a pair of dress shoes for church, a pair of tennis shoes for playing catch and a pair of flip flops for a day of fishing. The size of the heel doesn’t matter.

These feet work hard...

These feet work hard…

...and so do these.

…and so do these.

Whatever the role of the farm may be, each person has an integral part in the success of the farm. And the only thing that determines the extent of involvement is the willingness to work hard, the flexibility to adapt to unexpected events and the passion to see something through to the end…and gender does not determine any one of those things.

Agriculture a man’s world? I certainly hope not. Our industry would be missing a whole lot of talent if that were true.

What makes a farmer? It has a whole lot more to do with who is on the inside, not the outside.

Shutdown solutions…from the farm

So, here we are…at the beginning of the much-anticipated government shutdown. Aside from the angst and anger aimed at the powers that be, I have found a few solutions to some of the problems we may be having. Let’s look at them, shall we?

First of all, the fact that we are at this point is sad and telling of the state our country is truly in…there is nothing like having to explain to our children that the government is “shut down” because two sides can’t communicate effectively. Perhaps it’s time to implement that t-shirt you see on Facebook so often – you know, the one where two kids are stuck in the same shirt, until they agree to get along? I’d pay good money to see a few delegates in those!

Second of all, why is it that the people who refuse to work together are those least-affected by the shut-down? Shouldn’t their jobs be the first on the chopping block? Perhaps that would be a little more effective in getting some rational discussions taking place.

But it seems to me that if our government is laying-off workers, we should easily be taking care of a few shortages around the country. And although I completely realize that the workers laid-off are highly skilled and needed, I wish that the lay-offs would hit the lawmakers first. If they did, here are a few of my suggestions:

1) Apparently the shut-down is affecting farm laborers – but if we have laid-off park rangers, etc., then shouldn’t the problem solve itself? I know that sometimes on the farm, our greatest requirement for a skill set is the ability to shovel manure…and I do believe that qualification is easily met.

2) There is a daycare shortage around the country. I’m guessing that many workers could find a part-time gig helping out by watching children. Of course, that may require a little juggling of skills. But really, if you deal with the whining on the Hill successfully, children may be even easier to handle.

3) Government websites are shut-down, as well as Twitter feeds. It’s not as if someone is hired full-time, just to hit refresh on a page…or are they? But really, if we have some web-savvy folks looking for something to do, I have a page or two they could work on.

4) Perhaps some of the USDA folks looking for good, cheap meals to stretch their waning dollars could go eat lunch at a near-by school. It’s supposedly cheap, and although it’s not filling, it definitely won’t make you fat. Just don’t expect to get much out of it, perhaps pack a snack…since those available through the school are now regulated as well.

5) Substitute teachers are needed as well. I’m sure that those workers that are looking for some temporary employment could easily find a subject that would fit.

I’m thinking that next week I may propose a farm shutdown. But unfortunately, the first one affected would be me!

How to dismantle agriculture – a step-by-step guide

For those new to our little family here, I live in North Dakota. We have a legislative session every two years. Unfortunately, this is one of them.

The last few weeks has been extremely taxing. Laws that are extremely polarizing are being passed and our quiet little corner of paradise is getting more attention, and not for the right reasons.

Regardless of my opinion, there are a few lessons learned here that could greatly benefit other organizations, so let me give you a few of my take-away lessons:

To dismantle agriculture, simply plant ideas, rumors and falsehoods. All you need to do is plant the idea, you do not need to give any proof. Human nature will take over from there, and no one will be able to rise above it. Mud will be slung, the issue will be forgotten and compromise will become impossible.

To dismantle agriculture, simply pit one occupation against another. Farmers vs. ranchers, organic vs. conventional, no-till vs. full-tillage, cows vs. sheep, soybeans vs. corn. It doesn’t matter how you break it down, just make sure they feel it’s us vs. them. Competitive natures will take over from there, and no one will be able to rise above it. Personal attacks will ensue, the issue will be forgotten and compromise will become impossible.

To dismantle agriculture, simply make a few well-placed phone calls. Insinuate that leadership is sleeping with the enemy. Who is the enemy? Doesn’t matter, let them make up those decisions on their own. Vengeful natures will take over from there, and no one will be able to rise above it. Membership outcry will ensue, the issue will be forgotten and compromise will become impossible.

To dismantle agriculture, simply make the issue about the procedure, not the outcome. Focus on who will do what, not how it will affect the people or things its meant to protect. Make them so wrapped up on who’s right and who’s wrong, that no one even remembers what the original intent may have been. Self-righteous natures will take over from there, and no one will be able to rise above it. Verbal attacks will take place, the issue will be forgotten and compromise will become impossible.

To dismantle agriculture, simply make it personal. Forget the organization behind the name, call people out, pit friends against friends and neighbors against neighbors. Muddy the line of right and wrong, proper decorum and tact. Throw a few barbs in, just to stir things up. Unforgiving natures will take over from there, and no one will be able to rise above it. Anger and hurt feelings will continually surface, the issue will be forgotten and compromise will become impossible.

Well, that about wraps it up. But I’ll warn you, the above steps are EXTREMELY effective and should not be used lightly.

Pick one or two, maybe three. Start the ball rolling and watch the walls start to crumble.

Oh, and when in doubt, throw the phrase, “It’s just politics,” in the mix. Apparently that’s the miracle cure that excuses all previous behavior.

Disclaimer: The above work is a piece of fiction. It really wouldn’t be that easy, because agriculturalists are smarter than that. Any similarity to actual events is purely coincidental…and sad.

If you can’t say anything nice…

Way too many people in our society are not afraid to attack people for their thoughts and ideas. I’m not talking about calling a spade and spade and trying to set the record straight, I’m talking about being accusatory, inflammatory and flat-out lying. But it has been a great tool for me to learn from these last few weeks.

I have become vocal about a few local issues that are coming up for vote in June. Well, right now I’m really just focusing on one: the property tax issue. I’m not going to get into the measure here, I’ve already discussed my thoughts and have been thoroughly educated on the “flaws” of my thinking and the “empty arguments” that I have. Which is funny, considering the amount of time that I’ve spent trying to research and read and come up with an opinion that I thought was based in quite a bit of fact, and just a little good ol’-fashioned gut feeling.

No, I don’t want to discuss the measure…but I would like to discuss how we handle people. Perhaps I’m living in a fantasy world, but I wasn’t raised this way. There’s a difference between discussing a political viewpoint and attacking the person talking. And those lines are crossed way too often.

I get it, really I do…we just don’t live in that kind of society any more. Our political ads attack everything from how your parents raised you to decisions you made before you were old enough to vote. Yet, for some reason, I held out hope that our state, the friendly state of North Dakota, would hold itself to a higher standard. I don’t like being wrong about that.

If we want to have a good discussion, and have everyone with questions get a chance to have them answered (truthfully and honestly), and have a fair and open election, then why have a lawsuit trying to prevent elected officials from speaking out? Why do we tell those that would be able to answer the question, that they can’t talk? And if we silence those people, then why is it so wrong for me to speak out?

I am simply a mother of four boys, trying my hardest to do right by them. And instead of sitting back on my haunches and complaining about the lot life left me, I’m standing up, taking control of our future and speaking out when I feel I need to…it’s the reason our ancestors fought so hard for our freedoms. And it’s a right that I take very seriously.

And if that makes me a threat…well, what are you trying to hide? I enjoy a good debate, I love to learn about different aspects that I may not have thought of myself, I love to hear other viewpoints and I’m not afraid to change my mind, admit if I’m wrong or alter my opinion.

But when I give my opinion, when I write about something on here, you can bet that I’ve done my research, that I’ve tried to see things from both points of view and that I’ve put time and energy into the issue. And if that threatens you – well, maybe you should do the same.