General Project Information
Our project with our partner organization, the Oregon Farm Bureau, aims to open up a conversation and make room for feedback in regards to Oregon’s divisive cap and trade legislation. The stakeholders include the OFB, which is meant to represent Oregon farmers, and Oregon’s legislative body in support of cap and trade. The relationship between the two parties is made more complicated as Governor Kate Brown, who passed cap and trade by executive order, was elected entirely by urban counties. The OFB’s main grievance is that cap and trade is that it does not allow farms to offset their carbon emissions by doing other things, like having solar panels. By facilitating discussion between Oregon farmers and legislative members, we hope to find a legislative middle ground that is still true to the aims of cap and trade and is agreeable to farmers.
Cap and trade is an environmental policy being instituted in many places around the world which takes a two-pronged approach to reducing carbon emissions. Cap refers to the set limit placed on emissions under cap and trade, which is supposed to decrease over time. Companies that produce carbon emissions are then permitted to buy and sell their carbon allowances (trade). Ideally, the system creates a business incentive to willingly minimize carbon emissions while simultaneously mandating and reducing the maximum amount allowed. This makes it very favorable to environmentalists, and the bill had a lot of strong support from Oregon Democrats. In March, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed an executive order creating cap and trade in Oregon following a standstill in legislature as Republicans boycotted sessions. Our partnership organization, the Oregon Farm Bureau, is heavily affected by this order and quickly issued a statement of opposition.
OFB’s objections to the order are outlined in their statement and further detailed in an op-ed written by their president Barb Iverson for The Bulletin. These issues mainly pertain to the cost of the order for Oregon farmers and ranchers. The goal of the order is to discourage high carbon emission activities and encourage alternatives. However, during our interview with Barb she pointed out that many farming activities require some activities with higher emissions at least for now, for instance, there does not yet exist an electric tractor that can do the job of the tractors that are currently used. The order also has little to no acknowledgment of efforts farms are already making to offset these necessary emissions. Barb expressed her disappointment that farmers like herself would receive no recognition or encouragement for the efforts they may already be making to reduce their impact. In her op-ed article Barb wrote “A ‘disincentive’ where there is no alternative is just a tax.” All of this seems to point towards a central issue– a lack of understanding between farmers and legislators. Furthermore, a 2018 paper from Harvard concluded that if cap and trade in Oregon wasn’t handled correctly it could result in little positive change and possibly even more emissions due to complicated interactions with existing environmental laws.
All of this shows that Oregon’s cap and trade order is too messy to be rushed through legislation. The issue is more complicated than just protecting our environment by reducing emissions. It will have serious and in many cases extreme ramifications for many Oregonians. On top of that, implementing a cap and trade policy in no way guarantees productive results. In order to come to an agreement that is favorable to the most involved parties, cap and trade must be a conversation. Oregon farmers need to be heard. They deserve a seat at the table. What could be the future of cap and trade in Oregon if it became about finding a collaborative solution rather than an issue of opposition?
Through our partnership work with the Oregon Farm Bureau (OFB), we have decided that our engagement project will consist of two-way, one-on-one conversations between the Oregon legislation and the OFB on the differences in opinion pertaining to cap and trade policy. With this issue, it is important that these two sides take on each other’s perspective and look for a middle ground. This is why input and feedback are so important for us – we want to make sure that we achieve the goals of our project. Below is feedback that we have received to date, as well as our plan to receive additional input going forward.
- Professor Jim Proctor
- Throughout the course of our engagement work, we have received feedback from our professor, Jim Proctor regarding the details and structure of our project, as well as how we could handle the partnership work in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. This feedback has helped us devise goals and expectations for our partnership work, as well as understand that even a proposed project will still have a great impact on the environmental studies community. Through this, we have been able to still secure contact from the OFB and create a vision for what our ideal engagement scene would be.
- OFB President Barb Iverson
- April 3, 2020
- We conducted an online interview with OFB president Barb Iverson, where we were able to discuss our idea of a cap and trade project with her. Most importantly, Barb stressed that we needed to work towards compromise and a middle ground. She also provided some of her opinions regarding cap and trade, as well as how these opinions differ among members of the OFB. This will allow us to see specific viewpoints within what we want to do and anticipate what topics or specifics may come up during the conversations between the OFB and the Oregon legislation. With the feedback that Barb provided, we have responded by creating goals for the project that emphasize working towards future policies that will benefit both the OFB and the Oregon legislation, while not looking to get a specific outcome that would favor either side.
- Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN) partnership group
- April 21, 2020
- The members within the Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN) project group provided us with feedback. While they understood what we were trying to do, they felt that we needed more specifics on how we would make the conversations between the OFB and Oregon legislation happen. This could include how we would get in contact with a legislator, or how we would bring them together. We definitely agree that obtaining our final goal requires difficult steps. Keeping the COVID-19 pandemic in mind, we would still like to get in contact with the Oregon legislature, but realize that we may just need to stick with a proposed idea and shore up a few things within the design.
- Future input: Oregon legislature
- Finally, we would like to receive feedback from within the Oregon legislature, as they are a key component of what we want to accomplish in our project. One potential way to do this would be to email one of the members of the House of Representatives or Senate, as all of them have their own website and email that could be a method of contact. Being able to ask their opinion on cap and trade, as well as the feasibility and interest level of engagement with the farming community, would be an ideal way to strengthen our project.