Sunday, October 21, 2007

Why I'm Voting Yes on Measure 49

By Brian Rohter

I’m voting yes on Measure 49 because It’s a common sense compromise that will help save our local farms and ranches and protect our food security for years to come.

As local grocers we’re constantly in touch with Oregon’s agricultural producers. We’ve heard from most of them, loud and clear, that if Measure 37 goes unchecked we’re in for some real trouble in the not too distant future. That’s why the well respected Oregon Farm Bureau Federation and 15 farm organizations in Oregon have endorsed Measure 49.

Anyone who shops for groceries has seen that as the price of oil has continued to climb, the costs of our basic every day groceries have rapidly increased. One of the reasons is simply the ever growing expense of transporting products from such long distances. If we lose more and more local farm land to development how will we afford our food in the future? What will the cost of dinner be when a barrel of oil is $100? How about at $200?

And cost aside, we’ve learned the hard way over the past several months that we can’t count on the safety of many imported foods. If the foreign countries that we buy from are unable to put standards into place that ensure that what they’re exporting is safe, we’re going to need other options. That will make our local farms and ranches critically important to the long term security of our community.

I definitely understand the frustration that many people feel about Oregon’s land use rules and why they voted for Measure 37. New Seasons Market experienced some crazy and absurdly expensive zoning problems while opening our stores. Somewhere in between the time that our land use rules were initially put into place and today, our state lost its way. Oregon once was vision driven, but we turned into a place that too frequently has operated by nonsensical, inflexible rules.

Of course, under most circumstances, people should be able to build a second or third house on their property for their aging parents or children. And if that’s what Measure 37 actually accomplished, I don’t think hardly anyone would be objecting to it. But as we’ve seen over the last couple of years, Measure 37 really opened Pandora’s Box. There’s a big difference between allowing a place for your Mom to live on your property and turning thousand and thousands of acres of prime agricultural land into subdivisions and strip malls. Measure 49 is the right first step to fix that problem.

I know that Measure 49 isn’t perfect and I imagine that, as a community, we’ll be reevaluating and tweaking the rules for many years to come. That’s as it should be, since it only makes sense to adjust the guidelines as our world around us changes. If we would have done that all along, it’s unlikely that a law as drastic as Measure 37 would ever have been put into place.

But, perfect or not, we can’t afford to wait. Because once the concrete is poured and the cul de sacs go in, there’s no turning back. That’s why I'm going to vote yes on Measure 49. Let’s make sure that our children and grandchildren and the generations to come will be able to experience the safety and pleasure of eating Oregon grown food.