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December 29, 2011     The Times-Journal
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December 29, 2011
 

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Page 4 The Times-Journal December 29, 2011 I Tmc TIMES-JOURNAL A W~m.v Nmnu~n |nJa 1886 Published every Thursday by Macro Graphics of Condon, LLC, and entered as Periodical Matter with Periodical Postage paid at the Condon Post Office, USPS No. 128-260. Postmaster: Send address changes to The Times-Journal, P.O. Box 746, Condon, OR 97823 Our Lineage: The Fossil Journal, established 1886; The Condon Globe, established 1891; The Condon Times, established 1900; Globe and Times consolidated in 1919 to the Globe-Times; Fossil Journal and Globe- Times consolidated in 1975 to the Times-Journal. The Times-Journal is the Newspaper of Record for Wheeler County, Gilliam County and Sherman County, and the cities of Fossil, Mitchell, Spray, Arlington, Condon and Lonerock. Subscription Rates: $35 per year in Gilliam, Wheeler and Sherman counties; $45 per year elsewhere in the United States. Single issues 50 cents. Deadline for Thursday morning publication: 5 p.m. Monday for news and advertising. The Times-Journal P.O. Box 746 Condon, Oregon 97823-0746 Phone: 541-384-2421 ~ Fax: 541-384-2411 E-mail: times-iournal@!ncable.com Owners: McLaren and Janet Stinchfield Publisher/Editor: McLaren Stinchfield Production/Office: Janet Stinchfield Advertising/Production: Cody Bettencourt Contributors: ~,:~. Kay West ~ Arlington Sherian Asher ~ Fossil ................................. ... And our readers I II I Letters to the Editor Stand for continued access given for the request to gate were because of the belief of the new owner that hunters would trespass and poach. I believed strongly at that time that the decision was not the fight one. I had never heard of a govern- ment selling the right to gate a public right of way. I had never heard of the implied idea that a land owner 'owned' the elk, deer and/or mountain goats that may travel onto their property. I see no value in closing the road permanently. I hope others will stand for the continued access to the three historical cemeteries, the possible future need for the right of way from Highway 26 to Dayville, the historical significance of the Antone Community and urge the county court to deny the request. Thank you, Bonnie Lofton Mitchell, Oregon 97750 New Year brings $118 million tax cut for Oregon's wealthiest A tax cut for Oregon's wealthiest taxpayers that will cost $118 million this budget period will take effect in the new year, unless lawmakers vote to extend the temporary top marginal income tax rates put into effect by Measure 66. "This is not the time to allow a tax cut to Oregon's most fortunate taxpayers," said Chuck Sheketoff, executive director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy. "That money should instead be used to shore up the budget to prevent further cuts to education, health and human services and public safety." To the Editor: A public owned right-of- way in Wheeler County could be abandoned if a request by a land owner is agreed to by the Wheeler County Court. A hearing on the request is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 4, before Commissioners John Asher (Spray), Pat 'Chris' Perry (Mitchell) and County Judge Jeanne Burch (Fossil). I believe there is a multitude of reasons to not agree to the request by Antone Ranch owner Jim Bisenius and would urge county residents to be present and let their representatives be aware of their opinions on the proposed closing of 20 miles of a long- standing and well-used county owned road. If you cannot be present, please phone or write prior to the hearing. Three years ago the county court sold the right to gate the road at night and to require others to get permission to travel the road. Reasons Atypical La Nifia may still show some teeth, but dry weather prevails as 2011 comes to close 66, which was referred to voters and approved in a ;~ ' .... January 2010 special election. Measure 66 temporarily raised the top marginal tax rate from 9 percent to 10.8 percent for couples making between $250,000 and $500,000, and to 11 percent for couples making more than $500,000. The new top rates apply only to the income received above those levels and impact only about 3 percent of Oregon taxpayers. For both of these income groups, the top marginal tax rates will go down to 9.9 percent on January 1. "When the 2009 legislature scheduled the end of the higher rates, they expected the economy to be in much stronger shape than it is now," said Sheketoff. "With the sluggish national recovery and the state still struggling with a revenue shortfall, letting the top rates go down is a mistake." Though the country's recovery from the deepest recession in decades has been slow, by some measures Oregon's economy has performed better than the national economy with the temporary higher tax rates in place, according to Sheketoff. He cited, for example, an economic index produced by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and referenced in the most recent state economic forecast, which shows Oregon's economy outperforming all other western states and ranking sixth best in the nation over the past year. The legislature will have an opportunity to keep the higher top marginal tax rates in place when it convenes in February 2012. Declining revenue forecasts since the legislature adjourned last June has lawmakers considering cuts to public services. "Cuts to schools, health care, child care and other public structures don't create prosperity or rebuild our middle class," said Sheketoff. "Investments in our people and state lay the foundation for a brighter future." (Editor's note: The Oregon Center for Public Policy is a non-partisan research institute that does in-depth research and analysis on budget, tax and economic issues. The Center's goal is to improve decision making and generate more opportunities for all Oregonians. For more information contact Chuck Sheketoff, executive director, 503-873-1201, or Juan Carlos Orddaez, communications director, 503-310-7138.) By Mark Floyd So far this December, Portland has been drier than Tucson, Arizona, Corvallis has been as cold as Buffalo, N.Y., and central Oregon has experienced less precipitation than it did in July. Despite the presence of a second consecutive La Nifia Thetax cut Set to takeeffect on January t is the result- evem, this has been anything but a normal end to the year, of~aow lawmakers drafted the law that bec~i:Meh/~iire~ ::according to nnaty'sts at the~'Ore~on Climate Service at Oregon State University. Beyond What's Up -- The Mid-Columbia Center for Living will conduct a public meeting to include an executive session of the Tri- " County Mental Health Board Wednesday, Jan. 11, 3 p.m., 312 East Third Street, The Dalles. The meeting location is accessible to persons with disabilities. Call 541-296-5452 for details. "When all is said and done, Oregon's precipitation in 2011 may not be all that unusual," said Kathie Dello, deputy director of the Oregon Climate Service, "but how we got to where we're at has been a little bit different. We had the second wettest spring on record in Oregon this year, but things have really dried out this fall and we didn't have our first 90-degree day until September. "However, last winter we had a La Nifia as well, and a lot of people got concerned because it was drier than normal in January and February," she added. "But then things really kicked into high gear with spring rain; so it's a little early to panic." The reason for the recent spate of cool, dry weather - atypical for La Nifia years - has been a high-pressure system that has plopped down over the Pacific Northwest and diverted all of the storm systems to the north and south, Dello said. The clear, calm conditions have made most Oregon nights rather cold and there is enough moisture in the air to create foggy conditions - especially in the Willamette Valley from Eugene to Portland, and in the low-lying regions of the Mid- Columbia area. The lack of wind and other weather activity, coupled with the sun being at its lowest point, has kept the fog from dissipating and created an air inversion. When that happens, fog settles into the valleys and lowers the temperature several degrees. "On some days in the last few weeks, it was warmer at Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood than it was in Portland or Salem," Dello said. Portland has had only .14 of an inch of rain in December, and the storms that have diverted to the north and south have carried our precipitation to other regions. Tucson, Arizona, in contrast, has had more than two inches of rain this month. Portland is not alone. Bend/Redmond has had only a trace of rain in December, even less than the 0.6 of an inch the region got in July. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasts that La Nifia conditions should persist through the end of winter, but what that means remains to be seen, Dello pointed out. "La Nifia can tilt the weather toward being cooler and wetter, but all La Nifia events are not created equally," she said. "There was a La Nifia in 2008 during which Portland got almost 20 inches of snowfall in December, the La Nifia of last year was different, and this year has started off unusually dry for any December, regardless of a La Nifia event. "Last year it was drier than normal in January and February before getting really wet in the spring, and that could happen again," she added, "but no one knows for sure." Parts of Oregon saw rain Christmas weekend and the Willamette Valley could be hit with freezing fog, which creates some of the most dangerous driving conditions each winter. Freezing fog occurs when the water droplets are below freezing, but don't actually form ice until they come into contact with a solid surface - like roads or windshields. The Oregon Climate Service has a variety of weather- and climate-related links on its website and offers historical data for Oregon -- http://ocs.oregonstate.edu/. (Editor's note: Mark Floyd may be contacted at Oregon State University, 541-737-0788; mark.floyd@ oregonstate, edu. ) Freedom oft e Press Is Ewry ody's Report: Oregon agricultural land is a good investment By Bruce Pokarney Oregon farm land has long-term value that includes economic, environmental and societal benefits that transcend short-term gains from developing or converting those lands. That's one of many conclusions offered by an Oregon Department of Agriculture report examining the costs of taking agricultural lands out of production and the payoffs for keeping them in farms. "I've tried to give a big picture perspective on the value of agricultural lands in Oregon, and to recognize that once those lands are converted into development, they are pretty much gone for agricultural use," says Blent Searle, special assistant to the director and author of 'A Comprehensive Valuation of Agricultural Lands: A Perpetual Investment in Oregon's Economy and Environment.' More than 16 million acres of land in Oregon is under farm or ranch operation, but also faces constant pressure in various parts of the state to re-develop or convert to other uses -- especially the flat croplands with the highest capacity for production. The ODA report suggests that, in many cases, the best value of that land comes from keeping it in production agriculture. The analysis in the report does not argue against development, but promotes a thoughtful approach to development before converting lands to other uses by recognizing the broad benefits of farmland preservation. "People need places to live and they need services that require development," says Seafle. "But the more we expand onto our agricultural land, it's like cannibalizing the hand that feeds us. We need to be very thoughtful and cautious about where and how we build." It wouldn't be difficult to convert flat farmland into housing or business developments, which admittedly could raise the value of that land significantly in the short term. But the report points out that productive value will not be added to that land following development. On the other hand, agricultural land is perpetually producing and is a renewable resource. "You can only produce one crop of houses, but if that land remains in agriculture, you can produce a crop year after year after year," says Jim Johnson, ODA's land use specialist. "You can even change the crop to react to world markets and changing situations. But once that land is developed, it's very hard to change it back to something else." As detailed in the report, the economic benefits provided by agriculture are significant. Citing an Oregon State University study of agriculture's economic footprint, the ODA report lists the impact of all agricultural-related goods and services as being the state's second largest indUstr~ lJy most measures, on!y behtfid high tech. Agriculture is responsible for nearly 18 percent of all sales activity in Oregon, 20 percent of employment, and 15 percent of value-added activity. "Agriculture is a key component of Oregon's economic activity," says Johnson. "Without land, water, and the ability to farm, we lose that base of economic activity." Environmental benefits of agricultural lands are also detailed in the ODA report. A key message is that farmers and ranchers manage the land that sustains their operations. In most cases, that works out better for the environment than no land management at all. Growing a crop aids in carbon sequestration and water filtration. At some point during the year, Oregon farmland provides habitat to 75 percent of the state's wildlife. Farmland also provides green spaces and open spaces, not to mention scenic vistas and recreational opportunities. Social amenities listed in the report include maintaining a local cultural heritage and the family farm structure. More than 1,100 farms and ranches have been operating in the same family for at least 100 years. It's hard, if not impossible, to find any other industry sector so sustainable to have that kind of longevity. The value of keeping land in agriculture is one side of the equation. The other is the costs associated with development and conversion of farmland. "A lot of people understand the up-front costs of development, but they don't understand the long-term implications," says Johnson. "The development of roads, sewers, water -- these are often subsidized by the developer. But people forget about the costs year in and year out to provide services like police, fire and schools. Those infrastructure costs are there for a long time. With agricultural land, you get a lot of bang for the buck because there is little public investment needed to maintain the resource." The ODA report quotes the American Farmland Trust, which says, "for every dollar spent in taxes for community services in New York State -- schools, infrastructure, etc., residential lands cost $1.32 while agricultural lands cost $0.21." By this measure, which is not unique to New York, developed lands require six times more in public tax dollars to support and maintain in public services than the same land in agricultural use. Conclusions drawn by the ODA report acknowledge the need for land to be developed. It's the how and where that seems to be most important. "It may be time for people in the land use community to start asking where would be the best place to grow that would have the least impact on long term needs -- needs that include agricultural production?" says Johnson. "When planners think about infrastructure for cities and other development, they need to start considering agricultural land as part of that infrastructure. Food is a basic need, just like water and sewer services, which are both considered infrastructure for growth." The best agricultural land in Oregon most often tends to be where most of the state's people want to live. But the ODA report clearly advocates for co-existence by being smart about where development should occur and what is allowed to take place on farmland. Agriculture is a critical part of the state's current and future economy and environment. Sustaining a sufficient agricultural land base will keep it that way. (Editor's note: The ODA report is available on-line, http ://oregon. gov/ODA/do_reports_land, shtml. Bruce Pokarney can be contacted by calling 503-986-4559.)