The voice of Oregon’s cattle industry is being heard in Salem. We’re just going to have to talk a little louder to bring about the changes we’re after.

The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association met in Salem March 1-2 for its Spring Conference, and one of our main agenda items was to meet with our Legislators. Cattlemen from the around the State met in a Legislative briefing with the co-Speakers of the House Bruce Hanna(R) and Arnie Roblan(D), Brian Clem(D), John Huffman(R), Cliff Bentz(R), Ted Ferrioli(R), and Doug Whitsett(R).

While we touched on many issues, the Big three were Water, Wolves, and Public Lands. Powder River’s Curtis Martin, OCA’s President-Elect, led the charge on water rights issues, with many other representatives of cattle ranching families from Eastern Oregon presenting their opinions on the wolf issue and grazing rights.

We let our elected officials know that the cattle industry has had its victories and a few disturbing setbacks. On the bright side, the sale of cattle and calves in Oregon remains the State’s number one agricultural commodity, with total sales exceeding $700 million. We are very proud of the positive impact that our ranching community has had on our rural economies. Perhaps our brightest star has been the recent emergence and growth of the “Ranchers Feeding Kids” program that started in Baker County and now has spread to Malheur and Crook counties, and is gaining momentum in several others. Budgets are tight in these rural settings, and ranchers donating beef for school lunch programs has made a significant difference. We are very proud of those who have stepped up to fill a need.

On the other side of the coin, we have been met with resistance to our proposals for changes in Oregon’s Wolf Management Plan and the pursuit of lethal control remedies. In light of the recent wolf killings of two bred cows10 miles east of Enterprise, we are now dealing with over 10 confirmed cases of wolf predation. While the media and some “pro-wildlife” organizations continue to portray the wolf in a softer light, we need to let our legislators know the truth. One so-called wolf expert quoted in The Oregonian on March 4th, had this to say: “You have self-appointed wolf experts misinforming the public and instilling fear that wolves are going to kill your kids, wipe out elk herds and spread diseases.” This so-called expert concludes that “none of that is true.” We can only hope so.

Ranchers have also recently felt the impact of a judicial ruling in Oregon in favor of an environmental group that will stay grazing in 2011 in parts of the Malheur National Forest. Some 19 families face the likelihood of ruin due to this decision. The affected families will either be forced to sell their herds or find alternative pasture at prohibitive costs.

The ranching community in Oregon is made up of family units some five and six generations on the same ground. These folks have a vested interest in the health and well-being of the land, the water and the wildlife it supports. They ask little and contribute much to the economy and the culture of our State. I am proud to serve them and to say that the state of the cattle industry today in Oregon is both fragile and solid, and looking forward to a great tomorrow.

Bill Hoyt, President

Oregon Cattlemen’s Association