Spotlight Chris Christensen
Chris Christensen is OCA’s District One Vice President. He is the facilitating voice between the state association and the county associations of Grant, Harney and Malheur counties. Chris and his wife, Bonnie, believe in leadership and transparency in the beef industry, which is why Chris decided to take a position of leadership within the industry over eight years ago.
“I got involved in my county first because Malheur County Cattlemen’s had stopped hosting meetings and I wanted to change that,” said Christensen who served for five years as the Malheur county president and is currently finishing up his third year as the District Vice President for the association.
Chris Christensen grew up in the Mid-West near Sioux Falls, South Dakota; always around cattle operations. Over 50 years ago he served in Vietnam and when he returned from his service, he enrolled in University of Illinois where he received a bachelor’s degree in animal science.
After school, he worked for a large operation in Illinois with 1, 600 mother cows, 1000 plus yearlings and a large feedlot. A friend from his college days and a fellow veteran told Chris about a surge of ranches being put together in Oregon and asked him if he would be interested in moving out west. To which, Chris agreed and began his ranch management of cattle operations in Oregon, which led to him owning his own operation.
“I think one of the hardest things for people entering the industry now, and it was the same when I started, is running operations on land owned by absent landlords who probably do not know a thing about cattle. It can be hard, but those are the guys that can afford the land and so a working relationship is vital,” said Christensen.
“Do you know where the word ‘Buckaroo’ comes from?” Chris asks me.
“I could take a guess, but it probably wouldn’t be right,” I replied.
“In my area, ‘Buckaroo’ means a lot of things. We use it as a noun, pronoun, adjective – you name it. The original settlers in this area were Cowboys of Spanish origin and in Spanish the word Vaquero means cowboy or cattle driver. So, we are pretty sure a poor, English butchering of Vaquero created the word Buckaroo.”
In the Southeast region of Oregon being a Buckaroo, Vaquero, or Cowboy is a way of life. The people of Grant, Harney and Malheur are rich in ranching history and dedicated to raising healthy cattle, being stewards of the land and producing a high-quality beef product.
Christensen says his top concerns for producers, particularly in his district is the Corporate Activities Tax (CAT). Oregon’s CAT is measured on a business’s commercial activity–the total amount a business realizes from transactions and activity in Oregon. The CAT is applied to Oregon taxable commercial activity in excess of $1 million. And the Governor’s Cap and Trade order, which may result in increased fuel taxes for agricultural operations.
Overall, Christensen is concerned about the direction of Oregon’s policies and regulations for agricultural communities but says he will continue to be active in protecting grazing and water rights, which are essential to the health of the environment and the cattle.
TIPS FOR ENGAGEMENT
In the conclusion of his interview, Chris said the most important thing OCA can do right now is to build a new connection with grassroots, county associations. Opening the channel of communication between the state and local clubs is vital to the success and direction of OCA.
“We need to get the county leaders more involved and provide them with a bigger and better platform for engagement with state leadership,” said Christensen.
Building a strong connection between the county associations and OCA is crucial to ensuring that OCA is representing all cattle producers and operations fairly and objectively. Building upon these relationships is a top priority for OCA staff.
On behalf of the OCA leadership and staff, I would like to say a big thank you to Chris for his continued service and leadership for the greater cause of improving the industry for Oregon’s cattle producers.
For members who want to become more involved in District One, you can contact Chris at [email protected].