Kotek, OAN leaders discuss impact of COVID regulations
Wednesday, June 10, 2020
In a meeting with OAN leaders last Friday, Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) said that Oregon has successfully kept COVID-19 infection rates lower than neighboring states, thanks to strong leadership and cooperation.
“It’s not just the people at the state doing this,” she said. “It’s every Oregonian who has stepped up and taken ‘stay home, save lives’ seriously.”
The meeting took place over Zoom, and included members of the OAN Board of Directors as well as the Government Relations Committee. It gave members the opportunity to talk about the issues they are encountering during the pandemic.
Josh Robinson, OAN board member and co-owner at Robinson Nursery in Amity, noted that his nursery has lost many of its inefficiencies due to social distancing requirements. This makes a difference because the nursery has five crops in rotation at any given time.
“If things don’t get done on time within each of those plants destined for shift up or sale, the plants become unusable for shift or sale, so they become junk,” he said. “One foot of growth lost on a tree is $3-4, and we do 600,000–700,000 a year.”
Robinson said that the nursery does as much as it can to protect employees, and for that reason, he is tired of seeing an employer vs. employee narrative in some quarters.
“I feel like we are one of the biggest assets these guys have,” he said. “They are safer than they would be out in the general public.”
Kathy LeCompte, co-owner of Brooks Tree Farm in Salem, produces seedlings in bulk, with low margins. She said during the recovery, protecting small businesses will be essential.
“We have already brought up our concerns about additional taxes, higher fees, higher licensing costs,” she said. “I’m more than a little concerned we’re going to hear, ‘You’re still alive, let’s tax you more.’ I know how desperately the state needs us, but many of us, we are just getting crushed with one devastating blow after another.”
OAN President Jim Simnitt told Kotek about the shipping challenges nurseries encountered this spring. The OAN and the Minnesota Nursery and Lanscape Associaton led the charge in creating a national map showing which industry segements were open or closed in each state or Canadian province, and that’s not all the OAN has done. “It’s been huge how nurseries have turned to the association for information,” he said.
Simnitt mentioned that the OAN took a financial hit from COVID-19 due to the cancellation of the Farwest Show.
“We feel strongly about the association and it’s now more important than ever to be able to lean on a group,” he said.
Kotek said she appreciated hearing the specifics from growers. She also alluded to the fact that COVID-19 isn’t the only challenge Americans are facing these days. There also have been widespread protests over policing issues following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“It is a transformative time and the stress level is way, way up,” she said. “Anyone living in the United States is feeling it, no matter what. We are only going to get through this if we listen to each other and collectively come up with good ideas.”