Farm Bureau targets major issues: water, grazing, weeds

Bryan Vogt

KIMBERLY - The new president of the Grant County Farm Bureau is clear about the organization's mission.

"The main thing the Farm Bureau wants to see is the continuation of sustainable, productive agriculture in Grant County," said Bryan Vogt, who was elected to the top spot in January.

Vogt comes to the top post with a family background in ranching, and farming and educational credentials in agriculture.

He has a degree in wildlife and fisheries from Texas Tech and a graduate degree in rangeland resource management from Oregon State University in Corvallis, where he also met his wife, Lorraine.

He was a district manager for a conservation district in the Tule Lake area before he and his wife moved back to Eastern Oregon, where her family has long operated the Thomas Orchards in Kimberly. She is a district conservationist for the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service in John Day, and he is working in the orchard business.

Vogt said he and his brother-in-law, Jeff Thomas, were interested in the Farm Bureau as associate members, but they got more involved after Jack Southworth, president of the Grant County chapter, urged them to be delegates to the organization's 2008 annual meeting. Later Southworth urged him to seek the top Grant County post this year.

Southworth, who has headed the group for about a decade, remains active in the group as secretary and Roger Ediger continues as treasurer. Southworth also is the main organizer of a workshop next week on grazing issues.

Vogt concedes that Southworth has left big shoes to fill in the top Farm Bureau job. But Southworth said he's pleased to see someone like Vogt come in with new energy and perspective for the task.

"It's always good to get new blood in an organization," he said. He also welcomes the involvement of a younger generation.

"We're an aging population here, in a nationally aging industry," Southworth said.

Both men said the Farm Bureau will continue to take on issues across the spectrum of interest for agricultural producers, from water to grazing.

Vogt said the group has identified three primary issues of concern:

? Ongoing litigation over public lands grazing. The Grant County Farm Bureau is supporting the Five Rivers Permittees, who are involved in litigation with the U.S. Forest Service and environmental groups. "We don't want to see local ranchers lose the ability to graze on public lands," he said.

? Weed control. The group has been an active partner in getting a cooperative weed management association (CWMA) established in the county, and aims to continue its support for projects and activities proposed by that group.

? Water issues. Legislative proposals to meter water from irrigation diversions and other sources, including wells, are a hot-button issue.

The Grant County Farm Bureau has about 95 voting and supporting members who come from a variety of ranching, farming and ag-related businesses, Vogt said. He's hoping members and interested citizens will turn out for the March 17 workshop on grazing.

Southworth, who is a grazing permittee on the national forest, also is looking forward to that session.

The speakers will include Jim Sartwelle, livestock specialist with the American Farm Bureau, on "surviving 2009 and thriving beyond in the livestock business," and Barry Bushue, president of the Oregon Farm Bureau, on state and national issues. Jeff Shinn, Blue Mountain Ranger District grazing program manager, will discuss ways for ranchers to be proactive in managing their grazing allotments.

The meeting will start with a time for local ranchers to express their concerns to the Farm Bureau leaders.

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