The Oregon Association of Nurseries is our trade association that helps keep us working and growing.
The volunteer leaders and professional staff that make up the OAN connect us, market our plants, and above all else advocate on our behalf to the politicians and government officials in Salem and Washington DC.
I am really excited about this month’s Digger issue, as it is a comprehensive look at the OAN’s advocacy work — who leads the charge, what we are pushing for, and how we bring our issues to the table.
Being political is not in my nature. It takes me some thought and time to arrive at my conclusions. And once my opinion is forged, I tend not to share too widely, since it is only my opinion. But those opinions and views are important.
The OAN Government Relations Committee exposed me to the benefit of sharing those opinions. They may not be the popular one in the room, but they matter. Every one of our opinions helps color and complete a picture of how our industry works.
Our executive director, Jeff Stone, and Elizabeth Remley, contract lobbyist with Thorn Run Partners, do a wonderful job getting our members ready to tell our stories to government officials. Nothing is better than a business owner or employee explaining how government regulations will make our job harder or less profitable with undue regulations.
For me, talking one-on-one with a politician is fairly comfortable; in front of a committee, not so much. The first time I testified in front of a committee at the capitol building in Salem was, I felt, a disaster.
It didn’t help that the committee was disorganized. We didn’t know who or when we would be called up to speak — or even if we would have the chance. I fumbled through my introduction, said what I wanted to get across, and was done. It felt like a blink of an eye, and I hoped I made sense.
That experience, along with Jeff and Elizabeth’s guidance has helped and am now a much stronger voice on our issues.
Our advocacy brings partners together. The ag community in Oregon is strong and the OAN is one of its leaders. On like-minded issues, we work with Oregon Farm Bureau, Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, and other ag groups that want to work in concert with us. These partners make sense on paper, but other partners can be a surprise.
When the driver’s license bill was being discussed in Salem, we joined with worker’s rights groups and faith-based groups to make our appeal. It was an issue we all agreed on and could work together on. It was the right thing to do. And we were successful.
The advocacy the OAN does is financed by our members. Our dues and ONPAC donations go towards protecting our nursery businesses and employees. This means that those who invest in the association pay the freight for others who don’t join — who just sit back and reap the benefits. That’s tough to square. We are one industry, and everyone should do their fair share by supporting the OAN.
Advocacy is one of the hardest things to put an ROI on. Some of the best advocacy work is protecting us from onerous regulations. If a bill or rule does not see the light of day because of work our team and members did, then how do you put a value on that?
Just this year alone, with the struggles from imminent business closures due to COVID, employment pressures, and now wildfire outbreaks, would be enough for my business to make sure we are members of the OAN, the trade association representing the largest sector in Oregon agriculture.
Enjoy as this issue “pulls back the curtain” on how we advocate for you, but also contemplate getting involved. By joining the advocacy team, sharing your story and offering your views, you can help complete the picture of Oregon nurseries.