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Oregon commodity commissions pass the torch

Dozens of vacancies need to be filled among 23 ag & commercial fishery commissions

A new generation of volunteers is emerging within Oregon’s 23 agricultural and commercial fishery commodity commissions. Applications are currently being accepted for 75 vacant positions, and many long-tenured commissioners are feeling good about leaving matters in the hands of new members. Whether positions are filled with new blood or years of experience, commissions remain a vital and important player in the success of the state’s agriculture and fishery industries.

“Oregon’s commodity commissions have a rich history of providing opportunity for agriculture and fisheries to focus on research, promotion, and education,” says Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Katy Coba. “That long list of accomplishments will grow as new commissioners are recruited.”

The director appoints commissioners to make decisions on how to use producer assessments on projects funded by each commodity commission. Coba will begin making appointments in mid-May.

The commissions are only as good as the people who fill the positions. Recruitment is focused on those who have more than just a passing interest in a particular commodity.

“If you can recruit passionate, engaged, and dynamic people, the commissions will function at a high level and move forward,” says ODA Commodity Commission Program Manager Kris Anderson. “You’ll see synergy and innovation between commissioners with history and those who are new.”

Commission openings include positions for producers, handlers– those who are the first purchaser of the commodity– and public members. A public member is someone not directly associated with the production or handling of a particular commodity served by the commission in which they are involved. Of the 75 open positions, six are for public members.

Commission activities are funded through self-assessments. Those activities and accomplishments vary from commission to commission, but each have the same general mission– to fund projects for research, promotion, or education.

By forming a commodity commission, growers and handlers have agreed to assess themselves in order to accomplish things that can’t be done by individual producers. Pooling financial resources allows them to pursue activities that benefit the entire industry.

Oregon’s commodity commissions constantly transition from old members to new. Some longtime commissioners are handing over the reigns of leadership after years of service. They are anxious to see a new wave of dedicated Oregonians who are willing to offer their skills and expertise.

“We’ve always had new people coming on board,” says Tony Amstad, who is retiring in June after serving on the Oregon Potato Commission for the past 20 years. “Young people have lots of good ideas. Many times, us old guys are set in our ways, so I’m always glad when young folks come in.”

The 72-year old Amstad says he will stay involved. His stepson has applied to take his place on the Potato Commission. “If he’s appointed, I’ll be coaching my son all the way,” says Amstad.

Mosier cherry grower Bryce Molesworth (seen here with new commissioner Megan Thompson, just in her second year as a commissioner) has served the Oregon Sweet Cherry Commission for 15 years and has enjoyed working with smart innovative people in the industry.

"Younger members bring enthusiastic ideas to the front and are very able additions," he says.

The Oregon Hop Commission has relied on its organization to bring the grower community together to get things done.

“I was a hop commissioner for at least 20 years,” says John Annen of Mt. Angel. “That sounds impressive, but there are only so many of us to serve in our small industry. I’m excited to see the next generation coming up and helping. I am hopeful they will not lose sight of the importance of the Oregon Hop Commission and that we need to work together as a small industry. My experience has been gratifying.”

Hop grower Brandon Davidson has only been a commissioner for four years.

"There is a lot we can learn from the older generation, their knowledge is extensive and their experience enormous," he says. "But as part of the younger generation, I see a lot of things changing and how important technology is becoming to our industry. It's happening quickly."

Neil MacInnes of Albany-based National Frozen Foods Corporation has served on the Oregon Processed Vegetable Commission for six years and says the experience has helped him develop professionally.

“Probably the biggest reward for me was being able to get to know the researchers from Oregon State University better. That has helped me in my job and gives me another resource to obtain valuable expertise related to the crops I work with. I’m glad I’ve been able to serve on the commission, but I’m also excited about the younger members. They ask good questions and, more importantly, they are not afraid to ask them.”

Scott Setniker and Jon Iverson are two of the new Processed Vegetable commissioners, so far serving one year and seven months respectively.

“I applied so I could put in my two cents worth and help steer the research in the direction it needs to go,” says Setniker. “As a grower, I think it is important to serve on the commissions since we are paying into them with every load of product we deliver to the processor. In general, I also think the younger generation of farmers is leading the way when it comes to new technologies as well as the drive for more sustainability.”

Both Setniker and Iverson appreciate the long-serving commissioners as well.

“I think it’s good to have a mix of younger and older commissioners,” says Iverson. “That way you have a mix of experience and a fresh set of eyes looking at everything.”

Crystal Adams is in her first year as an Oregon Dungeness Crab commissioner after watching her dad serve on the Oregon Trawl Commission for many years– an experience that inspired her to get involved.

“I would hope that all applicants for these positions really love their commodity and have a vested interest in it that is more than just monetary. That will make it an enjoyable and fulfilling experience.”

As the recruitment of new commissioners continues this spring and beyond, long-serving members have a convincing and simple sales pitch aimed especially at producers.

“I would encourage more growers to participate in the work of the commissions because they can have a direct and immediate impact on how their funds are spent,” says MacInnes.

Open positions and application instructions

For more information, contact Kris Anderson at (503) 872-6600.

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