written for The Argus Observer, published Sunday, March 15, 2015
Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden’s economic philosophy, which is centered around exports, was one of the main subjects at his town hall meeting in Ontario on Saturday.
“What I’m interested in is growing things in Oregon, making things in Oregon, adding value in Oregon, and then shipping them somewhere else,” Wyden said.
He said that Oregon products are “on fire” in Asian markets and Oregonians need to look no farther than their own backyards to boost their economy.
“What we ought to do is build on what we know works,” Wyden said. “We have a lot of exports and that’s a promising opportunity.”
Exactly how those exports will travel into the world marketplace also dominated much of the conversation, with the spotlight on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Representatives from Fight for the Future, a Boston-based organization that promotes digital-rights, flew a 30 foot blimp bringing attention to the topic during the meeting.
“We’re fighting for net neutrality and Senator Wyden has been an ally in that fight,” said Eric Ross, one of the organization’s representatives. “Fast-tracking the TPP will undermine digital rights and we’re asking Wyden to remain an outspoken advocate and to stay strong in opposition.”
There were those in attendance that both supported and opposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is a trading deal involving the United States, Canada, and 10 countries from the Asia-Pacific region. When finished, the agreement is expected to govern up to 40 percent of the United State’s imports and exports, but much of the negotiations have been done in secret and the public has largely been kept in the dark.
“Those with the blimp, they’re making some very valid points,” Wyden said. “There’s been way too much secrecy about trade discussions in the past. We need to focus on accountability and human rights.”
Another way to protect resources, Wyden said, is through more stringent and focused fire prevention.
Wyden said he’s also been working to help preserve the area’s agriculture exports and will be presenting a bill dealing with wildfires within the next week.
“There’s a potential for this to be a brutal fire season and there’s not enough focus on prevention,” Wyden said. “We get these infernos and the bureaucracy borrows money from the prevention fund and prevention gets slighted.”
Wyden proposed using the disaster fund to pay for firefighting and the prevention fund to pay for fire prevention.
“We don’t have enough focus on prevention,” Wyden said.
The conversation also took a turn toward education costs and funding.
“I’m going to school for natural resources and I’m vice president of the natural resources club,” said Amber Parks, a student at Treasure Valley Community College. “I want to graduate and buy some land at some point, but the cost for college is so high.”
Wyden agreed college costs have risen and said they used to be comparable to buying a car instead of buying a house.
“College will be the second biggest investment in your life, second to your house,” Wyden explained. “We need to be able to get in the door and we must get the most value possible from the sum we’re paying.”
Wyden also touched on GMO labeling.
“It is in the interest of our country to have the Federal government meet with ag stakeholders and come up with one standard,” Wyden said. “People want to know what’s in our foodstuffs and it will help to have a standardized approach.”
Wyden spent 90 minutes talking politics with residents of Ontario, Nyssa, Vale and the surrounding areas, which he said he promises to do in every county in Oregon at least once a year while he holds his seat on the Senate.
“We do it the way our founding fathers did it, no speeches, this is a time for you to educate me,” Wyden said.