Clean energy jobs are key to our future
Some of my earliest childhood memories are of working in the dirt. Smudging and thinning pears, nursery and greenhouse work, and raising and selling plants. I have been involved in agriculture my whole life. It's part of my story and my family's story, dating back to my grandfather's 1,100-acre farm.
Oregon's agricultural industries depend on a healthy climate. The future of our top-grossing nursery industry depends on it, too.
Oregon's nursery industry is a major economic driver in our state. Last year we saw our second-best sales year on record, bringing in $947.7 million in sales. Nursery and greenhouse crops are Oregon's top agricultural commodity. Our state's wholesale nursery industry serves markets across the world, exports that bring significant dollars back to Oregon's economy.
As extreme weather events around the world dominated headlines this year, we saw how climate change is beginning to become a topic of broader interest. But those of us in agriculture have already been dealing with the signs of climate change for quite some time. The cumulative effects of extreme events like flooding, heat, wildfires and drought cost the U.S. agriculture sector nearly $9 billion a year.
Our industry is doing what it can to adapt to the realities of a warmer world, but it's costly and there's only so much we can do. We're also part of the solution, because the plants we grow are carbon-sequestration machines. Young trees, like those grown at wholesale nurseries, sequester carbon a comparatively high rate compared to more mature trees.
But beyond what any one farm, business or even an entire industry can do, we need broad, systemic change to slow global warming. In 2019, Oregon can pass the Clean Energy Jobs bill to cap and price climate pollution from the largest emitters in the state, and reinvest the proceeds into our clean energy economy.
Clean Energy Jobs is designed to benefit all Oregonians, with tremendous opportunities for those working in our award-winning agricultural industries. It will help us pay to install advanced irrigation systems that use less water and power, saving money and guarding against drought. We can use advanced techniques to lock carbon into the soil, which makes it healthier and better for growing. Proceeds from Clean Energy Jobs can help farmers and growers implement these techniques and potentially be rewarded for doing so.
This work has to be done close to home, so our friends and neighbors who work in construction, design, engineering, sales and administrative support will see growing opportunities for good-paying jobs.
There is also an opportunity for industries like ours who help mitigate climate change to benefit from the Clean Energy Jobs bill. We should be recognized for all we do to sequester carbon, which is why we're in frequent talks with lawmakers on how to make sure the bill recognizes Oregon industries that are already working to mitigate climate change.
In Oregon, low snowpack has led to drought. Heavy rains have spurred erosion and remove vital, nutrient-rich topsoil. Record-breaking heat and wildfires have stressed the land, affected crop yields and created difficult conditions for our workers. We all must do our part to protect jobs, maintain the health of the land and safeguard Oregon's natural resource heritage. These are the things we love and value as Oregonians. They're part of our legacy, and that's why I support Clean Energy Jobs and call upon our legislature to pass the bill in 2019.
Tom Brewer lives in Beaverton