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Passionate about Oregon agriculture? Consider serving on one of the commodity commissions

Dozens of openings to be filled among 23 agriculture and commercial fishery commissions

Oregon's 23 agricultural and commercial fishery commodity commissions are casting a wide net in hopes of attracting strong candidates to fill 67 vacant positions over the next several weeks. Successful applicants are the lifeblood to the vital and important role the commissions play in the success of the state's agriculture and fishery industries.

"Oregon's commodity commissions provide opportunities to advance agriculture and fisheries through research, promotion and education," says Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Alexis Taylor. "We want to find the best and the brightest people to serve on these commissions, and that relies on getting the word out to a broad and inclusive pool of potential applicants."

This year, ODA is making a special effort to reach new audiences and venues — first, with an emphasis on educating prospective applicants on what commodity commissions do. A newly created brochure is part of the introduction to the world of commissions.

Taylor appoints commissioners to make decisions on how to use producer assessments on projects funded by each commodity commission. Applications are currently being solicited with Taylor expected to begin making appointments in May and June.

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 commissioners, the commissions will function at a very high level," says Kris Anderson, manager of ODA's Commodity Commission Oversight Program. "You see spontaneity and innovation, which helps move the commissions forward."

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 they are involved with. Of the 67 open positions, 10 are for public members.

Commodity commissions began in 1943 when the Oregon Legislature established the Oregon Dairy Products Commission. The Oregon Wheat Commission soon followed. Commission activities are funded through self-assessments. While those activities and accomplishments vary from commission to commission, 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.

Some recent examples include trade shows promoting the qualities of Oregon grass seed and Dungeness crab, among other commodities. The Oregon Hazelnut Commission has funded research leading to the development of trees resistant to the deadly Eastern filbert blight. The Oregon Trawl Commission has led the effort to receive third-party certification on sustainable fisheries. Several commissions have invested in farm to school — or, in the case of seafood commissions, boat to school classroom activities.

Current commissioners are very interested in attracting a new wave of dedicated Oregonians who are willing to offer their skills and expertise for the betterment of the state's agriculture and fishery commodities. Becky Berger, part of a fifth generation Willamette Valley grass seed operation, is in her first year on the Tall Fescue Commission. She acknowledges the challenge of diversifying the roster of those who serve on commissions.

"The most experienced growers tend to be older and have more time to serve as the younger generation takes on more responsibility," says Berger. "It is traditionally a male dominated industry. We want the perspective of more experienced growers that have weathered the different problems throughout the years, but we also need to add the perspective of the younger growers and the obstacles they currently face. There are some dynamic young women in this industry, too."

There is also the misconception that a commissioner must be actively engaged in producing or handling the commodity for which they represent. That's where the value of a public member comes in. Ericka Carlson serves on the Oregon Albacore Commission.

"As a public member, I have the opportunity to contribute by sharing my skill set — in my case, namely marketing, advertising and culinary knowledge," Carlson says. "Every member of the commission has a different skill set and knowledge base. Together, we make a great team in advancing research, marketing and consumer education to benefit Oregon's albacore industry."

Michelle Armstrong is public member for the Oregon Hazelnut Commission, helping to represent consumers. She has found the experience to be very rewarding.

"The Oregon Hazelnut Commission is part of a very open and friendly industry," she says. "We truly enjoy seeing a wide array of people who find a home not only in agriculture, but in our industry. As a commissioner, I enjoy seeing this industry grow rapidly and successfully. Serving on a commission is a great opportunity to learn about an industry and contribute to its future."

Oregon's pioneer program of commodity commissions has been a model for other states that recognize what can happen when producers pool their funds to accomplish what they could never undertake as individuals. If that sounds good and interesting, there may be a place for you as part of an Oregon commodity commission.

Open positions are listed at https://oda.direct/Commissions. Those interested in applying can find more information on the website, including applications, within the next couple of weeks. Applications should be completed by mid-May.

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

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