Saturday, March 29, 2008

All Politics Is Local

Skagit County is governed by a board of three commissioners; the sole Republican commissioner has decided to retire, so local dairy farmer Ron Wesen stepped into the race to succeed him. We know Ron as the head of the county Dairy Federation and also as a member of the extended Wesen dairy family. Four brothers and their father produce both conventional and organic milk from two different herds at two neighboring farms, the only local operation to do so. Since dairy families make up only about 0.1% of the population of the county, we're pretty excited that Ron has decided to run for commissioner.

I'm a progressive Democrat while my brother is a libertarian-leaning Republican. When it comes to local agriculture and renewable energy, however, parties become much less important. Unless the two Democrats running opposite Ron turn out to be impeccably pro-farming (one's a developer and the other works for a city sanitation department, so....), I'll be voting Republican in this race. In the same way, our state senator Mary Margaret Haugen (D-10th) has been one of our strongest supporters and my right-wing brother will be voting Democrat for her in November.

Two months ago, Senator Haugen introduced SB 6806 to provide tax incentives for anaerobic digesters; in early March, the bill passed the Senate 46-0 and the House 96-1. Even in Olympia, support for farming and green power can cross party lines. We will be driving down to the capital on Monday to watch Governor Gregoire sign the legislation; the first beneficiaries of the tax incentives will be two dairy farmers who currently operate digesters, most likely Republicans!

Eventually, we hope that the political support for anaerobic digesters will stimulate the construction of many more than the one that Farm Power is currently developing. Local agriculture, renewable energy...who can be against this stuff? When politics happen where you live, things get done.

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