It didn’t stick.
Josephine County Commissioner Simon Hare said the controversial idea to ban all commercial farming in rural residential zones was part of something they decided to “throw against the wall to see what sticks.”
At their March 28 weekly business session, Commissioners listened to about two hours of indignation from county residents, who said the ban would deprive them of income from garden produce, hay and animals they raise to help them pay taxes, make improvements on their land, and send their kids to college.
Yet, many rural county residents also complain of the odors, contaminated water, illegal camping, traffic and crime associated with neighborhood marijuana farms. They love their country life, they told the board, but during the grow season there’s no end to the mayhem.
In between those lamenting about the future of rural life in Josephine County, advocates of the Jefferson State movement sneaked in a request to separate Josephine County from the State of Oregon.
“How does Grants Pass, Jefferson sound?” asked one fellow wearing a green sweatshirt and hat emblazoned with the yellow and black Jefferson XX logo. The Commissioners didn’t answer but made an effort to look like they were sympathetic. Other Jefferson Stators popped up between people talking about cows and horses, hay and chickens, saying it was Oregon’s pesky regulations creating all these problems. One guy blamed it on Agenda 21, an obscure United Nations non-binding proposal concerning sustainable development in third-world
countries, enacted about 25 years ago. Agenda 21 is a favorite of conspiracy theorists who have somehow managed to terrorize each other by saying it’s a massive environmental movement that’s going to roll over the earth and deprive everyone of their land rights.
“I have my rural rights,” the Agenda 21 opponent said.
“Bring liberty back to Oregon counties,” said a guy waving autographed copies of a book about Ruby Ridge and LaVoy Finicum. Others lamented that Salem doesn’t care about Josephine County, and Senator Jeff Merkley is to be reviled because no one in the rural areas voted for him.
The Commission was asked to sign a declaration that would start the process separating Josephine County from the state. They told Commissioners their signatures on the declaration would start the “easy” process to then get Congress to approve the new state.
Meanwhile, rural landowners kept up pressure on Commissioners to abandon their plan to get rid of annoying marijuana grows by banning all commercial activity on rural land. One man said when the big, expected earthquake comes and creates a wasteland of the county, those with their little patches of gardens and chickens will be all that’s left to feed us. If they can’t sell food, we might all starve, he emphasized.
Technically, what the Commissioners had in mind would grandfather in all current commercial activity on small farms, but people complained their kids wouldn’t be able to continue their lifestyle if that were the case.
After everyone spoke, Commissioners took turns giving loquacious tributes to all who expressed their opinions and assured the landowners they didn’t want them to stop selling produce, some of which they buy. Hare said perhaps the proposal needs further refinement. Commissioner Lily Morgan said she wouldn’t vote for anything that would harm the county’s small farmers. Commissioner Dan DeYoung addressed the Jefferson Stators, acknowledging the vast divide between urban and rural areas even though they attend endless meetings trying to resolve differences.
So what does a beleaguered Commission do when it finds the proposal they put out to solve a problem actually creates a lot more problems?
Table the matter.
As for the Declaration to pull Josephine County out of Oregon, Commissioner Morgan suggested the proposal be put on the ballot as an advisory measure “possibly in November when more people come out.”
The Jefferson Stators didn’t react to this idea publicly, but their advertising indicates they’ll be back.