More than 100 members of the Washington County Farm Bureau (WCFB) gathered Nov. 21 to hear state Sen. Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose) speak at the organization’s annual meeting.

In her 45 minute talk, Johnson’s topics included upcoming government regulations related to water permits and other issues, gun registration, animal-crop conflicts and genetically-modified organisms (GMO).by: COURTESY PHOTOS - Helvetia resident Elmer Grossen, 92, has spent 65 years as a member of the Washington County Farm Bureau, having joined as a charter member when it formed in 1948. The group gave him a plaque at its annual meeting last month.

“She’s with us on that,” WCFB President Edmund Duyck said of the GMO issue, pointing out that Johnson agrees GMO questions should be handled by the state’s Department of Agriculture.

Duyck said Johnson was also with the group on gun rights, having broken with some of her fellow Democrats on gun legislation this past session.

“I could sit there all day and listen to that woman talk. She’s interesting,” said Duyck, who labeled himself and Johnson as the “wheelchair brigade.” Washington County Dairy Princess-Ambassador Elizabeth Thomas attended the Washington County Farm Bureaus annual meeting with state Sen. Betsy Johnson and WCFB President Edmund Duyck, who were both in wheelchairs, recovering from bones they broke during serious accidents this fall.

The two sat at the head table in wheelchairs — Johnson still recovering from a car accident a few months ago, and Duyck from a leg he broke while trying to close the door to his hay barn.

During the meeting, the WCFB presented a plaque to its longest-serving member, 92-year-old Elmer Grossen of Helvetia, who was an original charter member of the Washington County Farm Bureau when it was created in 1948.

Duyck, 83, joined the WCFB 12 years later in 1960 and served on its board for 45 years.

He has been membership chairman for the past 42 years. Including non-voting “supporting” and “associate” members, the group’s membership totals about 7,000, Duyck said.

Of those, WCFB currently has 596 voting families, which could include more than one member, he added.

“At one time, we had 800,” he said. “We’ve been slipping a little every year. Our (voting) members are getting pretty old.”

The WCFB’s biggest budget item is for scholarships, Duyck said, pointing to its $25,000 scholarship budget for 2014.

In addition, the group spends $5,000 to buy animals from 4-H and FFA members at the state fair each year, Duyck said, and sends another $10,000 to the state chapter for its scholarship fund.

That all adds up to about half the group’s annual income, which comes from a combination of membership fees, property rentals and an insurance stipend.

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