It has now been 16 years since Kelli and I launched our crusade to educate the American public about who, how and where their food is produced. No one single attack from any group has set a rage inside of me like the one I witnessed in Burns, Oregon. I thought I had seen the best spinmeisters in the world but they could all take lessons from your federal government.
I spent hours with Susie Hammond, the wife of 73-year-old Dwight Hammond and mother of Steven Hammond. Dwight and Steven were resentenced to prison after completing their first sentences. Presiding Judge Hogan, who initially sentenced the ranchers, stated that a longer sentence “was cruel and unusual punishment for said crime.”
I have spent time in the past talking about the true injustice of this case so I will not go into that here except to say that the true crime in the Hammond situation is what the government is doing to this family because they want property the Hammonds own. If you think that is an exaggeration, then explain to me why would the government offer to drop all 22 charges if the Hammonds would simply sign over two-thirds of their ranch to the federal government?
How is it that the Department of Justice continues to put out information that in 2001, Steven Hammond’s hunting party poached deer and then set a fire to cover it up when that testimony was never presented in court because the claims were made by a source that was deemed not credible?
This father and son team did indeed light a fire that caused 127 acres of federal land to burn, but it was in the best interest of protecting the resources they were responsible for. Their back burn, which was approved with a telephone call to the BLM, prevented the loss of thousands of acres of private and public land. Don’t forget the Hammonds paid a $400,000 fine, which was equal to cost of fighting every single fire in the county last year.
Many are saying that this is much bigger than the Hammonds and the Bundys and I agree wholeheartedly. What I don’t understand is my friends in the agricultural community who are saying and doing nothing about this injustice. Is it because “that radical Ammon Bundy had to seize a federal wildlife refuge with guns”? What laws have Bundy and his group of occupiers broken?
Did you know that Ammon Bundy walked up the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, opened the door and walked in? It is a facility that is typically vacant all winter. He went in with friends and they stated they would occupy the facility until the Hammonds are released from prison and these public resources are managed by local control. They also stated, “If anyone comes to remove us, we will exercise our Second Amendment rights.” Folks, it was five days until the local sheriff returned Ammon Bundy’s call, and the feds have yet to reach out to seek a resolution, so what is the real agenda of the “lawmen”?
The town of Burns is obviously on edge but you need to know that the Bundy occupation is 30 miles from town. Instead of setting up headquarters in the multiple federal buildings outside of town, the FBI shut down the school, built a barricade around it and closed off several streets so they could hunker down there.
What I have personally witnessed on this trip is the worst side of our federal government that I could have ever imagined. Additionally, I am writing this because within days of reading this, thousands of the best cattlemen and cattlewomen will be gathering in San Diego, California, for the Cattle Industry Convention.
If this violation of basic American rights as food producers does not become the most discussed and most important issue of that gathering, then I suggest the next takeover will not be of federal property, but rather of an organization that has completely lost touch with what is most important to its members. If we can’t take a stand for each other, then what good is this organization?
Finally, I have received hundreds of inquiries in the past month from people who do actually want to do something. I realize that every person in every state has an issue that is top of mind as we all start our new legislative sessions, but I contend that what is currently happening in Harney County, Oregon, is happening in your state, too, and we need to get it fixed and retake state and local control.
While you can contribute to the Hammond family and their ongoing legal fees if you desire, Susie agrees with me that the best answer is contact anybody and everybody who will listen, from county supervisors to U.S. senators, and make sure they understand what happened to the Hammonds and don’t let up until those ranchers are returned home from federal prison.
Join me in signing this petition to get clemency for the Hammonds by going to this White House website before Jan. 27: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/commute-sentences-dwight-lincoln-hammond-jr-and-steven-dwight-hammond-both-harney-county-oregon.
Editor’s note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.LoosTales.com, or email Trent at firstname.lastname@example.org.