Friends of Family Farmers – Farm and Food Legislative Priorities 2015

There are hundreds of bills directly relating to, or having an impact on, agriculture and food in the Oregon Legislature this year. Among these are a number of key bills and budget proposals we believe will help advance socially responsible agriculture and healthy local food systems in Oregon. In short, our 2015 legislative priorities are:

  • Protecting the viability of Oregon’s farms and agricultural markets
  • Supporting new marketing opportunities for Oregon farmers
  • Supporting new and beginning farmers
  • Reducing the harm from factory farms
  • Increasing transparency in government decision-making that affects family farmers

The following bills are the key pieces of legislation we are working on to address these priorities. If you want to keep track on the progress of these bills and other happenings in Salem, keep an eye on our blog for updates.

Enhancing and Funding Aggie Bonds: In 2013, the Oregon Legislature created Oregon’s Beginning and Expanding Farmer Loan Program, also known as Aggie Bonds, to provide lower interest lending to beginning and smaller farmers. In 2015, legislation (HB 3239) will expand the types of lenders who will be able to offer Aggie Bonds backed loans, including NW Farm Credit Services. Additionally, $10 million in bonding authority (contained in HB 5005) will need to be authorized by the legislature for 2015-17 to support loans for up to 20 beginning farmers borrowing the maximum amount (approximately $500,000) over the biennium. Additionally, the ‘working lands initiative’ (below) is also intended to provide lower interest loans, loan guarantees and grants which could be used by beginning and newer farmers and aid in farm succession.

Protecting Working Lands: SB 204 would use $30 million in bonding to fund new state loan, loan guarantee and grant programs to protect working land at risk of development, and to encourage good conservation practices on farm and forest land in Oregon. Grants would be available for working lands conservation easements. In addition to protecting working land and helping improve conservation values, SB 204 could provide assistance in passing along working farms to a new generation. See factsheet here>>

Increased funding for OSU Extension and Ag Research Programs: A wide coalition seeking $16 million in new funding for the ‘OSU Statewide Public Service Programs’ that house Extension and funding for Oregon’s agricultural research stations. Securing funding increases will help with important regional priorities including small and beginning farmer support, pollinator health, food safety, water quality protection, and research needs on crop rotation, reducing pesticide use, fermentation sciences and sustainable management techniques. The major funding decisions for the ‘OSU Statewides,’ as they are called, will be made in the Ways and Means Committee and SB 657 has been introduced to secure the funding. See factsheet here>>

State Level GE regulation: When the Legislature enacted SB 863 in late 2013, it both pre-empted local communities from regulating GE crops and food, but also placed these issues under the ‘exclusive regulatory power’ of the state. However, the Oregon Department of Agriculture does not currently regulate or even track use of GE crops that may pose a risk to Oregon’s non-GE markets. To reconcile this problem, bills to clarify the state’s regulatory authority over GE crops have been introduced. These include SB 207, HB 2674 and HB 2675. SB 207 would generally allow ODA to set rules intended to segregate GE from non-GE crops, while the House bills would direct ODA to take action by 2016 and require greater restrictions on GE crops than the Senate bill. HB 2674 would also establish a compensation fund available for farmers who experience financial harm from GE crops. See factsheet here>>

Agritourism: SB 341 would establish blanket legal liability protections for agritourism providers as long as they post clear signs, and take other steps to reduce risks to the public when entering their farm. Agritourism is a key opportunity to enhance economic value on farms in Oregon. But whenever a farm offers u-pick opportunities, farm-stays, or other public access onto their farm as part of their business plan, the farmer takes a risk of being sued if someone gets injured. Limiting the legal liability of farmers who engage in agritourism is intended to reduce this risk.  See factsheet here>>

Preventing misuse of antibiotics: HB 2598 and SB 920 would bar the use of medically important antibiotics for non-medical purposes in food producing animals (with a focus on poultry, swine and cattle), and require reporting on the use of all antibiotics at EPA regulated CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) in Oregon. The misuse of medically important antibiotics on healthy animals for growth promotion and disease prevention in confinement settings is both a major public health issue and a problem for livestock producers who need antibiotics to work when trying to heal sick or injured animals. Major outbreaks of antibiotic resistant salmonella from Foster Farms chicken, which sickened hundreds across the country in 2014, is the most recent example of the problems associated with misuse of antibiotics. See factsheet here>>

Board of Agriculture: HB 2595 would require that appointments to Oregon’s Board of Agriculture be confirmed by the Senate, as is the case with most other state agency oversight boards. The bill would also require that at least two of the Board of Agriculture members be ‘direct market’ producers who primarily sell within Oregon, and that the two public members do not have a significant financial interest in the production of agricultural commodities. These changes would not affect the terms of current board members, and would go into effect as vacancies open.See factsheet here>>

Farm to School: HB 2721 would continue funding for Oregon’s important Farm to School program in the 2015-17 biennium. We support, at a minimum, funding this program at the same level approved for the 2013-15 biennium, but favor a significant expansion of the program if funding can be made available. This program has a proven track record of getting Oregon grown and produced food into schools and supporting agricultural learning across the state. See factsheet here>>

Urban Agriculture: HB 2723 would allow counties and cities to establish ‘urban agriculture incentive zones’ to encourage small-scale urban agriculture. Inside these zones, tax breaks would be available for landowners who agree to allow small-scale agriculture on vacant urban property for five consecutive years. See factsheet here>>

For more information contact Ivan Maluski with Friends of Family Farmers at ivan@friendsoffamilyfarmers.org or 503-581-7124

You Might Also Like