Oregon Bills Support Climate Friendly Farming Practices – Action Needed

The Oregon Legislature meets from February 5 through early March this year. They are considering two major bills (SB 1507 and HB 4001) to cap greenhouse gas emissions from industrial sources, while creating a fund to address the impacts of climate change and support climate friendly farming practices. You might have heard these bills referred to as ‘Clean Energy Jobs’ or ‘Cap and Invest.’

While the amount of money available is unknown at this stage, the bills have the potential to support a wide range of activities and practices on farms that sequester carbon in soils, reduce energy use, encourage irrigation efficiency, and protect both working land and natural areas on farms and ranches. Farmers are not only on the front lines of experiencing climate change impacts like extreme weather and uncertain water supplies, as land managers we can also be part of the solution.

HB 4001 and SB 1507 had public hearings in Salem on February 7 before a joint meeting of the Senate and House Environment Committees. FoFF was there to speak up for smaller and mid-sized family farmers and ranchers. We are generally supportive of these bills but also have some concerns we hope can be addressed through amendments. You can read our 3-page testimony here.

You can also find a more general fact sheet on Incentives for Agriculture in the proposed ‘Clean Energy Jobs’ bills.

These bills are a step in the right direction and acknowledge the important role that farms and ranches can play in addressing climate change. But they are facing strong opposition. We need you to raise your voice and help us ensure that small and mid-sized farms are able to access the programs the bill will ultimately set up.

Unfortunately, the bills do contain a loophole that would allow a handful of Oregon’s largest mega-dairies to be exempt from any requirement to reduce, or even report, their annual methane emissions, continuing Oregon’s lax oversight even as the number of these large factory farm operations continues to grow. More than half of Oregon’s dairy cows are located at two of the largest mega-dairies in the country near Boardman, Oregon.

Please take action today by sending an email to your State Legislators to encourage them to strengthen the bills for the benefit of Oregon’s small and mid-sized family farmers and ranchers.

Sample email language to your State Legislators:

Dear Representative/Senator,

I am writing to show my support for the Legislature passing either SB 1507 or HB 4001 this session. But I believe these bills should be strengthened for the benefit of Oregon’s small and mid-sized family farmers and ranchers.

These bills will create a fund that can be used to address the harmful impacts of climate change in both rural and urban communities, and to assist farms and ranches in adopting practices that sequester carbon in soils, reduce energy use, encourage irrigation efficiency, and protect both working lands and natural areas on farms and ranches.

A few examples of Oregon specific practices that help sequester carbon in soils include: growing organically, cover crops and crop rotations, organic no-till practices, conventional no-till, conservation tillage, perennial pasture establishment, and rotational grazing of livestock. These practices should be identified in the bills to ensure they are supported in future years.

Unfortunately, the bills contain a loophole that would allow a handful of Oregon’s largest mega-dairies to be exempt from any requirement to reduce, or even report, their annual methane emissions. Oregon cannot continue to ignore the climate and other harmful impacts of the growing number of mega-dairies moving to our state. This loophole in the bills should be closed.

Sincerely,

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