Muckboots in the Capitol: Rally Day and Mid-Session Update

2019 Rally Day attendees discussing farm and food policy issues before heading to the Capitol to meet with Legislators.

On Wednesday, March 27, more than 150 farmers, ranchers and good food supporters from across Oregon came to Salem for our fifth biennial ‘Family Farms Mean Business’ Day at the Capitol. We held policy workshops in the morning where we learned about current issues being debated at the Legislature and heard from Alexis Taylor, Director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture. At noon, we held a rally on the Capitol steps to advocate for bills to support beginning farmers, farmers markets, a ‘time-out’ on new industrial-sized livestock operations, new incentives for climate friendly agricultural practices, and more.

Some of the bills we highlighted at the event included:
  • SB 727A – Funding for ‘Double Up Food Bucks’ programming to increase access to farmers markets for low-income Oregonians
  • Several bills to support beginning farmers including: a proposed beginning farmer tax credit, student loan assistance for beginning farmers, and new and improved beginning farmer loan programs
  • Capping industrial greenhouse gas emissions and providing funding for climate-friendly farming practices via passing HB 2020, the Clean Energy Jobs bill
  • Establishing a ‘time-out’ on new large-scale industrial confined animal feeding operations to protect the viability of small and mid-sized farms, water, and the environment
‘Family Farms Mean Business’ Rally on the Oregon Capitol Steps – March 27, 2019

In addition to a rally on the Capitol steps, a day-long ‘farmers market’ took place inside the Capitol lobby to help demonstrate the importance of small farms and local food producers, and farmers met with Legislators throughout the day.

We are very thankful to all those who came to Salem to make their voices heard. This kind of citizen engagement for small farms and healthy local food systems is critical if we want to enact policies to support small and mid-sized family farms and local food producers. If you missed the event, you can get a recap of the rally in the Capital Press article about the event (Farm group rallies at Oregon State Capitol) and check out a photo album from the day on our Facebook page or here.

Mid Session Update – What Bills Are Still in Play?

The 2019 Oregon Legislative Session is now at it’s midway point. March 29 and April 9, were key cut-off deadlines for many bills to live or die. Here is an update on some of the key bills we’ve been working on or tracking and how they are faring:

Beginning Farmer Access to Land:

HB 3085 – Creates a new Family Farmer Loan Program to provide low-interest loans to small and mid-sized farmers for land and equipment, including beginning farmers – a public hearing was held March 14 and it passed the House Agriculture and Land Use Committee unanimously on April 9. It is now in the Ways and Means Committee where we need to advocate for funding between now and the end of the session in June.

HB 3090Beginning Farmer Incentive Program to help with student loan debt and tuition assistance – a public hearing was held March 14 and it passed the House Agriculture and Land Use Committee unanimously on April 9. It is now in the Ways and Means Committee where we need to advocate for funding between now and the end of the session in June.

HB 3091 – Fee reduction for the existing Aggie Bonds beginning farmer loan program – a public hearing was held March 14 but the bill died in Committee at the March 29 scheduling deadline. Despite this bill failing, the Aggie Bonds program still exists and may be a good option for low-interest lending if you are a qualifying beginning or expanding small farmer.

The Capital Press article “Three bills propose new farmer loans and incentives” provides a good overview. In addition, one more beginning farmer land access bill is still in play:

HB 3092 – Creates a new Beginning Farmer Tax Credit to encourage leasing land to beginning farmers and ranchers. In the House Revenue Committee, has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.

Organic, Farm Direct, Local Food and Specialty Seed Producer Protections

SB 727A – $3 million in funding for Double Up Food Bucks programming at farmers markets and other farm-direct locations – Passed the Senate Human Services Committee March 14; Awaiting action in the Ways and Means Committee.

HB 3170 – Provides roughly  $1.5 million in funding to support Farm Direct Nutrition Programs for low-income women with infants and children, and low-income seniors – Passed House Human Services Committee April 1; Awaiting action in the Ways and Means Committee.

SB 257 – $30 million in funding for the OSU Statewide Public Service Programs, including Extension and Agricultural Experiment Stations – Passed the Senate Education Committee March 27; Awaiting action in the Ways and Means Committee.

SB 885 – Maintains current restrictions on canola production in the Willamette Valley, capped at 500 acres/year and only under permit to protect the region’s specialty vegetable seed industry. A public hearing was held in the Senate Environment Committee on April 2 and it was passed by the committee in a 3-2 vote on April 4. However, it was sent to the Ways and Means Committee where we will need to work to ensure it moves forward. Read more in Capital Press article “Oregon Senate committee passes canola limit bill“.

HB 3219 – Similar to SB 885, but explicitly prohibits the production of herbicide resistant or genetically engineered varieties of canola – Died in Committee at the March 29 scheduling deadline.

SB 449 – Creates standards for ‘farm cafes,’ to allow farmers to offer prepared meals made with products grown or produced on their and other local farms – Died in Committee at the March 29 scheduling deadline.

Climate, Water, Land Use

HB 2020 – Caps industrial greenhouse gas emissions and creates a Climate Investment Fund to support farm practices that sequester carbon in soils and promote irrigation efficiency. This bill is being amended and awaiting action in the Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction. Send an email to your State Legislators here to ensure this bill passes with strong language ensuring small and mid-sized family farms benefit from the program.

Cows standing in thick manure at the Lost Valley Farm before it was closed by state regulators for more than 200 permit violations and threats to groundwater.

SB 103 – Places a moratorium on issuing permits for new industrial-sized dairies while creating new protections for groundwater from overuse and pollution, new air emissions rules, and protections for small and mid-sized dairy farms – Public hearing held in the Senate Environment Committee on March 21; Died in Committee at the March 27 scheduling deadline.

SB 876 – Creates new permit requirements for large confined animal feeding operations to address issues raised by the failed Lost Valley mega-dairy – A public hearing was held in the Senate Environment Committee on March 21. Two amendments were proposed, including one that strengthened protections for groundwater by preventing new mega-dairies from using an exemption that allows them to access unlimited groundwater in areas where groundwater is otherwise restricted due to supply concerns. The amendments and the bill died in a 2-3 vote in committee on April 9 with Senator Arnie Roblan (D-Coos Bay/Tillamook) joining the two Republicans on the committee to kill the legislation.

The above two ‘mega-dairy’ bills and our efforts to secure a ‘time-out’ on new mega-dairies in Oregon in response to the regulatory failures that led to the Lost Valley mega-dairy were covered in early April in the Food and Environment Reporting Network article “After mega-dairy was shut down, Oregon lawmakers consider a moratorium on new operations“.

HB 2729 – Provides funding for Oregon’s Agricultural Heritage Program, which is aimed at preventing loss of farmland to non-farm uses and providing grants to assist in farm succession and conservation planning on farms. Passed House Agriculture Committee March 26; Awaiting action in the Ways and Means Committee.

HB 2882 – Protects farmers by holding the patent-holders of genetically engineered crops financially accountable when their products cause economic harm to farmers who experience unwanted contamination. Passed out of the House Judiciary Committee on April, moving to the House Rules Committee where further discussions will continue.

2019 Rally Day Attendees Learning About Farm and Food Policy Issues Before Heading to the Capitol to Meet with Legislators.

The above list is a snap-shot of most of the bills we are tracking or weighing in on this session. We will continue to post updates and more information on our Muckboots in the Capitol blog throughout the session, but you can also track the progress of these and other bills through the online Oregon Legislative Information System (OLIS).

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