Muckboots in the Capitol: June Legislative Updates

June Updates – Legislature Enters Final Stretch!

Farmers and eaters rallied for good farm and food policies at the Oregon State Capitol in March.

The 2019 Oregon Legislative Session is entering it’s final stretch. Many bills that advanced earlier in the session have been waiting for the powerful Ways and Means Committee to determine whether funding is available. As the Legislature move towards a late-June adjournment, the next few weeks are critical to moving key farm and food bills forward. Contact your State Legislators and urge them to pass the following bills, all of which are awaiting action in the Ways and Means Committee:

  • SB 885 – Maintains current cap of 500 acres per year of canola in the Willamette Valley to protect specialty seed growers. 
  • HB 3085 and HB 3090 would create new beginning and small farmer assistance and loan programs 
  • SB 727A would provide funding for Double Up Food Bucks programs at farmers markets and other farm-direct locations statewide to support access to healthy food for low-income Oregonians and direct economic benefits for farmers.
  • HB 2020 to address climate change and support climate-friendly farming practices through a new Climate Investment Fund. 

Read on below for more information and updates on these and other key bills we have working on or tracking this session:

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 an overview of importance of the bills above. 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 passed the Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction in mid-May and is now awaiting action in the Ways and Means Committee. The bill would set up a Climate Incentives Program that has the potential to provide grants so smaller and mid-sized family farms for climate-friendly practices.

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 are continuing. A public hearing was held in mid-May on an amendment to the bill that would direct the Oregon Department of Agriculture to set up rules to  prevent GE contamination from occurring.

HB 2619 – Would ban the use of the toxic insecticide chlorpyrifos in Oregon by the end of 2020. California recently passed a similar law and the EPA has proposed ending the use of chlorpyrifos on food crops, a decision recently reversed by the Trump administration. HB 2619 had a public hearing in mid-May and is awaiting action in the House Rules Committee.

2019 Family Farmer and Rancher 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 many of the bills we are tracking or have weighed 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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