The Oregon Natural Resources Report - Agricultural News from Oregon

Capitol update on Ag bills

April 15, 2015

Oregon-Farm-BureauBy Oregon Farm Bureau,

In addition to hearings on bills addressing forestry issues and antibiotic use in food animals, Farm Bureau testified on several land use bills.

Bike paths in farm zones

On Tuesday, the House Committee on Rural Communities, Land Use, and Water heard HB 3367, which requires a conditional land use approval for bike paths located within lands zoned for EFU. This bill arises from an uncertainty around the current status of bike paths in farm use zones, which has resulted in some counties failing to apply the conditional land use process to bike path construction through farmland. Farm Bureau supports this bill and believes it would give farmers a greater voice in these projects.

Thank you to Tina Galloway and Stan Snyder for testifying in support of their community!

Wetlands hearings

The Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources heard a suite of wetland-related bills on Wednesday. Two of the bills, SB 956 and SB 544, were introduced by Senator Johnson and relate to issues arising from the construction and operation of wetlands in lands zoned for EFU. SB 956 would require wetlands to go through the conditional land use permitting process prior to their construction. This would enable neighbors to raise any concerns they have about the project’s impacts on their farming operations. SB 544 would eliminate the liability protection that attaches to state funded wetland restoration projects, enabling neighboring landowners to recover damages for harm to their operations caused by the project. Farm Bureau is a proponent of these bills.

Thank you to Chad Allen and Commissioner Mark Labhart for testifying on this important issue!

Industrial lands

On Monday, the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources heard SB 716, which would allow each Metro county to turn 150-500 acres of farmland outside the urban growth boundary into immediately developable large-lot industrial sites. Farm Bureau opposed this bill, which would allow land to be taken out of urban and rural reserves in favor of industrial use. The opposition made a strong showing, and we are continuing to monitor this bill closely.

Minimum Wage

On Monday, April 13, at 6:00 PM, the Senate Workforce and House Business and Labor Committees will hold a joint hearing at the State Capitol in Hearing Room F. The committees will jointly hear the following bills:

SB 682 – increases state minimum wage rate to $10.75/ hour on January 1, 2016.
SB 327/HB 2008 – increase minimum wage rate in graduated steps to $12.20 through 2017.
SB 597/ 2012 – increases state minimum wage rate in graduated steps to $13.50/ hour by 2017.
SB 610/ HB 2009 – increases state minimum wage rate in graduated steps to $15/ hour by 2018.
SB 130/ SB 332/ HB 2004 – repeals state preemption of local governments to set their own minimum wage requirements.

Farm Bureau opposes these bills. Oregon already has the second highest state minimum wage in the nation, and many farmers currently struggle to afford the current annual indexing to the C.P.I. They are unable to absorb this additional cost.

We need farmers to come to Salem on Monday evening and tell the committee how these bills would impact your family farm. Farm Bureau’s government affairs staff will be in the Capitol to sign people up beginning at 5:30 PM on April 13. In addition to testifying, please reach out to your legislators individually. Click here to submit comments to your legislators.

Aggregate

On April 16, the House Committee on Rural Communities, Land Use, and Water will hear HB 2666. As drafted, HB 2666 would significantly alter state land use policy for processing aggregate operations through: (1) heightening the standard that a farmer would have to meet to prove an impact on their operations, (2) substituting other permit approvals for the analysis of impacts to farmers required under the land use statutes, and (3) limiting the zone of impacts to farms that can be considered by local government.

We urge you to contact your legislators and let them know that the current land use system is functioning as it should for operations conducted in farm zones, and that this bill is not necessary.

Predator bills

On April 16 at 5:00 PM, the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on bills related to predator control. HB 2050 is scheduled for a work session and would allow voters in each county to exempt themselves, via a county ballot measure, from the 1994 ban on using dogs to hunt cougars. Farm Bureau supports this legislation and anticipates an amendment on Thursday.

Additionally, HB 3140 and HB 3188 are scheduled for public hearings and possible work sessions on April 16. These bills both have amendments that would allow for the creation of Predator Management Control Districts in counties to fund critical Wildlife Services efforts and other predator management activities already taking place. Predator control services are critical to the viability of farm and forest operations throughout the state. The amendments would sunset predator control pilot programs by 2022.

If you have an interest in predator management or any of these bills, please join Farm Bureau at the State Capitol on Thursday evening. Testimony will be limited to two minutes per person. Click here for the agenda.

Fire district dual assessment

On April 16, HB 3213 is scheduled for a public hearing and possible work session. This bill eliminates the owner consent and notification requirement for inclusion of forest land in a rural fire protection district. Currently, rural lands within forest protection districts pay the Department of Forestry for fire protection unless there are improvements on the property (improvements + 5 acres are taxed). HB 3213 eliminates the exemption and taxes the entire property. However, it does not provide an additional service to landowners and would result in a significant tax increase.

OFB opposes HB 3213 and encourages you to submit comments to the House Committee on Rural Communities, Land Use, and Water via email to: [email protected]

Agritourism liability

SB 341 is scheduled for a public hearing and work session in the Senate Committee on Judiciary on April 17 at 8:00 AM in Hearing Room 343. This legislation would provide liability protection for agritourism providers against certain claims when the agritourism provider posts clear notice at the property of risks inherent in engaging in the agritourism activity. Farm Bureau strongly supports this legislation and encourages agritourism providers to attend the committee meeting on Friday or submit comments to explain why this legislation is important. Please contact [email protected] for more information.

Livestock and antibiotic use

SB 920 is scheduled for a work session on April 20. This bill would impose new state-specific regulations on Oregon food animal producers that conflict with federal regulations and put Oregon farmers and ranchers at a competitive disadvantage compared to the rest of the country. Please contact your legislators and let them know that this bill is unnecessary and burdensome to family farmers and ranchers in Oregon. To send a message to your legislators, click here.

Ways & Means Road Show
As in years past, the Ways and Means Committee will host field hearings throughout the state this April. These hearings provide an opportunity for Oregonians to share their budget priorities with legislators in their own communities.

For the 2015-2017 biennium, Farm Bureau is supporting:

$16 million to OSU’s Statewides programs (Ag Experiment Stations, Extension Service, and Forest Research Lab)
funding ODA’s animal health program to a get a full time veterinarian on the eastside
general fund dollars for the Pesticide Analytical and Response Center (PARC)
secure funding for Wildlife Services in ODA and ODFW budgets

  
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