Oregon Ag bills update

OFS Legislative Report
Oregonians for Food and Shelter

Legislature Hits First “Cutoff” of Session

While it may seem like we just started the 2014 Legislative Session, the first legislative cutoff came on Thursday. February 13 was the deadline for bills to be moved from their house of origin committee. For example that means that a bill assigned to the House Committee on Agriculture & Natural Resources must have been voted out of that committee by the end of the day yesterday, or it is effectively dead for the 2014 Session. The purpose of the cutoffs is to make sure the focus stays on the bills that actually have a chance of passing. There is a notable exception to the cutoff calendar– bills assigned to the Rules, or Ways & Means Committees are not subject to these legislative deadlines and remain alive until Sine Die. Since the legislature only meets for 35 days in even numbered years, you can expect the cutoffs to continue to come very quickly.

This first legislative deadline is where a majority of bills die in any given session. It gives us the opportunity to cross many items off of our list and begin to focus on the legislation that stands a chance of passing. This year for OFS it means that we are able to cross a couple of bills of concern off of our list but also know what challenges we face ahead. The next week will be focused on floor sessions, where measures are placed before the entire legislative body (House or Senate) for a vote. There will be virtually no committee hearings and our focus will be talking to legislators and counting votes. Here is how the OFS bills of interest have fared so far…

HB 4139-A – relating to Pollinator Health.

Introduced by Representative Jeff Reardon (D- Happy Valley).

In its original form the bill would have classified four active ingredients; imidacloprid, dinotefuran, thiamethoxam and clothianidin (all in the neonicotinoid class of insecticides) as Restricted Use Pesticides (RUPs). The RUP classification means that the products would only be available for purchase and use by licensed pesticide applicators. This effectively left homeowners, and agricultural growers who choose not to obtain a pesticide applicator license, without some of the most important, environmentally safe tools currently at their disposal.

A public hearing on the bill was held on Tuesday, February 11th in the House Committee on Agriculture & Natural Resources. OFS submitted written comments and Jeff Stone from the Oregon Association of Nurseries and Katie Fast of Oregon Farm Bureau testified expressing grower concerns with the legislation. We all have been working with Rep. Reardon on the bill and prior to the hearing he had agreed to amend the bill to remove the RUP designation for the four pesticides, and instead create a Task Force to look at issues surrounding pollinator health and pesticides. While we were not fully supportive of the amendment language presented at the hearing, it is a huge improvement over the original bill and we continued to work the Rep. Reardon and other stakeholders to refine the language.

HB 4139 was then scheduled for a work session on Thursday, February 13th. Rep. Reardon worked to further refine the legislative language for the task force and the Committee adopted the -3 amendments. The amended bill was passed out of committee and voted on in the full House this afternoon with 54 votes in favor. While OFS does not think this bill is necessary, we are OK with the current language. The bill will now move to the Senate.

HB 4100 – Relating to GMO Labeling.

Introduced by Representative Paul Holvey (D- Eugene) and co-sponsors Representatives Peter Buckley (D- Ashland) and Debbie Boone (D- Cannon Beach).

The bill would send a referendum to the voters asking them to mandate the labeling of any food containing genetically engineered ingredients. This is a way to short circuit the initiative process and help proponents get something on the ballot without going through the signature gathering process.

A Public Hearing on the bill was held on Wednesday, February 12, in the House Rules Committee. Chair Val Hoyle (D- Eugene) wanted to hear expert witnesses from both opponents and supporters of the legislation, and set up four “expert panels” who addressed the committee before inviting members of the public to speak. The four expert panels were:

“Pro” Panel #1

Joe Rogoff, Whole Foods Markets

Dr. Ray Seidler, Retired EPA Scientist, current Ashland resident

Ivan Maluski , Friends of Family Farmers

“Con” Panel #1

James Curry, NW Food Processors Association

Brenda Frketich, Farmer, St. Paul

Kevin Richards, Farmer, Madras

“Pro” Panel #2

Melissa Wischerath, Center for Sustainability Law

Christie Steele, Hummingbird Wholesale

Representative Frederick, State Representative

“Con” Panel #2

Marie Bowers, Farmer, Harrisburg

John Hewitt, Grocery Manufacturers Association

Dr. Carol Mallory Smith**, Weed Scientist, Oregon State University

**Dr. Mallory Smith was on this panel but was not speaking opposed to the bill. She served as a technical expert.

We thank James Curry, Brenda Frketich, Kevin Richards, Marie Bowers and John Hewitt for taking the time to testify and for doing such a fabulous job! If you would like to see their comments, or any of the other comments, you can find them here.

HB 4100 has not been scheduled a work session, but since it is in the Rules Committee it is still alive even though the first cutoff has passed. We are working hard to ensure it doesn’t make it out of Committee and will be sure to keep you up to date on any developments.

SB 1531 (as introduced) – relating to marijuana dispensaries.

The A-Engrrossed bill was not on line at the time we sent this to you). See the -5 Amendments (Adopted Amendments) here.

Introduced by Senator Bill Hansell (R- Athena).

The bill would clarify that SB 863, the seed preemption legislation, was not intended to prevent cities or counties from regulating marijuana dispensaries. The legal ambiguity around this authority has led the city and county associations so seek a clarifying fix. OFS is supporting the Association of Oregon Counties and the League of Oregon Cities effort to clarify their ability to regulate marijuana dispensaries.

A public hearing was held on SB 1531 on Tuesday, February 11. At the hearing several amendments were presented for the committee. A work session on the bill was held on Thursday, February 13 where the committee adopted the -5 amendment and voted the bill out of committee. The amendment removed the ability of a local municipality to ban a marijuana dispensary, but allows for regulation on the time, place, and manner of marijuana sales. While this was not everything the cities and counties wanted, they are supporting the bill and OFS will continue to as well.

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