Last chance Oregon farm bills

OFS Legislative Report
Oregonians for Food and Shelter

Legislative Update from Scott Dahlman and Paulette Pyle

Picture Becomes Clearer as Legislative Session Nears Finish

While March 9th is the constitutional last day for the 2014 Legislative Session, the buzz around the Capitol is that the legislature could adjourn “Sine Die” as early as next Wednesday, March 5th. Some legislators came to town in early February with visions of major policy bills moving forward, but as the deadline approaches there has been little in the way of major reforms. The one notable exception is a land use “grand bargain” that is making its way through the process in the waning days.

It appears that we will make it out of this years’ session without any anti-pesticide or anti-biotech legislation. The pollinator health bill, HB 4139 did pass but in its final form was relegated to a task force. We are confident that science can rule the day in that setting and that we can prevent any unnecessary new regulations from coming out of that process.

The labeling referendum, HB 4100, is still in the House Rules Committee so it is technically eligible to be moved forward next week, but that is highly improbable at this point. It looks like labeling proponents will have to get their initiative before voters the old fashioned way-by collecting over 86,000 signatures by early July.

Legislators seemed to still be getting used to even year sessions, as this is only the second one we have had in Oregon. Lasting only 35 days, they are short enough that it is very tough to get something through the process, but long enough for election year politics to play a major role in bill writing. OFS members made out okay this year, but there is an election and long legislative session just around the corner.

Here’s how the OFS bills of interest fared this year…

HB 4139 – 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.

After meeting with OFS, Oregon Farm Bureau and the Oregon Association of Nurseries, Rep. Reardon agreed prior to the hearing to amend the bill to remove the RUP designation for the four pesticides, and instead creat a Task Force to look at issues surrounding pollinator health and pesticides. The bill also directs ODA to work with Oregon State University to develop materials on bees and pesticides to be integrated into the current applicator training program.

The bill was passed out of the full House on Friday, February 14th with 54 votes in favor. It was then passed out of the Senate on Monday, February 24th with 27 votes in favor.

A huge thank you goes to Jeff Stone and Elizabeth Remley from the Oregon Association of Nurseries and Katie Fast from Oregon Farm Bureau who helped us get the bill to its current form.

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.

HB 4100 has not been scheduled a work session, but since it is in the Rules Committee it is still alive. With only a week, or less, of session remaining it is unlikely that the bill will move this year. But as always, keep watching for OFS “Action Alerts” if anything changes.

SB 1531 – relating to marijuana dispensaries

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 continued to as well. On February 18th the bill was voted out of the full Senate with 18 votes in favor.

A public hearing and work session were held on SB 1531 in the House Judiciary Committee on February 24th where the bill was moved out of committee with two amendments. The two amendments essentially made the bill what it had been before the Senate amendments. It has not been voted on by the full House yet, but it is on the third reading calendar. If passed it would then need to go back to the Senate for approval or rejection of the amendments. The bill will likely end up in a conference committee where members of the House and Senate will work to find a compromise. We expect the legislation to pass before Sine Die.

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