Greg Walden: Boosting Ag research

Congressman Greg Walden,

Boosting economic opportunities, ag research in Eastern Oregon

Earlier this year, the House unanimously passed a bill I wrote to boost economic opportunities in Hermiston and allow important agriculture research to continue at the OSU research station there. Since the Senate hasn’t passed it yet, I worked to include this common-sense bill in a larger package of public lands bills agreed to by House and Senate leaders. Inclusion in this legislative agreement paves the way for it to be passed into law this month, and it passed the House again last Thursday.

This common-sense plan is a win for jobs and farming in eastern Oregon’s fastest growing community and the Columbia Basin’s strong agriculture economy as a whole. By repealing an antiquated federal provision, this bill provides an opportunity to grow Hermiston’s economy while allowing the flexibility needed for valuable, local agriculture research to continue.

The problem dates back to 1954. At that time, over 200 acres near Hermiston was conveyed by the federal government to the State of Oregon for the creation of an agricultural experiment station. However, the federal government still holds mineral and reversionary interest in the property. Should any portion of the current research station property no longer be used for agricultural research purposes, the property would return to federal ownership.

This antiquated clause creates management challenges for the station and denies the flexibility needed for OSU to generate revenue from portions unsuited for agriculture research. For example, it denies the university the ability to sell the property and relocate the station out beyond city limits to an area better located for agriculture research as needed in the future. The clause also denies the local community the flexibility it needs to build the economy and provide jobs to meet the demands of the growing region. Passing this bill will help boost opportunities in the region and allow needed ag research to continue for years to come.

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