Praise for Oregon’s first-in-nation wetland bill

By Oregon Farm Bureau,wetland

Oregon Farm Bureau applauds the 2016 Legislature’s passage of SB 1517B. The bill, proposed by Oregon Farm Bureau and the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association, creates a 10-year pilot program giving Tillamook County and local farmers more say on the development of wetland restoration projects in that county.

This bill makes Tillamook County one of the first in the nation to be involved in the process of wetland siting and ensuring protections for neighboring landowners potentially impacted by new wetlands.

“Through this bill, Tillamook County and the local agricultural community will have greater input into the design of wetland projects to ensure that productive farmland is not negatively impacted,” said OFB Public Policy Counsel Mary Anne Nash. “State agencies, conservation groups, farmers, and other stakeholders will work collaboratively to achieve the goals of fish and wildlife improvements.”

In recent years, conservation groups and governmental entities have purchased many acres of prime farmland in Tillamook County’s Exclusive Farm Use zone and taken it out of production for conservation purposes. However, this can alter rain drainage patterns in the area and create serious flooding problems for neighboring farms.

“Given that farmers in wetland areas already struggle to combat flooding in rainy years, new wetland projects can drastically decrease their productivity,” said Nash. “The dairy industry forms the backbone of Tillamook County’s economy. It’s essential that these family farms be able to coexist with conservation projects and maintain the functioning agricultural land base they need to be successful.”

Tillamook County dairy farmer and Oregon Farm Bureau Board member Carol Marie Leuthold agrees.

“Over the past few years, we’ve seen hundreds of acres of prime farmland being grabbed up by state agencies and conservation groups and taken out of agricultural use,” said Leuthold. “This bill gives us a 10-year pilot program to prove that we can work together with agencies to achieve conservation goals, but also preserve and protect the dwindling number of family farms here in Tillamook County. It gives local landowners a little more say about what happens to valuable, productive farmland. It gives us hope.”

Specifically, SB 1517B contains three primary provisions:

1) Gives Tillamook County the option for local approval of wetlands projects sited in Exclusive Farm Use zones to ensure that the project will not impact nearby agricultural operations;

2) Allows Tillamook County to create a collaborative process that a project applicant can choose to use to achieve agreement regarding conditions necessary to protect neighboring agricultural operations; and

3) Directs Tillamook County to enter into a planning process involving a diverse group of stakeholders that will allow the county to more effectively plan priority areas for restoration and priority areas where the maintenance of agricultural operations will be protected.

The pilot project sunsets in 10 years. The bill was passed by the Legislature and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.

In particular, OFB thanks Tillamook County Farm Bureau member Chad Allen, Tillamook County Commissioner Mark Labhart, coastal legislators, and the legislative committees for their leadership on this issue.


About Oregon Farm Bureau: The state’s largest general farm organization, Oregon Farm Bureau (OFB) is a grassroots, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization representing the interests of the state’s family farmers and ranchers in the public and policymaking arenas.

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