Three early Ag bills worthy of attention

ofs-foodshelterBy Oregonians for Food and Shelter

OFS testified on three bills of concern to our members. The first two were in the House Committee on Agriculture & Natural Resources.

HB 2038 provides funding for what is known as the “Farm to School” program. This program connects schools to local farmers for sourcing local agricultural products for school lunches. Katie testified in favor of the bill for OFS, but there was broad support from students, teachers, farmers and other Ag organizations. We’re hopeful that this program will continue to get funded despite the tough budget year.

HB 2364  would correct a missing statutory reference to the ODA mediation program. OFS supported HB 3509 in 2015 which uses the ODA mediation program to deal with coexistence issues between growers. While the program can be used for any coexistence disputes, it came out of conversations around potential conflicts between GE and non-GE crops. Unfortunately, in 2015 another bill addressing the ODA mediation program also passed, eliminating the law that was referenced in 3509. This resulted in the ODA program not being able to be utilized for coexistence issues. HB 2364 corrects that reference so that the program can be used. Scott testified for OFS, stressing that mediation is a better way to deal with conflict than litigation.

In the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, OFS testified against SB 199 which would establish a Product Stewardship Program for Household Hazardous Waste (HHW), including pesticides. The proposal, being pushed by Metro, is really just an over-complicated way to push the cost of running HHW programs to manufacturers of products.

On a bright note, it was great to see Oregon Wheat Growers League and Oregon Association of Nurseries members in the Capitol meeting with legislators. Also in town this week was the Board of Agriculture who heard from Ag groups, including OFS, early in the week and then met with legislators on Thursday. Having the presence of these groups is key to reminding legislators that Oregon agriculture is paying attention to what happens in the Capitol this year.

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