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Ag bills update April 5th

[1]
By Oregonians for Food and Shelter [2],

We are in the middle of one of the most active periods of a long (odd-numbered year) legislative session – between the first posting deadline of March 19th and the April 13th deadline to move bills out of their policy committees. Committee agendas are overstuffed, and we have seen an unprecedented number of “placeholder” bills that are becoming populated with last minute amendments. Substantial problems are also occurring with testimony submitted on bills that ends up getting rescheduled for new hearing days – when this happens, submitted testimony is deleted and must be resubmitted.

On the floor, Republicans have been withholding rule suspension, and then there was a COVID case that shut House floor sessions down for a week.   They struck a deal to address budget rebalance bills. The Governor has announced that legislators will be eligible to get vaccinated next week, with a one-dose vaccine administered ​in a private drive-through clinic for House and Senate members.

Overtime pay for ag workers has been a big issue over the last few weeks. Many farmers and farm workers have testified on HB 2358, which is scheduled for a possible vote next week in the House Committee on Business and Labor. The committee will be considering amendments that phase in overtime over several years. However, as with the original bill, ag employers have not been consulted on any of these concepts, which is critical to policy that works for both employers and farmworkers – both of whom would suffer under the currently proposed legislation.

Forestry also continues to field multiple bills. On the bright side, this week saw the defeat or near-defeat of a number of very damaging bills to the forest products industry, and a number of fire-related bills either died or landed in an acceptable place. However, next week the House Committee on Revenue will become a main focus, with two days of hearings on the Forest Products Harvest Tax (HB 2070) and Rep. Holvey’s severance tax proposal (HB 2379).

OFS continues to work on two product stewardship bills, SB 582 (recycling overhaul) and HB 2955 (household hazardous waste). We are advocating for important exclusions to 582, and awaiting the next turn of amendments from DEQ and the Senate Committee on Energy and Environment. A producer funded household hazardous waste program (which we oppose) was approved earlier this week with amendments, and is now off to Ways and Means.

Finally, next Tuesday, OFS will testify in support of HB 3249, which will dedicate general fund dollars toward urgently needed research to identify alternatives to chlorpyrifos for Oregon crops. Please voice your support for this bill! Use this link to submit testimony supporting this ask for state investments to fund research for alternative products. Thanks to our ag coalition partners and a number of legislators from both sides of the aisle for supporting this bill.