OFS 2022 Legislative Session Overview
The 2022 Legislative Session adjourned last Friday, March 4th, amidst a significant budget surplus (nearly $2.5 billion more than projected just nine months before), an emotional debate over overtime pay for agricultural workers, discussions on the private forest accord, and several other potentially significant environmental bills. See our Bill Tracking List.
By far, the most hotly debated issue was HB 4002, with the Democrats’ insisting on requiring overtime pay for farmworkers at 40 hours, and Republicans offering compromises, all of which were rejected. Ultimately, with the passage of HB 4002, Oregon becomes just the third state in the country to require farms to pay overtime to workers at 40 hours. The bill provides limited tax credits to offset the increased labor costs for some farms.
Once the ag overtime bill passed, the parties agreed to move more quickly to pass budget bills, finalize the rest of the bills waiting for votes, and ultimately adjourn. Chief among those bills were SB 1501 and 1502, the main bills of the Private Forest Accord. These passed with some bi-partisan support, and some opposition from smaller landowners. On the budget front, the legislature allocated $600 million towards housing and homelessness, $200 million for workforce development, and spread more than $1 billion around the state for various programs and projects. OFS advocated for an appropriation to shore up a budget shortfall for the OSU Statewides, which the budget writers declined to allocate. OFS did however work with others to obtain $1 million for the Oregon Bee Project and pesticide toxicology positions at OSU.
OFS worked closely with the House Agricultural, Land Use and Water committee on HB 4062, which establishes a new pesticide applicator license type. In working with several stakeholders, we were able to narrow the bill to create a new “noncommercial” license to serve some of our non-agricultural/forestry members without giving the agency authority to create new unspecified license types in the future. OFS also worked closely with ag partners and legislators on amendments to the Environmental Justice Council bill, HB 4077. While still not perfect, the amended bill clarifies that the use of a new EJ mapping tool by agencies is non-regulatory, and it also creates opportunities for rural/natural resource participation on the Council.
OFS worked in opposition to several bills that ultimately died, one providing new positions at OSU to exclusively help organic or “small” farms (SB 1532), and another that would have phased out renewable diesel (HB 4141). Similarly, the bill relating to carbon sequestration on “working lands” SB 1534, died as a number of ag and natural resource organizations expressed concern over lack of engagement in the process and certain definitions in the bill.
Ultimately, the 2022 session provided OFS with opportunities to engage on several key policy issues and lend our support to some bills after negotiations on language. While we are relieved that we did not have to face the significant risks of product bans or new limitations on chemistries or technologies, the passage of the agricultural overtime bill and lack of funding for natural resource priorities like the OSU Statewides will create significant challenges for our members.
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