Legislative Ag update 3/2

By Oregonians for Food and Shelter,

Things are beginning to wind down in the Capitol as we move into the final week of the 2024 session. The major drug and housing bills appear to be headed for bi-partisan passage, and the final budget allocations will be revealed early next week as we approach Constitutional Sine Die on March 10th.

On the ag front, the proposed study of PFAS in biosolids, soils, and crops (HB 4049) still awaits assignment in the Ways and Means Committee, with a price tag of $740,000. Time is running short for its assignment and passage.

Restrictions on canola (HB 4059) remains one of the final issues, with the current version of the bill extending the 500 acre restriction on canola in the Willamette Valley through 2028, ignoring both university research and Department of Agriculture recommendations. The process stumbled this week as lawmakers drafted a bill with a definition for canola which would have included other brassicas such as turnips, cabbage, and bok choy in the 500-acre restriction. This is a good example of why the legislature is not the appropriate venue for science-based regulation of agriculture, particularly when the science is willfully ignored. House and Senate republicans kindly highlighted the error, which was later corrected in a new amendment. With the definition change, HB 4059 will need to return to the House for concurrence.

The legislature continues to resist implementing a simple, fair solution using a state pinning map system and research-based isolation distances, practices that would provide both protection and opportunity to all impacted growers. OFS will continue to oppose anti-scientific restrictions on tools and crops, particularly when they are put forward for political reasons only, as has been stated on the record by legislators pursuing this issue.

The stable funding package for wildfire protection (HB 4133) still awaits its fate in Ways & Means. The bill would shift costs for wildfire protection so that small landowners shoulder less of the cost burden. Oregon Forest Industries Council, Oregon Cattlemen’s Association and several county organizations are urging legislators to pass a bill this session.

Regulatory Update

This week, OFS was invited to attend a meeting of the FIFRA Interagency Working Group (IWG) to hear updates and provide input to the proposals EPA has put forward to comply with the Endangered Species Act. The five IWG agencies – EPA, US Dept of Agriculture, US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, and White House’s Council on Environmental Quality – updated stakeholders on progress following stakeholder feedback on recent draft proposals. Stakeholder representatives had an opportunity to ask questions and provide input on mitigations, species map refinements, regulatory approaches, etc. OFS is proud to be among the ~60 stakeholder groups invited to this discussion. We will be meeting with EPA in D.C. in April to provide more input from Oregon industries and to help shape these new initiatives into something that is compatible with the critical priorities of continued food and fiber production to support a growing population.

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