Oregon farm lobby watch water, labeling, land-use bills

Posted 2/3/2013

 

By MITCH LIES
Capital Press

 

Bills to label food containing genetically modified ingredients and restrict their production have put Oregon’s farm lobby on the defensive as the 2013 Legislature gets underway.

But opportunities also are present.

Buoyed by Gov. John Kitzhaber’s proposal to sink $22 million into water development, the Oregon Farm Bureau views the session as an opportunity for irrigated agriculture, said Katie Fast, the organization’s director of government affairs.

“I think this is a year of opportunity for water development in Oregon,” Fast said.

“For the first time in a long time we’re seeing a request for funds for a water-supply development program,” said Brenda Bateman, spokesperson for the Oregon Water Resources Department. “That includes above- and below-ground storage, interstate partnerships to gain access to stored water, and other strategies. And we just haven’t had those kinds of strategic conversations in a very long time.”

The Farm Bureau is also supporting a bill that changes the way the state authorizes wetland enhancement projects on farm land from an outright permitted use to a conditional use, requiring public hearings.

The Farm Bureau is concerned about a loss of farmland in recent years to wetland enhancement and other wildlife enhancement projects that are taking farmland out of production, Fast said.

House Bill 2173 is in the House Land Use Committee.

The Oregon Association of Nurseries said it is working behind the scenes to get a bill introduced that “allows the undocumented workforce to get a driver’s license and be fully insured,” OAN Executive Director Jeff Stone said.

“It is a take-home for the nursery and greenhouse industry to try to fix this issue,” Stone said.

Since 2008, driver’s license applicants in Oregon have been required to show legal presence when renewing licenses or applying for a new one.

“We want folks on the road who know how to drive and are insured,” Stone said.

The Farm Bureau also supports a proposed extension of a landowner preference program that allows landowners to obtain tags for hunting deer, elk and antelope on their land outside of hunting season.

The program, due to sunset in 2014, would be extended to 2024 under House Bill 2250.

While the Oregon Farm Bureau has not taken a position on canola, it is concerned about bills that regulates its production.

House Bill 2427, which bans canola in the Willamette Valley, is in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

Fast said the Farm Bureau “has concerns” about the bills.

“The board doesn’t believe it is appropriate to deal with the canola issue at the Legislature, because it becomes political and not science-based,” Fast said.

Comments are closed.