Ag bills move through Oregon Legislature

By Mateusz Perkowski
Capital Press — 

Update on bills in the Oregon legislature.

Legislation that would give Oregon farmers a tax credit for crop donations has unanimously passed the state Senate.

It is one of a host of agriculture and natural resource bills making their way through the legislature.

The bill, SB 1541, would allow growers to claim a tax credit of 15 percent of the crop donation’s value until 2020, up from 10 percent under a previous statute that expired in 2011.

Supporters said the higher tax credit rate will entice more farmers to donate crops to food banks, gleaning cooperatives and other non-profit groups.

The bill would cause the State of Oregon to forego nearly $2.5 million in tax revenue while the credit is in place, according to the state’s Legislative Revenue Office.

After passing the Senate with 30 “aye” votes on Feb. 14, the bill is now being considered by the House.

It has been referred to the Revenue Committee, which was scheduled to hold a public hearing and work session on Feb. 19.

Pollinator health bill

A bill that would create a task force on pesticides and pollinator health has passed the House.

The legislation, HB 4139, initially proposed restrictions on neonicotinoid pesticides that have been blamed for pollinator die-offs, but that language was stripped from the bill.

The task force would consist of eight members appointed by Gov. John Kitzhaber from academia, agriculture and the environmental community.

It would issue a report on best practices for neonicotinoid use, pollinator health and related issues, with possible recommendations for legislation.

The bill passed the House 54-4 on Feb. 14 and is now being considered by the Senate, where it has been referred to the Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

A public hearing and possible work session on the bill was scheduled for Feb. 19.

Reforestation assistance

Legislation that would help forestland owners pay for replanting trees after wildfires has been approved by the Senate Committee on Rural Communities and Economic Development.

The cost assistance and tax credit programs would apply to catastrophic fires that occurred after August 2012.

The bill has now been referred to the Oregon legislature’s Joint Committee on Ways and Means for further consideration of its financial impacts.
Well water regulation

Legislation that would affect the authority of Oregon water regulators to restrict the use of irrigation wells has failed to advance in the House and Senate.

The bills would have prohibited the Oregon Water Resources Department from shutting down an irrigation well unless it is individually proven to interfere with surface water.

The legislation was prompted by fears that the agency would shut down more than 100 wells in the Upper Klamath Basin this year due to drought.

However, the bills proved divisive in the agricultural industry.

They drew support from the Oregon Farm Bureau and Oregon Cattlemen’s Association but the Oregon Water Resources Congress and Oregon Association of Nurseries opposed them.

Proponents claimed the legislation would prevent water regulators from overstepping their authority and regulating wells based on regional models.

Opponents were concerned the bills would diminish the agency’s ability to enforce senior water rights.

Rep. Gail Whitsett, R-Klamath Falls, supported the legislation and said many irrigators in the region could be economically devastated by water shut offs this year.

The legislation didn’t win favor with the Oregon Water Resources Department, which estimated the testing would have cost $80,000 per well, she said.

Two identical House bills dealing with the issue — HB 4044 and HB 4064 — received a public hearing but died in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

An identical Senate bill — SB 1572 — was referred to the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee but never received a public hearing.

Click here to read the original article from the Capital Press 

Media Release — Food Safety Straight From the Experts

Tacoma, Washington (February 18, 2014) – Meeting the demands of increased documentation and closer scrutiny by third-party auditors has changed the dynamics for food processing, warehousing and transportation managers across the Pacific Northwest.

To assist food industry professionals meet these requirements and maintain effective pest management programs, make plans to attend the Sprague Pest Solutions Food Safety Pest Management Conference.

The event includes an impressive lineup of expert speakers that are ready to share the latest information on how to improve pest management program efficiencies and efficacy, and stay compliant with third-party audits.

Featured Sessions and Speakers

 Assessing Rodent Risk in Food Processing
Robert Corrigan, Ph.D., Owner and President, RMC Pest Management Consulting
 IPM Inspections for Hot Spots in Food Plants
Stephen Kells, Ph.D., Assoc. Professor & Entomologist, University of Minnesota
 Outside Influences on Food Plant Pest Management – FSMA, GFSI and Regulations Richard H. Dougherty, Ph.D., Professor and Food Science Specialist, Washington State University
 Trends in Third Party Audit Compliance
Jeff Kronenberg, Food Processing Specialist, University of Idaho, School of Food Science, TechHelp Idaho
 Extreme IPM and the Timeline of Change in Pest Management
Jeffrey A. Weier, BCE, Technical Director, Sprague Pest Solutions
 Birds: Preventing Failures in Food Safety
Keith Rowney, Special Services Manager, Sprague Pest Solutions

The cost to attend the conference is $295 per person. Early bird registration is $245 per person through February 25. Group discounts available for groups of three or more. CEU credits will be available. Attendees can register at

Sprague Pest Solutions (, founded in 1926, delivers innovative pest solutions to commercial and residential pest management customers in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah and Colorado. Sprague is a Copesan Services partner.

# #

Media Contact:
Carrie Thibodeaux / Sprague Pest Solutions
253/405-2590 /

Panel OKs $125,000 for state’s GMO task force

A key legislative committee has approved $125,000 in funding for a task force to advise lawmakers on issues related to genetically modified organisms.

Funding for a task force that will advise the Oregon legislature on biotech crops has been approved by a key legislative committee.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture’s request for $125,000 was recently backed by a subcommittee of the legislature’s Joint Committee on Ways and Means.

The subcommittee’s Feb. 13 recommendation means the funding will be included in a broader budget bill during the 2014 legislative session.

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber vowed to form the task force last year, when the legislature passed a bill that pre-empted the regulation of biotech crops by local governments.

The task force will issue a report on consumer choice and coexistence among producers of genetically engineered, organic and conventional crops.

The 14-member committee will be headed by Dan Arp, Oregon State University’s dean of agricultural sciences, and Jennifer Allen, director of Portland State University’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions.

Other members of the task force, who will represent a wide array of consumer and agricultural interests, will be announced later in February, said Richard Whitman, the governor’s natural resources adviser.

Rather than issue recommendations, the task force’s report will be intended to inform the legislature’s policy decisions during the 2015 session, said Whitman.

“The likelihood of reaching a consensus recommendation on any of these issues is not very good,” he said during a recent hearing.

The goal will be to provide a neutral forum to flesh out GMO issues, Whitman said.

Its findings won’t have any bearing on possible ballot initiatives that call for mandatory labeling of genetically modified organisms in food, he said.

Sen. Chris Edwards, D-Eugene, said that is difficult to find agreement on such a contentious issue, but the task force report will be “worth it” if it brings credibility to the debate.

The $125,000 would be appropriated to ODA but used by PSU’s Oregon Consensus Program to facilitate the task force, which is expected to hold seven to 10 meetings this year.

Click here for the original article published in the Capital Press.

Local Cover Crop Forum to Explore Opportunities to Build Soil Health

Pendleton, Oregon (1/30/2014) – Farmers, ranchers, researchers, agricultural business operators and conservationists are invited to participate in a forum on cover crops and soil health, hosted by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service from 9:30-12:00, on February 18th at the Umatilla County Extension Conference Room in Umatilla Hall at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, Oregon.

This local session is one of more than 225 forums taking place throughout the country in concert with the National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health in Omaha, Nebraska, sponsored by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.

In addition to providing a venue to discuss local cover crop and soil health opportunities, benefits and barriers, the forum in Pendleton will feature live-streaming video of the national conference opening session featuring presentations by Howard G. Buffett of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, NRCS Chief Jason Weller, Ray Gaesser, Iowa Farmer and President of the American Soybean Association, and a panel of four leading cover crop and soil health farmers.

NRCS State Conservationist Ron Alvarado said the local-level forums will provide NRCS and its conservation partners and stakeholders a platform to more fully organize and enable state and local soil health efforts at the grassroots level.

“The local forums will provide an excellent opportunity for participants to discuss how to build soil health, improve yields, curb erosion, manage pests and build resilience in farming systems here in Oregon—and to assess opportunities for, or barriers to, the broader adoption of soil health management systems,” Alvarado said.

Local forum participants will also have the opportunity to provide ideas and recommendations to the leaders, researchers, innovators and policy makers attending the national conference.

To participate in the local forum, contact the Umatilla County Soil and Water Conservation District office in Pendleton at (541) 276-8131 by Wednesday, February 12, 2014 to ensure adequate seating and to get additional details about the event.

Click here to download the flier for the forum.