Oregon Legislature takes on Farm-to-School and GE issues; OR Board of Ag hears testimony

The last two weeks have been busy at the Capitol in Salem! On February 8, we participated in a press conference with partners at Our Family Farms and the Center for Food Safety to call on the Oregon Legislature to move forward to protect farmers from unwanted contamination from genetically engineered (GE) crops. You can watch the full press conference below:

We are working in support of two pieces of legislation on GE issues this year: HB 2469, which would allow local communities to establish protections for farmers due to ongoing inaction at the state level; and HB 2739, which would strengthen the ability of farmers to hold patent-holders of GE crops financially accountable when unwanted presence of their products is found on farmers’ land. Media outlets including the Eugene Register Guard, Salem Statesman Journal, Oregon Public Broadcasting and the Capital Press all covered the press conference. We are now working to secure committee hearings on these important bills.

On February 14, we submitted testimony in support of HB 2038, to ensure continued funding for Oregon’s Farm-to-School program. In 2015, the Legislature provided over $5 million in funding to support schools purchasing Oregon grown and processed food, as well as garden and agriculture-based educational programming. However, this funding expires in July 2017, and because Oregon is facing a severe budget shortfall of roughly $1.8 billion, renewing Farm-to-School for 2017-19 is no ‘slam dunk.’ Governor Kate Brown’s proposed 2 year budget contained no funding for Farm-to-School, and top Legislative budget writers earlier this year proposed significant cuts to the program.

HB 2038 would provide full funding for the Farm to School Grant Program which reimburses schools for their purchases of Oregon grown and processed foods and provides funding for farm and garden based education.

To ensure that more of the funds schools receive are used to increase their purchases of Oregon-grown foods, the bill includes an amendment to exclude milk and bread because most schools are already buying Oregon bread and milk.

Lastly, on February 16, we were asked to speak at the Oregon Board of Agriculture’s quarterly meeting to provide an update from the Oregon Legislature. Speaking along side of a number of different organizations, some with opposing opinions on various pieces of legislation, we used our time to highlight our beginning farmer tax credit bill, the need to enact agreed upon air quality rules for large-scale dairy operations, legislation to protect farmers from the problems associated with GE crops, and funding for Farm-to-School. Read our full testimony to the Oregon Board of Agriculture here.

As a reminder, in our first ‘Muckboots’ post of the session, we highlighted a number of bills we are working on this session. Stay tuned as we continue to update you on these and other topics from the State Capitol in Salem.

And don’t forget to RSVP for our upcoming Family Farms Mean Business Rally and Day of Action at the Legislature coming up on Tuesday, April 4. Its your chance to make your voice heard!

FoFF’s 2015 ‘Family Farms Mean Business’ Rally on the Oregon Capitol steps