2021 Legislative Session Updates

FoFF’s  2021 Legislative Agenda – *updated 4/9

Friends of Family Farmers (FoFF) is a farmer-led non-profit organization that has advocated for family-scale agriculture for over 15 years. FoFF works towards a regenerative and equitable system of agriculture that minimizes chemical inputs and creates resilient local food systems that prioritize nutrient-dense food–something the pandemic has highlighted the importance of. 

Knowing this legislative session is operationally unprecedented, and is largely focused on COVID-19, wildfire recovery, racial equity, and the budget crisis, FoFF isn’t putting forth our own legislation, nor are we holding a Rally Day, but are supporting and amplifying work that aligns with our mission. But be sure to join us March 9th and 11th from 5:30-6:30pm for our Muckboots in the Capitol: a Virtual Legislative Happy Hour with our Policy Director Amy Wong. RSVP for March 9, March 11th.

FoFF laid out our legislative priorities last November and below is an update and roundup of what we are currently tracking. 

As a small non-profit, FoFF has limited bandwidth and only one staff person who handles all policy matters, and we may not be aware of each of the nearly 4000 introduced bills, so this should not be considered a final list of what we are tracking. And if there is a bill you think should be included, please reach out. 

Meat

Our main priority is the State Meat Inspection Program, because so many of our meat producers have been negatively impacted by Oregon’s lack of processing capacity. We have long been tracking this issue and are organizing a coalition around HB 2785 (Ag & Natural Resources; Ways & Means), which aims to establish a $10 million grant fund for infrastructure, and technical and assistance, for bringing existing, and new, processing facilities up to standards compliance. 

We are also tracking HB 2786 (Ag & Natural Resources; Ways & Means) and HB 2787 (Ag & Natural Resources), as well as HB 3158, which will allocate an additional $700,000 to ODA to administer the State Meat Inspection Program. (This is beyond the bare minimum that was already allocated to ODA last summer through HB 4206, to create the State Meat Inspection program.) 

HB 2785 had a Public Hearing on February 4, 2021 in the House Ag & Natural Resources Committee, you can watch it here, and hopefully will be scheduled for a Work Session by mid-month. You can read FoFF’s testimony here, as well as others’ testimony here. HB 2786 and HB 2787 also had Public Hearings on February 4th and are expected to move forward too. HB 2786 is also in the process of being amended to be able to expand the study of barriers to family scale meat production to include looking at composting and slaughter waste disposal. 

You can visit www.supportstatemeatinspection.squarespace.com for “meat” legislation updates throughout the session. Thank you to volunteer Casey Leith for building the site for us! 

I am happy to report that all of the bills related to meat processing are alive and in the Ways and Means Committee awaiting funding. 

We need volunteers to support this legislation by:
–If you are a constituent of a Ways and Means Committee member, please help us with targeted outreach to your legislator;

–Writing Letters to the Editor about the need for expanded meat processing capacity;

 –Engaging on social media about HB 2785A and tagging legislators;

–Testifying or submitting testimony for the “virtual” Budget Roadshow Hearings, ideally about HB 2785A, but any legislation that you’d like to see included in the budget!

FoFF is asking for supporters to give 1-2 minutes of testimony in their District Hearing for the Oregon Budget Virtual Hearings and/or submit written testimony. (Here is a template and directions.) Oregonians can find their congressional district here ,which is how these Hearings have been arranged. Please sign up soon as space is limited. 

 

District 1Wednesday, April 14, 5:30-7:30 pm Sign up here.

District 2Saturday, April 17, 1:00-3:00 pm Sign up here.

District 3Wednesday, April 21, 5:30-7:30 pm Sign up here.

District 4 Thursday, April 22, 5:30-7:30 pm Sign up here.

District 5Saturday, April 24, 1:00-3:00 pm Sign up here.

 

Please let amy@friendsoffamilyfarmers know if you are able to assist with any of these advocacy efforts. 

HB 3322, which would make it easier to grow food in planned communities,  was brought to our attention and we submitted testimony in support of the bill, which you can read here.

Raw Butter

FoFF submitted testimony for HB 2612, which would allow the commercial production of raw butter. You can read our testimony here

This bill is not moving forward this session. 

Organic

FoFF is a member of the Organic Stakeholders workgroup and supports the Oregon Organic Action Plan, SB 404 (Education) and HB 2269 (Economic Recovery & Prosperity; Ways & Means), which, to start, advocate for additional five OSU Extension positions related to organic production; an economic analysis of the organic sector; a Organic Policy Assistant in ODA Director Taylor’s office; ODA POP (policy option package) for domestic marketing funds (contained in GRB–Governor’s Recommended Budget); and ODA POP for a Soil Health Specialist at ODA (not contained in GRB). This is a multi-year process, but we hope to get some of these items, despite an incredibly difficult budget climate. There will be a small hearing with invited-only testimony for SB 404 on March 15th at 3:15pm in the Senate Committee on Education. You can watch the hearing here and see testimony here. There likely will be a larger public hearing for HB 2269 in April.

SB 404A has also made it to the Ways and Means Committee, though we had to amend the bill to remove the WIC provision due to federal funding conflicts. We are hopeful this $1.5million ask is approved. The same outreach for meat processing can also be done for this important piece of legislation to grow organic in Oregon. There likely will also be an informational hearing for HB 2269 in which we invite the organic community to come out and tell us how you would like to grow organic. This blog post lays out what we are looking for input on.

Climate and Climate Justice

FoFF has been participating in advocacy work around the Oregon Climate Action Plan, stemming from Executive Order 20-04, and will continue to do so through the legislative session. Other environmental bills that we are tracking include the 100% Clean bill HB 2995 (Energy & Environment); Toxic-Free Schools HB 2406 (Ag & Natural Resources); Climate Justice through land use planning HB 2488 (E&E; Ways & Means); the Healthy Homes bill HB 2842 (Housing; Ways & Means), which establishes a program within the Oregon Health Authority to provide grants to entities to provide financial assistance to low income households and landlords; and The Oregon Energy Affordability Act HB 2475 (E&E), which authorizes Public Utility Commission to consider differential energy burden and other inequities of affordability in rates. 

And disbanding the Oregon Forest Resources Institute bill, HB 2357 (Ag & Natural Resources; Revenue). For years, the Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI) has been using millions in public funding to make the timber industry look more sustainable than it is, relying on propaganda to cover up the dangerous effects of logging on drinking water and wildlife habitat. HB 2357 would disband OFRI and redirect its public funding to scientifically-sound sustainable forest restoration and management practices.

HB2488 is scheduled for a Work Session on April 12th at 1pm. HB2842 also made it to the Ways and Means Committee. HB2475 was voted out of the House and has been scheduled for a Public Hearing in the Senate on April 22 at 1pm. HB2357 passed out of the House Ag Committee and is currently in the House Committee on Revenue. 

Racial and Social Justice/Equity

SB 616 (Labor & Business) and HB 2358 (Business & Labor), which prohibit employers from permitting or requiring individuals employed in agricultural labor to work in excess of 40 hours in one workweek unless individuals are compensated for overtime hours worked. FoFF supports the underlying equity concepts of these bills but we have concerns that, as currently written, they don’t take the seasonal nature of agriculture into account as best they could. We look forward to bringing some of our small farmers into the legislative process to share their views. A hearing has been scheduled for HB 2358, on March 8 at 3:15 in the House Committee on Business and Labor. PCUN is looking for support for these bills. Please reach out to amy@friendsoffamilyfarmers.org if you are interested in advocating for this bill. 

FoFF endorsed HB 2358 and two of our small farmers who support the concept crunched the numbers to see what the cost  would be to their operations. Despite there being a cost, they are still willing to support the legislation in hopes of a more just agriculture system in Oregon, but hope to work on future advocacy efforts to price food more equitably to take externalities and fair labor costs into account. HB 2358 was scheduled for a work session on April 7th, but it was postponed until April 12th, where it will be moved to the Rules Committee. 

FoFF is also supportive of SB 286 and SB 289, which were developed by the Environmental Justice Task Force. SB 286 would rename the EJTF as the Environmental Justice Counsel, which would be housed at the Department of Environmental Quality. The bill would also give agencies another tool to do what they are already supposed to do–evaluate environmental justice issues when making decisions. This will include giving agencies guidance on how to analyze cumulative impacts when adopting rules, policies, or guidelines, especially in impacted communities and vulnerable populations, and establish measurable goals for reducing environmental disparities in Oregon, as well as ways in which state agencies could accomplish these goals. 

SB 289 aims to ensure equitable and safe access to Oregon’s public lands and parks in light of unfortunate racially-motivated harassment and attacks on people of color attempting to spend time in nature. 

SB 286 and SB 289 are still alive and both bills will soon be in Ways and Means.

 Additional bills FoFF is supportive of:

HB 2205 or the Just Enforcement Act. This would allow workers and worker advocates to bring legal action when state officials lack enforcement capacity.

This bill had a Work Session on March 17th and is currency in the House Committee On Judiciary House Subcommittee On Civil Law.

HB 2813 or the Outdoor Worker Respiratory Protections. This would require employers of employees who engage in outdoor work activities to take certain actions to mitigate employee’s risk of exposure to unhealthy air quality from wildfire smoke.

The bill was scheduled for a Public Hearing on March 8 at 3:15 in the House Committee on Business and Labor but is not moving forward this session

HB 2488 would require the state to add new goals to reduce GHG emissions and include disadvantaged communities in land development decisions. 

Tax Fairness

At the request of Rep. Pham and Oregon Center for Public Policy, FoFF testified in support of HB 2839, the House version of the bill that would disconnect Oregon from the CARES Act Tax Provisions, as they don’t help small farmers. You can see the testimony here, and read our written testimony here. We also submitted testimony in support of SB 137, the Senate version. FoFF has also signed onto HB 2819, the Leave No Worker Behind bill. The bills allows all income-eligible workers in Oregon to claim the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), regardless of how they file their taxes and gives an additional financial boost to make up for what the federal credit denies Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) filers.  Currently, the EITC excludes certain workers, may deemed essential, across agriculture, food processing, retail, and construction sectors. The bill has a Public Hearing on March 2 at 1:00pm in the House Revenue Committee

While all of these bills had Public Hearings, they aren’t moving forward this session. 

Land Use

HB 2556 Expands those entitled to notice of local land use decision-making. Current law requires that notice be mailed to property owners within a short distance. Renters are excluded from those required to receive notice of land use proceedings, even land use changes that are proposed next door. Land use changes, especially in rural areas, can have impacts beyond the immediate vicinity.

This bill is still alive in the House Rules Committee.

HB 2560 Makes permanent the current COVID-related emergency/temporary requirements that all local governments provide a remote access option for local public hearings and meetings. FoFF recently signed on to this bill, which has a Public Hearing on March 4 at 1:00pm in the House Committee on Rules. 

The bill also had a Work Session  on March 18th and should soon be voted out of the House.

FoFF also submitted testimony in opposition to SB 16, which would waive Oregon’s land use laws to allow up to 100 houses to be built on up to 200 acres of Exclusive Farm Use land in Eastern Oregon. You can read it here.

This bill was voted out of the Senate and has been referred to the House Rules Committee. 

FoFF is part of a coalition of groups currently examining barriers to BIPOC land access and other food systems equity issues. While there isn’t legislation tackling BIPOC land access inequities this session (largely because of serious budget constraints), we hope to be able to help bring about future solutions with other members of the agricultural community to create a more equitable system of agriculture that acknowledges the racism and bias inherent in accessing land. 

Factory Farms

FoFF supports HB 2924 (House Ag & Natural Resources) and SB 583 (Senate E&E), identical bills which would enact a mega-dairy moratorium on operations with more than 2500 cows. Rep. Witt, who chairs the House Ag & Natural Resources Committee, declined to schedule the moratorium for a hearing, but the bill just got a hearing in the Senate scheduled for April 1st. 

SB 583 had a Public Hearing on April 1. You can watch Alice Morrison testify here and can read our written testimony here. The bill is not moving forward this session, but we consider it a win that it was given a hearing and that new legislators signed on in support of the legislation.

FoFF is opposed to the extension of the Bovine Manure Tax Credit, SB 151(Senate Natural Resources & Wildfire Recovery; Tax Expenditures) and HB 2451 (House Ag & Natural Resources; Revenue). FoFF testified against the Bovine Manure Tax Credit in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Wildfire Recovery on February 22. You can read our testimony here, and watch the hearing here. It is unclear if there will be a Work Session scheduled, but we are working to find out. 

Neither of these bills were scheduled for Work Sessions. 

Hunger

FoFF is tracking funding for the Double Up Food Bucks and Farm to School programs. DUFB bills (likely to be consolidated) include SB 440 (House Human Services, Mental Health and Recovery), SB 555 (House Human Services, Mental Health and Recovery), and HB 2292 (House Human Services, Mental Health and Recovery; Ways & Means). The Senate versions of these bills had a joint Public Hearing on February 2 and were combined into one bill. SB 550 was then scheduled for a Work Session on February 25, where it was voted out of committee. It is currently in the Senate awaiting transfer. You can read our testimony here. The House version has been scheduled for a Public Hearing on March 3 at 3:15 in the House Committee on Human Services. 

SB 440 is the version that is moving forward and it successfully made it to Ways and Means and FoFF is helping to advocate for the bill. 

SB 5529 Appropriates moneys from General Fund to Department of Human Services for certain biennial expenses.

This bill will be having another Public Hearing on April 13 at 1pm. 

HB 2835 Requires each community college and public university to hire benefits navigator to assist students in determining eligibility and applying for federal, state and local benefits programs.

This bill is in Ways and Means. 

HB 2834 Modifies membership of Hunger Task Force.

This bill is likely to be voted out of the House soon.

HB 2536 Requires school or school district to offer lunches and breakfasts at no charge to student if school or school district meets requirements of special provisions of federal meal program or if student is from household with income that does not exceed 300 percent of federal poverty guidelines.

Water Quantity and Quality

FoFF supports the Stockwatering Exemption Bill SB 387 (Natural Resources & Wildfire Recovery), which limits the exemption from requiring a water right application, permit, or certificate to use surface water for livestock watering that does not exceed 5,000 gallons a day. 

This bill is not moving forward this session. 

Seeds

It is unlikely to move, but HB 2229 (House Ag & Natural Resources) would undo the preemption that is blocking Josephine County’s ban on the cultivation of genetically engineered crops. FoFF supports this but doesn’t believe it will get a hearing. 

 This bill is not moving forward this session.

Stay in touch with us on how you can be a part of this democratic process so can use our collective voice to support our small to mid-sized ecologically and socially responsible farmers in our community.