OSU Extension & Economic Assessment of Oregon’s Organic Sector: SB 1532

SB 1532 is one of the bills proposed by the Oregon Organic Coalition and introduced by the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Wildfire Recovery. This bill will help give farmers using organic practices the technical assistance and recognition to help this already growing sector of Oregon Agriculture thrive.

What the Bill Does:

You can read the full text of the bill here, but here is a breakdown of the key components. SB 1532 has two main parts:

  • A cluster hire of five extension agents for the OSU Center for Small Farms and Community Food Systems. These new agents would have diverse specialties (could be diversified vegetables, orchard crops or other perennials, seed farming, etc) and be located wherever the OSU Extension leadership sees the most need. Although these positions are intended to have expertise in organic practices, they will help all farmers., certified or not. The goal is to have more statewide coverage to assist farmers looking to improve stewardship practices, reduces input costs and harms from chemicals, or make their operation more resilient to natural disasters like drought – all benefits that can come from organic practices.
  • An Emerging Industries Study on the Organic Sector from the Oregon Business Development Department. This is a crucial step toward recognizing the power and market share of organic agriculture. This is not only about getting more marketing for the largest organic farms of Oregon, but also securing resources like multimillion dollar NRCS grants for research and technology programs to benefit all farmers interested in these practices. Data is power and by harnessing the quantifiable power of the sector in a study like this, we can help more farmers using organic practices thrive in Oregon.

Why FoFF Supports this Bill:

FoFF is all about getting our farmers the tools to be successful. Although not all of the farmers in our network are certified organic, most of them use some things traditionally defined as organic practices. Whether its using alternatives to pesticides to control your cucumber beetles, incorporating animals and rotational grazing into your crop plan for fertility, or cover cropping your fallow fields, certification does not stop you from exploring these ways to improve your soil and steward your land with less chemical inputs. We want all farmers who want to move in this direction to have access to the one on one technical assistance that extension agents can provide. There is a lot of information out there, but these essential positions help make recommendations based on the specifics of a farmer’s land, operation and goals which cannot be duplicated without paying a consultant. Our farmers have already had great success working with the current extension agents, but there is not enough coverage or topic specific knowledge to get everyone the help they need. This bill will help change this.

The emerging markets study is also a crucial part of this equation. As stated above: Data is power. In our world, where everything can be quantified and analyzed, many opportunities and resources are allocated based on the data available. Conducting a study on the Organic Sector will help Oregon remain competitive for investment from the state and grant opportunities. Other states like California have already made investments in this type of climate resilient farming and seen great returns. Chico State University’s Center for Regenerative Agriculture and Resilient Systems provides a good model for how a university like OSU here in Oregon can create trans-disciplinary teams and a strategic focus on the future of farming in addition to leveraging partnerships with conservation districts and other TA providers. In 2021, the Center received a $6.9 million RCPP award through NRCS to support: “‘Soil Health Management Systems for Northern California’, a five-year project designed to help orchard/vineyard, rangeland, dairy and row crop producers in Northern California build food and fiber production resiliency to counter climate change challenges. There is no reason Oregon shouldn’t take advantage of these same national funding opportunities to help our farmers and move Oregon agriculture forward.

Amendments and Process Updates:

This bill is moving!  After a successful hearing in the Senate Natural Resources and Wildfire Recovery Committee on the evening of 2/8, this bill was voted out of the Senate committee and referred to the Joint Committee on Ways and Means for the legislature to consider allocating the necessary funding for these positions. You can read FoFF’s testimony in support of this bill here. If one of your representatives sits on this committee (check out the list here) and you want to help this bill along, please contact our Community Engagement Manager Brittney Deming as soon as you can! Email her at brittney@friendsoffamilyfarmers.org to hear all the up to the minute details on how you can get involved.

There was an amendment to this bill to refer to the Extension positions as focusing on organic practices, not strictly organic farming in order to make it clear that these positions will be designated to help anyone doing this work, not only those holding an organic certification.