Working Lands and Waters Bill: SB 1534

Friends of Family Farmers is in support of SB 1534. Climate Change and its effects on Oregon Agriculture was the number one concern from our farmers in our most recent Family Farm Survey. Whether this is the worsening storms, threats from wildfire, or ongoing drought in many parts of the state, farmers are already dealing with the fallout of less predictable weather. In an industry like ours where a storm can ruin a whole season or set back crews weeks in progress, and gradual shifts in temperatures affect crop plans and animal life cycles, farmers are on the front lines of the impact of climate change. This bill, which implements recommendations from the Oregon Global Warming Commission, would be an important first step in understanding the baseline for programs to incentivize climate resilient practices and move the process forward. While there is more to do, we need to be methodical and set these systems up for success so we know that when we start rewarding good actors in these voluntary programs, their actions are truly having the intended effect.

What the Bill Does:

The bill lays the foundation for the creation of programs to increase carbon sequestration and resilience on Oregon’s natural and working lands.  For more information, check out the Oregon Global Warming Commission’s Factsheet on the NWL Bill. But here are the basic functions of the bill:

  1. Defines natural and working lands (N&WL) in Oregon statute.
  2. Declares that it is the policy of the State to increase carbon sequestration and resilience on N&WL of this state, and to advance strategies that are designed based on equity and land manager interests and resourced with incentives and technical assistance support.
  3. Directs the Commission to create an Advisory Group to inform its N&WL efforts including the provisions included in the bill.
  4. Directs the Institute for Natural Resources at Oregon State University to support the Commission in the: (a) development of metrics and a baseline; (b) advancement of a N&WL carbon inventory; and (c) completion of a N&WL Workforce and Economic Development study.
  5. Directs agencies to report on metrics and the inventory.
  6. Changes the Commission’s deadline for its Biennial Report to the Legislature and adds responsibility for reporting on progress toward the N&WL targets and metrics.  

You can read the full text of the bill and any proposed amendments are posted here.

Amendments and Process Updates:

 The bill received a public hearing on February 8th and is scheduled to receive a vote in the Senate Natural Resources and Wildfire Recovery Committee on February 10th. You can read FoFF’s supportive testimony here

Why FoFF is in Support:

We get our policy direction from our farmers and climate change is their top concern. It’s hard to ignore when the effects are a threat to every type of agricultural production in the state. We want to see more ways for farmers to engage in climate resilient practices, more barriers removed, and more support for those who have been using these methods for years to come. Many of our farmers have already been using the soil healthy and climate resilient practices that will be discussed through the committees established in SB 1534. Many more of our farmers would love to go further in these practices but need financial incentives to offset start-up costs, or technical assistance to implement these new systems on their farm.

The building blocks in SB 1534 will help establish voluntary programs so all farmers interested in using these practices can get some help toward their goals and be rewarded for their good actions. There are opportunities for farmer input and FoFF is committed to following this process and working with our partners to make sure that if this bill passes, our farmers and all small farmers’ perspectives will be heard and incorporated. Our goal is to make these incentives as accessible as possible to small and midsize farmers.