The 2024 Legislative Session has come to a close!

Thank you to all the farmers, community members, advocates, and legislative partners that spoke up for our farmers this session. There were some bright spots, and some worrying trends that we will have to keep an eye on as we go forward. In this summary, we are going to focus on 4 bills/programs that we especially tracked during the 2024 short session. Also make sure to read all the way down for a preview of what’s to come as we prepare for the long session in 2025!

2024 Session Priority Bill Outcomes

HB 4059: Willamette Valley Protected District

FoFF’s Position: Support

Legislative Outcome: Passed

Summary: This bill began as a reform package for the rules surrounding the Willamette Valley Protected District which puts rules on canola production in this sensitive brassica specialty seed growing region. FoFF represents many specialty seed growers who are very concerned about the possibilities of canola production cross contaminating with specialty seed crops, and cross pollinating with native weeds which increase the risk of cross-contamination over time. For more info on the documented harm of canola cross contamination, check out this summary of scientific studies on the topic. FoFF worked with legislators and other advocates in good faith to find a solution that protected seed growers and addressed some of canola’s concerns and supported an initial compromise solution. When it became clear that the canola growers were pushing for further concessions there were lines that we could not cross without endangering the future of specialty seed production in the WVPD. Because of the tight timeline of the short session, there was not time for the negotiations to continue and lawmakers reverted to extending the current rules (500 acre cap on canola in the valley, no other changes or protections) until January 2028. We are looking forward to continuing this conversation and will keep coming to the table as long as it takes to find a solution to preserve the specialty brassica seed industry.

HB 4060: Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program

FoFF’s Position: Support

Legislative Outcome: Bill died in Ways and Means, funding awarded in Budget Reconciliation Package

Summary: The Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program (OAHP) is a state program to preserve farmland and encourage conservation practices administered by the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board. This program has four facets: Conservation management plans which provide further TA and matching funds for long term conservation plans that utilize other federal conservation programs, Conservation easement programs where the state helps cover expenses to put land in a conservation/working lands easement which limits the use of land to preclude certain development and extractive uses, Technical assistance to groups working in communities to assist with either of those processes, and succession planning to help elder farmers make a plan for passing land to the next generation of farmers (whether thats within or outside the family). This program was authorized in 2017 but granted its first funding in 2021, then it was left out of the 2023 biennial budget because of the political chaos surrounding the end of that session and concerns about the inequality of aiding land owning, multi-generational farmers when the history of Oregon’s land use has meant that farmers of color were not afforded the opportunity to own land until very recently. At the end of the day, FoFF supports this as one of many tools the state should be building to address the farmland crisis our country, and Oregon especially, is facing today. From 2017 to 2022 we lost 2% of our nation’s farmland to development and other uses, and in Oregon we doubled that national trend to lose 4% of our farmland acreage. Although allocating funds to current landowners through easements will not fix the racial disparities in land ownership in our state, it does permanently preserve land for farm use, make it immune to UGB expansions and zoning changes, and make it available at the agricultural value (a lower price) for the next buyer. We were happy to see $6M allocated to the program and will continue to support building out a full suite of tools to increase farmland access in Oregon.

Double Up Food Bucks: Funding Request

FoFF Position: Support

Legislative Outcome:  No funding allocated in 2024

Summary: The Double Up Food Bucks Program is a SNAP matching program for fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers markets, farmstands, CSAs and select grocery stores. This triple win program provides more resources for SNAP users to purchase fruits and veg, puts more money in the community food system, and makes healthy food more available across the state. The legislature did not fulfill the full request from the program in the biennial budget in 2023 and Farmers Market Fund (with allies like FoFF, Oregon Hunger Taskforce, Partners for a Hunger Free Oregon, and the American Heart Association) requested an additional allocation of $1M from the state to cover the match required for their federal funds through the GUSNIP program. This was a request made for inclusion in the Budget Reconciliation bill and at the end of the session this ask was not included. Please support FMF in their applications to foundations and other donors to cover the gap in this awesome program!

HB 1537: The Governor’s Housing Package

FoFF Position: Oppose UGB expansion portion, Neutral on all other provisions

Legislative Outcome: Passed with UGB expansion included

Summary: Oregon is in a housing crisis. FoFF is not an expert in housing policy and is hopeful that some of the provisions and resources included in this bill will help find a compassionate solution to providing housing to folks in crisis and preventing more Oregonians from ending up unhoused. This is why we did not take a position on anything other than the UGB expansions in this bill. FoFF does however know that the crisis should not be leveraged to provide an opportunity for developers to get their hands on farmland that could not be annexed through the normal processes. Although we were happy to see the UGB expansion acreages reduced from the originally introduced version of this bill, we still caution legislators to not look to UGB expansions as a means for affordable housing creation. There are over 10,000 acres of developable or re-developable land currently within UGBs around the state that should be prioritized before opening farmland to development for housing. We invite folks to check out more information on this issue at our partner 1000 friends of Oregon’s website.

HB 4026: Stripping Communities’ rights to land use referenda 

FoFF Position: Oppose

Legislative Outcome: Passed

Summary: This was one of the provisions that we were happy to see be stripped out of the Governor’s housing bill which popped up inserted into another bill very quickly and without a lot of notice at the end of the session. This bill essentially removes the option for a community to gather signatures to send a land use decision by a city to the voters via a referendum. This tool has been used in the past in situations that FoFF agrees with, and situations that we did not, but stripping public participation from the process is rarely a good sign. What makes this worse is that it seems to be in direct response to the situation in North Plains and the ballot measure that the people of that community worked so hard to bring to the May ballot over a deeply unpopular land grab decision by their city council. Because of this law, that ballot measure is not going to be able to move forward and farmland is on the line again. The people of that community are mounting a local effort to fight this law and allow the ballot measure to stand, for more information please head on over to Friends of North Plains Smart Growth.

What Now?

The session is over but we are going straight into preparing for the 2025 long session! Since the New Year, FoFF has conducted 6 regional focus groups and sponsored 6 partner focus groups at culturally specific partner organizations. We also circulated our Family Farms Survey to gather more info. This info, combined with the need to tie up loose ends from existing campaigns will be compiled into our biennial Policy Report, which we plan to release in early June. This policy report will serve as a road map for our advocacy over the next 2 years. Look out for report release announcements!

After the report is released we will begin our policy creation process. This looks like gathering key stakeholders on our top issues to discuss specific solutions, consulting experts and agency employees, and speaking with legislators to find the right champions for the policies our farmers want to see. We will also continue working with our policy coalitions to advance our shared work. Then we will continue our legislator outreach with legislator farm visits with farms who are excited to help our lawmakers contextualize problems and solutions right there on the farm.

We also have to remember the legislative calendar and there are some opportunities for information distribution and deadlines in Salem before the session starts in January:

    • May 29-31: Interim Legislative Days
    • September 23-25: Interim Leg Days
    • September 27: Legislative Counsel Request Deadline (date to request the Capitol lawyers write up official text for pre-session filed bills)
    • December 10-12: Interim Legislative Days
    • December 13: Pre-session Bill Filing Deadline

Look out for more info as the bills passed this session go into effect and as we prepare for 2025!