Protect the Willamette Valley’s Specialty Seed Industry!
2/26/24 – HB 4059-A HAS BEEN ASSIGNED TO THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES AND WILDFIRE. There is a public hearing on 2/27 at 8am and written testimony is due 2/29 at 8am. TEMPLATE BELOW!
2/22/24 – HB 4059-A HAS BEEN ADOPTED. The -9 Amendment has been adopted. The bill is now called HB 4059-A (the A stands for amended).
2/14/24 – HB 4059-9 PASSED OUT OF HOUSE COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE, LAND USE, NATURAL RESOURCES, AND WATER.
What is the issue?
Why does FoFF care?
Why is Canola being singled out?
All these factors combined mean that we need to limit and regulate canola in the Willamette Valley Protected District.
What is going on in the 2024 session?Last year, during the 2023 legislative session we were part of a coalition proposing to make the WVPD protections permanent. Due to the political dynamics of the 2023 session, the proposal was changed at the last minute to extend the sunset for 1 year and call a workgroup together. The workgroup met from July of 2023 all the way up to January of 2024 and it was a heated conversation. It became very clear from this process that both sides were going to have to compromise and that the common ground was hard to find. Legislators heard the report from ODA about the workgroup, held additional meetings and drafted what they hope will be a solution for the foreseeable future.
The -9 Amendment has been adopted. The bill is now called HB 4059-A (the A stands for amended).
On the morning of 2/15/24 a new amendment was posted that extends the sunset of the current regulations (500 acre canola cap, permits through ODA) until January 2, 2028. This amendment was adopted by the committee and will be the version of the bill that moves on through the process. FoFF has been committed to supporting the strongest protections for seed farmers available throughout the process while always pushing for improvement and emphasizing where we will need to be strong in implementation to avoid future problems. The -9 extends the current protections and is more supportive of seed farmers than any alternative we discussed to date. The -9 amendment was adopted by the committee on 2/15 and was passed out of the House on 2/22. It is now assigned to the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Wildfire with a hearing at 8am on 2/27.
FoFF is strongly supportive of the HB 4059-A amendment. But this is a nuanced conversation and it is important that we still have some blind spots in current law that will need to be fixed in the future. This issue is 100% going to come back to the legislature and we will be ready to make future solutions work for seed farmers as we near the January 2028 sunset.
Things we like about -9:
- Current protections stand. We would like these to be permanent, but we are happy to come back in a future session once better alternatives can be drafted to continue this conversation.
Things we are concerned about:
- We retain the flaws of the current system:
- Isolation distances not specified in law
- Pinning is voluntary for all non-canola brassica seed growers. Though it is administered by WVSSA to industry standards and with seed viability in mind, it is not mandatory
- No limitations or restrictions on GE brassica growing in the next 3 seasons.
Second Chamber Hearing
- 2/27 8 AM in the Senate Natural Resource Committee
- WRITTEN TESTIMONY IS DUE BY 8AM ON THURSDAY 2/29
This is our chance to speak up in favor of the sunset extension. There are people in the opposition still pushing to amend the bill to a version that FoFF and our farmers will not support and we need to assure legislators that this extension is the best option available for seed farmers right now. We will need to continue to work on this in the future, but we cannot let their delay tactics muddy this process and let the sunset elapse in July!
Chair Golden, Vice Chair Girod and members of the committee:
My name is [name] and I am writing in support of HB 4059-A. I am a [farmer/community member/food advocate/seed saver] in [town]. The Willamette Valley Specialty Brassica seed industry is vital to the agricultural landscape of Oregon and we are so lucky to have the land, expertise and conditions to support this unique industry. We should protect these farmers’ ability to grow the seeds that produce millions of pounds of food across the world.
Because a reasonable agreement could not be reached after the work group process, extending the current regulations is the only viable option. This topic means so much to me because:
[Elaborate on your personal experience here. Consider choosing some questions from this list to shape your testimony:
- How does seed growing support your farm? How long have you been doing it, and any relevant details you’d like to share about the viability of your seed business.
- What do locally grown seeds do for the farmers of Oregon?
- Why is seed security/sovereignty/diversity so important?
- How does more diversified agriculture benefit the valley as opposed to monocropping commodities like Canola?]
We know that HB 4059-A is not the end of the road and we will have to find a more permanent solution in the next few years. I urge legislators to listen to the specialty seed growers in this process. Just because they are not the biggest, most industrialized farms does not mean that they have any less value in the system. Please respect their knowledge of the plant biology, industry standards and best practices that have made this a thriving industry here in our state. In particular, we need future policy to address [add any concerns you want to make sure are specifically addressed in future legislation. This could include:
- The need for a public pinning map
- Seed lot testing for commonly crops
- Isolation distances
- Limitations on crop varieties that threaten organic production
- Accountability and shared risk for all parties, not just small seed growers]
Watch a farmer’s perspective – Hank Keogh at Avoca Seeds in Corvallis.
Important study about the potential economic impacts of lifting the canola ban:The Willamette Valley is one of the vegetable seed capitals of the world, a very special place for growing high-value seeds, and an economic powerhouse for our state. Currently, cultivation of rapeseed/canola, a low-value oilseed that can irreversibly undermine the vegetable seed industry through cross-contamination and increased pest and disease pressure, is capped at 500 acres in the Willamette Valley Protected District.
Brassica seed production, the seed most at risk from rapeseed/canola, produces average profits of $1400 per acre for conventional, and $32,000 per acre for organically grown seed. In contrast, rapeseed/canola produces profits of only $190 per acre.
If, as is likely, rapeseed/canola were to eliminate brassica seed growing (setting aside the impacts to seed producers’ investments and other crops) a loss of approximately $15M in production value, and $9.2M in direct and indirect labor income, would ensue. These figures do not include additional substantial losses from the Valley-based seed processing companies.
Other oilseed crops such as flax, sunflower, safflower, yellow mustard and camelina do not threaten specialty seed crops to the degree that canola does, and can be grown in the protected districts.