groups don’t buy ‘Buy Oregon’ plan
By MITCH LIES
Capital Press Staff Writer
SALEM, Ore. — Two influential farm groups are
opposing a bill being crafted by an environmental
group that would create a purchase preference for
Oregon-grown agricultural products and a Buy
Oregon Policy Council.
The Oregon Farm Bureau Federation and Oregonians
for Food and Shelter are concerned that the Oregon
Environmental Council is advancing a hidden agenda
within the language of its “Buy Oregon” bill and
question the logic of creating a new council in
the face of a staggering state budget crunch.
“This bill goes far beyond just buying Oregon
agricultural products,” said Terry Witt, executive
director of Oregonians for Food and Shelter. “It
gets into things like organic and sustainable
“Frankly, any proposal the Oregon Environmental
Council brings up is going to be viewed with
skepticism because they haven’t built up trust,”
said Jean Wilkinson, a lobbyist for the Oregon
Farm Bureau Federation.
Karen Lewotsky, a program director for the OEC,
believes the farm groups are off base. Farmers
helped craft the legislation, she said, and most
farmers she has talked to support it.
“I’m hearing a lot about a hidden agenda,” she
said. “I’m hearing that somewhere in the bill,
something bad is going to happen to agriculture.
Well, I can tell you, there is no hidden agenda.
This bill has to do with ‘How do we help Oregon
The OEC’s draft legislation outlines parameters
for a state institution purchase-preference policy
and hands the responsibility for crafting the
policy to a 21-member council made up of a variety
of interests. The Buy Oregon Policy Council would
develop purchasing parameters for Oregon
institutions and define what qualifies as an
Oregon-grown agricultural product.
According to the draft, about one-third of the
policy council would come from the agricultural
community. The council would be established within
the Institute for Natural Resources at Oregon
Lewotsky said operating costs would be minimal.
The policy council would be made up of volunteers,
and a lone full-time employee could handle the
The draft legislation has several noncontroversial
components, including encouraging the promotion of
Oregon agriculture through educational campaigns,
encouraging efforts to expand markets for
Oregon-grown products and promoting value-added
The draft, however, also contains language that
appears to promote organic and sustainable
agricultural production — language that concerns
OFS and OFBF members.
“It appears that it would give preference in terms
of market access to those people who practice
organic production,” said Farm Bureau President
Barry Bushue. “We believe all agriculture should
be united and no preference given to organic
farming and no preference given to traditional
“In the first section, the word environmental is
used more than the word agricultural,” Witt said.
“That indicates to me that there is more to this
bill than just buying Oregon agriculture.”
Matt Blevins, a lobbyist for OEC, said the
environmental council would prefer that OFS and
OFBF support the bill but is prepared to go
forward with the legislation without their
“I think (their lack of support) is going to give
some folks pause, but the first reaction I get
when I mention to legislators that they are not
supporting the bill is, ‘What’s their problem?’”
Blevins said one lawmaker told him: “’It’s
ridiculous when petty politics get in the way of a
For a complete text of the draft legislation, go