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Oregonians for Food and Shelter Newsletter

February 2012 Legislative Wrap Up Friday, March 16, 2012
Dear Jacqui,

We've abandoned the newsletter template that we've used for a couple of years and have returned to Constant Contact. Of course this means yet another "learning curve" for staff! Please bear with us for the first few newsletters we send out to you.
If for some reason you do not wish to be included in this list, please hit the "safe unsubscribe" button at the bottom of the newsletter.
You're probably aware that OFS has a new executive director - Scott Dahlman. He's jumped into OFS's issues with both feet and is doing a great job. Scott has been attending several meetings throughout the state, hopefully many of you have had an opportunity to meet him. If he is at a meeting that you are attending, please introduce yourself.
We've included our report from the February 2012 Legislative Session.
Have a terrific weekend!

OFS Legislative Wrap-up

 

The first official annual session convened February 1, 2012 and closed on March 5,2012. Looking back on the first "short" legislative session, it is clear that this was a whole new ballgame. In 2010 voters approved a 35 day off-year legislative session to occur in the even numbered years. The purpose was to allow the legislature to be able to react to budget changes and unforeseen issues without having to wait more than a year between sessions. While this goal sounds nice, and there were strict bill limits, the scope of issues considered will surely multiply in the upcoming years.

 

On top of this dynamic, there was the proverbial elephant in the room---the budget. During session, the budget forecast was released revealing that the state was facing a $341 million projected shortfall. This meant that the budget and economy dominated nearly every conversation in the capitol.

 

Natural Resource Budgets Take Hit

 

In the February session the Natural Resource agencies took disproportionate additional cuts. While most agencies took about 3.5% in cuts, the NR agencies took 5-6%. While this was not good news, it is better than the 8.5% cut that ODA had been bracing for. These cuts are leading ODA to not fill some vacant positions, and to use a "one-time" fix of lottery dollars to fund the state's weed control and insect pest prevention and management program.

 

Additionally, according to Ways and Means Co-Chair, Representative Dennis Richardson (R-Central Point), another $28 million in budget cuts will be taken in May during the Emergency Board deliberations. The Co-Chairs are asking state government agencies to specifically review their middle management in preparation for these additional budget cuts.

 

Important Bills Fail Not Included in Final "Deal"

 

Rep. Mike Schaufler
Representative Mike Schaufler

While there were many legislators, especially Republicans, who worked hard to protect Natural Resource budgets and increase job opportunities, one member worth bringing to your attention is Representative Mike Schaufler (D-Happy Valley). Mike has consistently and forcefully stood against his Caucus urging the legislature and Governor to pass bills that encourage job growth in the state. He even took on Governor Kitzhaber when he appeared personally to testify against HB 4098 which would have required annual timber harvest on state forests to equal 85% of annual growth, asking the tough questions. Additionally, Rep. Schaufler, along with the Republicans fought to pass HB 4101, sponsored by Rep. Mike McLane (R-Powell Butte) that would have taken a small amount of water for Oregon agriculture from the Columbia River system.

 

Whether both bills would have passed or not will never be known as the Governor's opposition evolved into a strategy that pitted the big "Business Lobby" in Oregon against agriculture and timber businesses using the excuse that Republican leaders were holding up his agenda to secure passage of the timber and water bills. The truth is that the Republican leaders were as supportive of the Health and Education agenda in the legislature as the Governor was. The difference is Co-Speaker Hanna and his Caucus were trying to insure that Health Care, Education and Jobs were all passing in concert.

 

Rep. Bruce Hanna
Co-Speaker Bruce Hanna

OFS thanks Co-Speaker Hanna, his caucus and Rep. Mike Schaufler for their hard work and tenacious effort. We are sorry the "Good Guys and Gals" were the ones that took the spear. They did not deserve the negative press and the ugly public perception that derived from it. OFS, Farm Bureau and OFIC will remember who our friends are.

 

Had the "major business association lobbyists" dissuaded the Governor and stayed committed to passing the water and timber bills, more than 12,000 new jobs could have been realized in Oregon. The Governor, and the majority of Democrat legislators, argued that federal control should be relegated to Oregon, allowing for the increase of timber harvest from federal lands. We agree that federal harvests should be taking place, but think of the jobs that could be created if Oregon had a larger harvest of both state and federal forests. Unfortunately as long as the lobbyists for major business associations bow to the Governor every time he threatens to "veto or non-support", we will never know.

 

Pesticide Related Legislation Kept to a Minimum

 

With the budget consuming much of the air in the building, and legislators still trying to figure out how the 30-day session works, there was not a lot of pesticide related activity. Bills of note that we may see again next session:

 

HB 4151 - Environmentally Preferable Procurements: HB 4151 would require Oregon Department of Administrative Services to consider how "green" the products a contractor uses are, and give preference to bidders who use these products, even if the cost is greater to the state. DAS would require businesses submitting a bid for a government contract to track down ingredients and health impacts of all the ingredients and residues greater than 100 parts per million in every chemical product they use, and report that as part of the procurement process.

 

Not only is this unrealistic, it takes contractors time, adds to their costs, and eventually inflates the cost to the state for no real tangible benefit. The bill did not receive a hearing. OFS opposed this bill.

 

HB 4060 - Genetically Engineered Fish Ban: This bill is a retread of last year, with some of the more ridiculous provisions removed. HB 4060 would prohibit the import, transport within, cultivation or release of any genetically engineered (GE) fish or shellfish (live or otherwise) in Oregon. Previous iterations of the bill included products such as cat food and fertilizer that may contain GE fish, but HB 4060 applies only to actual fish.

Contrary to the proponent's claims, GM fish pose no more danger to wild salmon than any other similar fish and should not be treated any differently. The bill had a hearing in the House Committee on Energy, Environment and Water, but did not move out of committee OFS opposed this bill.

 

Meanwhile, Outside of the Capitol...

It often seems that there is no rest for the weary, and that is doubly true during legislative session. While we are busy fighting our legislative battles, plenty of regulatory issues continue to swirl. From the Triangle Lake study, to NPDES permitting, to Board of Forestry appointments, there is a lot going in state government of concern. OFS will continue to work hard representing our member's interests in both legislative and regulatory activities.

 

Triangle Lake Exposure Investigation

There have recently been 2 major advancements in the Hwy 36 (Triangle Lake) investigation. First, early last week OHA released the data from the urine sampling taken last year. The results were what we expected, there was no atrazine found in ANY of the samples, and the numbers of 2,4-D detected were on par with national general population numbers. The other half of the report including the test results from the soil, water, and local food samples should be released shortly. The full urinalysis report can be found here.

 

Shortly after that was released, it was announced that the planned spring 2012 urine and environmental sample collection efforts would be postponed. Despite cooperation by forest landowners, OHA was unable to find enough willing participants in the areas that would be sprayed this spring.

 

With this announcement, and the positive results from the original testing, it is time to ask how much more time, money, and effort should be put into the investigation.

 

NPDES Pesticide General Permit (PGP)

Despite the uncertainty surrounding the NPDES PGP, you are now required to follow the permit guidelines if you will be spraying pesticides on, or within 3 feet, of water. You can find the permit requirements along with additional materials at the DEQ website here.

 

There is a lot of confusion surrounding the permit, so please contact DEQ or OFS if you have any questions.

 

Board of Forestry Appointments

On Feb. 10 the Senate Rules Committee approved Governor Kitzhaber's appointments to the Oregon Board of Forestry. They are:

  • Nils Christoffersen, executive director of the Wallowa Resources, a nonprofit organization in Enterprise, Ore., that works "to design and realize a new, healthier rural community."
  • Tom Insko, a manager for Boise Cascade in Elgin, Ore.
  • Cindy Williams, a fishery scientist and director of aquatic science and conservation education at the National Center for Conservation Science and Policy in Ashland, Ore.

They will replace Peter Hayes, Jennifer Phillippi and Calvin Mukumoto, whose terms have expired.

 

Fertilizer Research Committee

The Lower Umatilla Basin (LUB) has been dealing with high nitrate levels in their groundwater for some time, and DEQ is pointing towards agriculture as the main cause. This increased pressure from DEQ led a group of farmers in the basin to seek a mechanism to fund research that might challenge those assumptions. It was suggested that there could be some funding available through the ODA fertilizer research program.

 

Under the fertilizer statute, ODA is allowed to appropriate up to $.25 of the fertilizer tonnage fee for research. Projects would be granted funds by the Fertilizer Research Committee made up of 7 members appointed by the Director of Agriculture. Due to a lack of interest, that Committee has not been active in several years.

 

While the full $.25 may be too much to take out of the general fertilizer program budget at this point, there is widespread agreement that there should be some amount of the fee going towards research. Currently the tonnage fee is $.35, and the statutory cap is $.45, so the fee can be raised an additional $.10 under rule to help fund the committee.

 

ODA Director Coba appointed the Fertilizer Research Committee last month. The members are: Jim Pittam, Simplot; Bob Gasser, Basin Fertilizer; Tom Wimmer, Marion Ag Service; Don Wysocki, OSU; Peggy Clough, Umatilla Co. Fair & Fairgrounds Manager; Jennifer Freeborn, Horse Trainer; and Toby Primbs ODA.

 

The committee has been given a target of $70,000 in grants for each of the next 3 years. Recognizing the specific needs of the LUB, the committee will be directed to target $50,000 of the funds to qualifying projects in the basin. The additional $20,000 will be available for all qualified proposals, including a LUB proposal if the committee sees fit. If the research program is successful, and there is sufficient interest, it will be continued on past the initial 3 year period. The request for proposal (RFP) should be released shortly.

 

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              Page Updated: Friday March 16, 2012 11:47 PM  Pacific


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