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State Ag Board lines up legislative priorities

Agriculture — Draft report makes numerous recommendations for next session of the Legislature


ENTERPRISE — The Oregon Board of Agriculture plans to narrow down a list of priorities in its recommendations to lawmakers during the upcoming 2015 legislative session.

During a Sept. 23 meeting in Enterprise, the board discussed a report to the Legislature due early next year that outlines recommended action items and investments.

A preliminary draft report contains numerous proposals, some of which are briefly summarized here:

• Improve international and domestic market access for state farm goods by funding Oregon State University programs aimed at “business development, value added manufacturing and other rural economic development initiatives.”

• Fund OSU programs aimed at food safety.

• Support local food systems by helping people to use federal food programs to purchase local produce.

• Develop a “consistent policy on rural agri-tourism and related events.” Some agri-tourism events have run into conflicts with state land use laws in the past.

• State agencies should coordinate to ensure railroads are preserved and to steer investment toward more transportation “infrastructure,” in cooperation with farm groups and local governments.

• Prevent the conversion of valuable farmland to other uses, in part by supporting succession planning programs at OSU and helping beginning farmers get access to land.

• Lawmakers should support a proposed federal prohibition on the U.S. Department of Labor using the “hot goods” provision of labor law to block shipments of perishable farm products.

• Invest in irrigation water conservation and other water programs for farmers.

The draft report also contains proposals specific to different regions in the state.

Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Katy Coba said the board should think about focusing on a limited number of items in each category of recommendations.

She asked board members to study the recommendations and later discuss any changes that need to be made.

The board also heard about challenges facing the collection of agricultural statistics in Oregon.

Oregon State University and the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service gather data about crop production and value, with OSU largely focusing on county specific data that may not fall under the purview of NASS.

Both the university and the federal agency face budget constraints, leading to concerns about the inability to collect enough accurate data.

The board decided to ask the appropriate officials at OSU and NASS for a meeting to discuss the problem and possible solutions.

“We need to get people in a room,” Coba said.

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