By MITCH LIES
SALEM -- An Oregon House committee has adopted a bill that bans canola production in the Willamette Valley for three years, setting aside a recent decision by the Oregon Department of Agriculture to allow some canola in the valley.
House Bill 2427 is contingent upon the Legislature satisfying a request to provide funding for a study into the effects widespread canola production will have on existing Willamette Valley agriculture.
Specialty seed producers have said widespread canola production will harm their industry by reducing crop purity through cross pollination, contaminating acreage with volunteer canola and increased pest populations.
The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee moved the bill on April 18 with a do-pass recommendation despite opposition from Rep. Brian Clem, D-Salem.
"It is very dangerous territory of the Legislature overruling Department of Ag with our views on agricultural topics when not that many people here have as good an understanding of these issues as the Department of Ag," Clem said.
Clem cast the only "no" vote on the bill.
The ODA earlier this year lifted a ban on canola production in the valley, allowing up to 2,500 acres of its production in a 1.7 million-acre limited-production zone. The February ruling kept in place the state's prohibitions on canola production in a 1.9 million-acre canola-exclusion zone, where the bulk of specialty seed crops are produced.
The ODA has restricted canola production in the Willamette Valley since 2005.
Producers who have grown canola in the valley over the past six years can continue to do so under an agreement between lawmakers yet to be codified in the bill.
Rep. Jim Thompson, R-Dallas, said he agreed to move the bill only under that provision.
A handful of farmers have grown canola on the far outskirts of the valley during the recent moratorium.
If lawmakers fail to fund the study, canola restrictions revert back to the ODA rule.
The department plans to contract with Oregon State University to conduct the study, and, under the bill, OSU must report findings of its study to a committee by Nov. 1, 2016.
The bill first must go to the joint Ways and Means Committee to determine its budget impacts before it goes to the House floor.