By MITCH LIES
SALEM -- Jeff Edgerton, brewmaster at BridgePort Brewing Co. in Portland, said he looks for graduates of Oregon State University's food science program when he hires at his brewery.
Steve McCarthy of Clear Creek Distillery in Portland said his last four hires have been OSU food science graduates.
"We've hired a total of seven bachelor's degree graduates from that program," McCarthy said, "and they are just fantastic."
Edgerton and McCarthy came to Salem to testify before the Senate Rural Communities and Economic Development Committee in support of a bill to enhance fermentation sciences at OSU.
"When we look for brewers ... we're looking for educated people, people that have a knowledge of the brewing process," Edgerton said. "Oregon State University provides that for us."
Senate Bill 816 calls for lawmakers to supplement the university's fermentation studies with $2.5 million of general funds.
The funds would be used to start a marketing studies program within the fermentation sciences, initiate a distilled spirits program and enhance research funding in the existing fermentation sciences programs.
Research funding could be used to study the production of cheese, bread, beer, wine, distilled spirits and the hops, grapes, milk and other commodities used to make the products.
Rep. Ben Unger, D-Hillsboro, a co-sponsor of the bill, said increasing funding for the fermentation sciences would provide benefits to several areas of Oregon's economy.
"These industries ... are industries that add value at a number of different levels in our economy," Unger said.
"By giving them more resources to expand their research, we can actually create the kind of jobs in rural areas that I think this state really needs," Unger said.
Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, the chief sponsor of the bill, said he brought forward the bill to help foster some of Oregon's most popular home-grown industries.
"This is a very important bill for us to continue to foster what we have already established in the state in the ag community as to how we can actually feature and grow our own," Prozanski said.
The committee has scheduled a work session on SB816 April 9.