Farm lobby eyes several opportunities
Fast: 'I think this is a year of opportunity for water development in Oregon'
By MITCH LIES
SALEM -- Bills to label food with genetically modified ingredients and restrict the production of genetically modified crops have put Oregon's farm lobby on the defensive as the 2013 Legislature gets underway.
But opportunities also are present.
Buoyed by Gov. John Kitzhaber's proposal to sink $22 million into water development, the Oregon Farm Bureau views the session as an opportunity for irrigated agriculture, said Katie Fast, the organization's director of government affairs.
"I think this is a year of opportunity for water development in Oregon," Fast said.
"For the first time in a long time we're seeing a request for funds for a water-supply development program," said Brenda Bateman, spokesperson for the Oregon Water Resources Department.
Among bills the Farm Bureau supports is one that changes the authorization of wetland enhancement projects on farm land from an outright permitted use to a conditional use requiring public hearings.
The Farm Bureau is concerned about a loss of farmland in recent years to wetland enhancement and other wildlife enhancement projects, Fast said.
The bill, House Bill 2173, is in the House Land Use Committee.
The Oregon Association of Nurseries said it is working behind the scenes to get a bill introduced that "allows the undocumented workforce to get a driver's license and be fully insured," OAN Executive Director Jeff Stone said.
"It is a take-home for the nursery and greenhouse industry to try to fix this issue," Stone said.
Since 2008, driver's license applicants in Oregon have been required to show legal residency when renewing licenses or applying for a new one.
"We want folks on the road who know how to drive and are insured," Stone said.
The Farm Bureau also supports a proposed extension of a landowner preference program that permits landowner tags for hunting deer, elk and antelope on their land outside hunting season.
The program, due to sunset in 2014, would be extended to 2024 under House Bill 2250.