By MITCH LIES
SALEM -- The chairman of the newly formed Senate Committee on Rural Communities and Economic Development said he favors increasing state funding for agricultural research and extension.
During a press conference Feb. 5, Sen. Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay, said he believes lawmakers should increase funding for Oregon State University's statewide public services over the amount proposed by Gov. John Kitzhaber.
Kitzhaber's proposed 2013-15 budget increases state funding for the Oregon University System by 7 percent from the current biennium, but holds steady funding for the OSU Experiment Station, Extension Service and Forest Research Laboratory.
"I believe it should be increased," Roblan said. "(Research) has been an important engine in the economy of our state for years."
Addressing immigration reform, Roblan said it is important for lawmakers to back congressional efforts that address reform.
"This is a problem that is bigger than Oregon," Roblan said.
"I will certainly work with my farmers, the people who are in nurseries and all those others who have talked repeatedly about making sure that people who are working in (agriculture and forestry) can do so in a legal, above-board way," he said.
Regarding management of federal forests in Oregon, Roblan also said he is waiting to hear what a Kitzhaber-convened panel releases before taking a stand on the issue. But he supports efforts to increase the number of timber jobs in state forests in a way that protects recreation, wildlife habitat and other forest uses.
"We have to have real conversations with environmental people to get back in those forests and start both harvesting and thinning and keeping that investment what it should be, which is a healthy forest in the best timber area of the world," he said.
"We have a lot of opportunity there. We just need to have the conversations that show people we want that to be a sustainable place.
"We all in the rural areas love our forests. That is one of the reasons we live where we live. We don't want to do harm, and there are ways of doing that. There are techniques that would make it possible to have that boom that we had in the '60s and '70s in a different way," Roblan said.
Roblan also said he supports efforts to increase water development for irrigated agriculture this session.
"I am very interested in water," he said. "It is a very big part of how we as Oregonians succeed.
"My biggest concern is, if in fact some of the dire predictions of global warming are true, we are going to lose our reservoir, which is the Cascades, and ... if we don't figure out how to store some of that water we are in real trouble.
"We have to have a real effort in the Capitol to start figuring out ways in which we store water, because we are going to get water. It's just we can't let it all run away."