Corn added to definition of grain, but no plans for fees
By MITCH LIES
SALEM -- Provided growers choose, the Oregon Wheat Commission could institute producer assessments on corn, flaxseed and other crops under a bill that sailed through the Oregon House Feb. 27.
House Bill 2616, which cleared the House floor by a vote of 57-0, clarifies issues left hanging when lawmakers in 2011 merged the Oregon Grains Commission with the Oregon Wheat Commission, according to Jana Jarvis, a lobbyist for wheat growers.
It gives the commission authority to assess civil penalties to producers who don't pay the commission's 5 cents a bushel assessment on wheat or $1 per ton assessment on barley. It frees up the commission to invest funds in a municipal pool used by cities and school districts. And it defines grains.
In doing so, the commission opted to add corn to mustard, oats, flaxseed, rye, soybeans, grain sorghum and triticale -- crops the old Oregon Grains Commission had authority to assess.
Tana Simpson, associate administrator for the Wheat Commission, said the commission has no intention to assess anything other than wheat and barley in the near future.
"Our intention is to not assess (a new crop) until we have growers request us to do so," she said.
Simpson said growers requested the commission to add corn.
Initial discussions, she said, indicate that if the commission ever opts to assess corn, it would assess only field corn, and only for research purposes.
"But, we have no intention of assessing it at this point," she said.
To assess a new crop, the commission would need to institute a rule change, which would trigger a public hearing and other opportunities for the public to comment over a 90-day period.
The bill now is in the Senate.