SALEM -- A committee has moved a bill to the House floor that gives the Oregon Department of Agriculture authority to raise food safety license fees as much as 3 percent a year.

The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee passed House Bill 4003 on Feb. 1 after hearing supporting testimony from the Northwest Grocery Association, Oregon Dairy Farmers Association and the Oregon Farm Bureau.

Food safety license fees are paid by a variety of entities, including grocers, food processors, dairy farms and meat processors. Fees are based on gross annual sales. Under former policy, fees automatically increased 2 percent annually.

The agriculture department said it will review the food safety program annually to determine if it needs to raise fees.

ODA Director Katy Coba said the department doesn't anticipate raising fees until 2013 at the earliest.

If passed, the new fee structure will expire in 2018, at which point fee rates will be frozen.

-- Mitch Lies

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