In brief for Oregon on Feb. 18, 2011

Mitch Lies/Capital Press Sally Christensen, center, and Marilyn Blagg, right, both of the Oregon Wheat Growers League, serve cake made from Oregon wheat to a fourth grade student during a celebration of Oregon's 152nd birthday, Feb. 14 at the Capitol. This year marked 20 years the wheat league has participated in the annual birthday ceremony.

CAFO fee increase moves

SALEM -- A bill to increase permit fees paid by dairies and other confined animal feeding operations is heading to Ways and Means.

The Oregon Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee on Jan. 10 moved Senate Bill 120 to the budget committee with a do-pass recommendation.

The bill increases CAFO permit fees from a flat $25 a year to a sliding scale, with small facilities paying $100, medium operations $200, and large ones pay $300.

In dairies, small CAFOs are those with less than 200 cows; medium is defined as those with 200 to 700 cows.

The bill has support of the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association.

"Nobody likes to pay more, but the CAFO program is very important to the dairy farmers, so if this is what it takes to keep it whole, the dairy farmers are willing to swallow it," dairy lobbyist Roger Beyer said.

The Oregon Cattlemen's Association supports the program, but is not taking a position on the fee increase, said lobbyist Jim Welsh.

"We support the program and we need the program, but those are big fee increases," Welsh said.

The fee increase is expected to generate $181,000 over the biennium, which will be used to fund one of the agency's six CAFO inspectors.

Sen. Andy Olsen, R-Canby, asked if the department could guarantee the additional funds won't be swept into the general fund or used for other programs.

"There are no guarantees," said Lisa Hansen, ODA deputy director.

The department earlier this session said it is trying to operate programs under the goal of eliminating all ending-fund balances -- balances lawmakers have targeted in recent years to fill general fund deficits.

If passed, the new fee would take effect July 1.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture regulates CAFOs under an agreement with the Department of Environmental Quality.

-- Mitch Lies

Farm Bureau airs concerns

SALEM -- Lawmakers heard concerns Feb. 11 about rules the Department of Environmental Quality is proposing that would give Oregon the toughest water quality standards in the nation.

The Oregon Farm Bureau told members of the House Business and Labor Committee they are concerned the rules ultimately would cede authority over nonpoint source pollution to DEQ.

Currently, the Oregon Department of Agriculture regulates agricultural water quality programs in Oregon under Senate Bill 1010 water quality plans.

"The ability to (shift regulatory authority) is in the draft rules," said Katie Fast, a lobbyist for Oregon Farm Bureau. "It allows DEQ, if they don't believe Senate Bill 1010 plans are working appropriately, to come in, and through the Environmental Quality Commission, force changes to agricultural water quality management.

"The big thing is we believe these rules should recognize that all regulatory authority in terms of agricultural water quality falls to ODA, and that they should be the one to help agriculture meet water quality standards," Fast said.

Fast said the informational hearing was positive.

"It showed that the committee is very concerned about the jurisdictional issues with ODA and DEQ, and that the committee also is concerned about Oregon companies' ability to meet the standards and the impact that will have on our ability to have a thriving economy in the state," Fast said.

-- Mitch Lies

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