A new fee on lime would be imposed as part of a fertilizer and soil amendments bill supported by the Oregon Department of Agriculture.
Under House Bill 2443, distributors would pay up to 5 cents per ton of lime sold in Oregon, increasing the total tonnage fees collected by ODA by about $9,500 per year, but fees on fertilizers would stay flat at up to 45 cents per ton.
During the 2013-15 biennium, such tonnage fees are projected to total more than $370,000.
The legislation would also allocate $70,000 per year from tonnage fees for research on fertilizer impacts to ground and surface water and increase ODA’s fees for registering and evaluating fertilizers.
The revised fees would be “fairly negligible” for distributors, who would probably raise prices to growers slightly — if at all — due to the changes, said Katy Coba, the agency’s director, during a March 3 hearing before the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Oregonians for Food and Shelter, an agribusiness industry group, supports HB 2443 as setting up a “sustainable trajectory” for ODA’s fertilizer program, said Scott Dahlman, the group’s policy director.
“We think this is the right way to move forward,” Dahlman said.
A provision of the bill that increases ODA’s fertilizer evaluation fee from $50 to $500 for new products is equitable, as the agency has spent a lot of resources analyzing niche products that don’t end up generating much in tonnage fees, he said.
Katie Fast, vice president of the Oregon Farm Bureau, said the group supports the bill because ODA’s fertilizer program ensures that fertilizer claims are truthful.
The research funding is a “supplementary benefit” of the program, but not the primary purpose of fertilizer and soil amendment fees, she said.
The Oregon Environmental Council supports HB 2443 but believes that $70,000 is not sufficient to study the effects of fertilizer on water, said Angela Crowley-Koch, the group’s legislative director.
Finding ways to reduce fertilizer usage could save money for farmers while preventing water contamination, she said.