Five people, including former state ag Director Katy Coba, received the 2017 Friends of Nurseries awards from the Oregon Association of Nurseries.

The association gives the annual awards to state or federal elected officials or to key government agency personnel who are “solution-oriented, who consider the nursery and greenhouse point of view and who act as a partner, regardless of party affiliation,” executive director Jeff Stone said in a prepared statement.

The association represents more than 800 nursery growers, retailers, suppliers and landscapers. Ornamental horticulture is one of the state’s biggest agricultural sectors, with more than $900 million in annual sales. Almost 75 percent of the industry’s production is shipped out of state.

Friends of Nurseries awards this year went to:

• Coba, the first woman and the longest-serving director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture. She headed ODA from 2003 to 2016, when Gov. Kate Brown appointed her director of the Oregon Department of Administrative Services. Stone called Coba a “key ally” of the nursery industry who worked to maintain domestic and international market access.

• State senators Tim Knopp, R-Bend, and Kathleen Taylor, D-Portland. They served on the Senate Committee on Workforce as it considered labor rules that would affect nursery and greenhouse businesses. Because they listened carefully, the final version of legislation was not harmful to the industry, Stone said.

• State Rep. Ken Helm, D-Beaverton, who Stone described as a “quick study” on issues important to the industry, including trade, water, pesticides and pollinators. Among other assignments, Helm serves on the Natural Resources Subcommittee of the Legislature’s Joint Ways and Means Committee, which during the 2017 session fully funded state nursery programs provided by the Oregon Department of Agriculture and OSU Extension.

• U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, who secured funding in Congress for the final phase of a “smart sprayer” research project that could prove to be “game changing technology” for the industry, Stone said. He also worked to get matching federal grants for research on sudden oak death. Stone said Merkley is always accessible to the industry and a proven partner.

• The nursery association also announced a “New Legislator of the Year” award, presented to state Rep. Karin Power, D-Milwaukie. She serves on the Natural Resources Subcommittee of Ways and Means, which funds agricultural programs, and is vice chair of the House Committee on Energy and Environment, where water and environmental bills are considered. Stone said Power demonstrated a “keen mind” and deserved recognition as a freshman legislator with a balanced perspective. He added Power had shown herself to be “solution oriented and open to the nursery perspective.”

Recommended for you