Oregon Capitol

Oregon counties would be prohibited from imposing landscaping and parking requirements on small farm processors under a bill headed for a vote on the House floor.

The House Committee on Agriculture and Land Use has unanimously approved House Bill 2844, which exempts on-farm processors smaller than 2,500 square feet from county siting standards.

Such restrictions currently apply to on-farm processors even if they’re not subject to conditional use permits because they’re under 10,000 square feet.

The proposal is supported by the Oregon Farm Bureau and the Oregon Property Owners Association but hit a minor snag earlier in this year’s legislative session over the question of cannabis processing.

Originally, HB 2844 did not apply to on-farm processing of any form of cannabis, including marijuana and non-psychoactive hemp.

The provision sparked some debate among committee members, since cannabis is treated as a crop under Oregon law while the federal government has legalized hemp without lifting criminal penalties for marijuana.

Under the amended version of the bill, which the committee recommended for passage on April 2, only marijuana would be disqualified from the exemption “because your chair is uptight about it still,” said Rep. Brian Clem, D-Salem, the committee’s chair.

Replacement dwellings

The committee has also approved a bill that would clear up years-long legal confusion over the ability to replace demolished dwellings on Oregon farmland.

A bill lawmakers approved in 2013 permitted such buildings to be rebuilt but a convoluted provision in the law sparked a dispute that’s landed before the Oregon Supreme Court.

The question centers on whether demolished structures can be rebuilt under the statute even if they hadn’t been subject to property taxes within the past five years.

House Bill 3024 clarifies that buildings could be replaced regardless of when property taxes were last assessed. The committee unanimously voted in favor of the bill, which has been referred to the House Revenue Committee because it pertains to taxes.

Farm-to-school funding

Oregon’s farm-to-school food program would be expanded to include child care centers, adult day care centers, homeless shelters and similar institutions under House Bill 2579, which the committee approved unanimously.

The amended version of the bill would allocate $5 million to the farm-to-school program, with the majority of the money devoted to helping school districts buy food grown or processed in Oregon. The original bill would have appropriated $8.5 million for the program.

HB 2579 has now been referred to the Joint Committee on Ways and Means, which makes budget decisions, with a “do pass” recommendation.

Guest ranches

A provision in Oregon land use law allowing guest ranches on farmland would become permanent under House Bill 2435, which the committee has referred for a vote on the House floor with a “do pass” recommendation.

Guest ranches, which provide food and lodging to tourists, have been permitted in “exclusive farm use” zones since 1997. However, the provision has been subject to sunsets, such as an upcoming one in 2020.

The bill unanimously approved by the committee would eliminate such expiration dates as long as landowners annually report their revenues from livestock operations and guest ranch activities to county governments.

Those reports, which would be open to the public, are intended to ensure that livestock production remains the primary purpose of such guest ranches.

Pesticide reporting

Oregon’s non-operational system for pesticide use reporting would be extended for another decade under House Bill 2980, which the committee has approved and referred to the Joint Committee on Ways and Means.

The system for collecting and reporting pesticide applications was created 20 years ago but has only been functional only periodically due to a lack of funding. The Oregon Farm Bureau and Oregonians for Food and Shelter agribusiness group support HB 2980, which would change the system’s sunset from 2019 to 2029 without appropriating money for the program.

I've been working at Capital Press since 2006 and I primarily cover legislative, regulatory and legal issues.

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