Dear OOC Community: Welcome to spring, which for the Oregon advocacy world means we’ve reached the halfway point of the legislative session. And I am happy to report that all of the OOC’s legislative concepts are alive and moving forward in one capacity or another.
On Monday, after a robust floor debate, SB 789, which will permanently protect the Willamette Valley’s brassica seed industry from increased canola acreage, passed out of the Senate and was sent to the House Agriculture Committee. Much more work lies ahead and we need support to ensure this gets across the finish line. If you’d like to receive regular SB789 updates, please endorse the bill. Visit www.protectwhatsgood.com for more info. We will also send out an Action Alert when the House Public Hearing is scheduled. Organic stakeholders were happy to see a position for the Organic Extension Program included in the Governor’s Recommended Budget. See page 34. We’ll be doing budget and other advocacy to shore up support for this budget allocation, and to potentially secure additional positions to join this successful Extension program that is helping both organic and non-organic farmers. The two legislative concepts the OOC introduced at the beginning of session have been incorporated into an organic omnibus bill that is currently in the Senate Rules Committee. The concepts are an Organic Policy Specialist at ODA, and a “Farmer Support” package that includes a state match for USDA’s organic cost share reimbursement, as well as transition support. Normal deadlines do not apply to the Rules Committee, and we will send out an Action Alert when the Public Hearing for the omnibus bill is scheduled. In addition to working on OOC’s priority legislative concepts, the OOC also participates in several coalitions in order to track and support other important work at the intersection of agriculture, environment, and climate.
Community Food Systems at the Legislature with the Oregon Community Food Systems Network
Food Security Lobby Table
Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program Coalition
Oregon Climate Equity Network
Other session highlights include meetings with President Wagner and Governor Kotek, who remain supportive of organic agriculture and the triple bottom line benefits it can bring Oregon. When the Governor was House Speaker, she was integral in helping the OOC secure funding for the recently-released Oregon Market Assessment. The organic community is already using data from the assessment to support our work and is also currently putting together a strategy to best publicize, and capitalize on, this exciting resource. Stay tuned. In the meantime, you can read the assessment, a summary, and the organic community’s “Afterword” on the OOC website.
OOC Board Member and FoFF Co-Director Alice Morrison testifying on behalf of SB789. Photos courtesy of OOC. Other Organic News The long legislative session is all-encompassing, but we’ve also made time to network in the region:
In February, Board Member Mike Dill (OGC) invited me to join him at Rodale’s Listening Session in Mt. Vernon, Washington, where Rodale recently took ownership of the Cascadian Farm House.
I presented, along with many OCFSN colleagues, at OSU's Small Farms Conference, where we also celebrated the announcement of Dr. Garry Stephenson’s retirement. Fortunately, Garry is slowly transitioning into retired life and the OOC still has the pleasure of working with him, as well as Dr. Lauren Gwin, who was appointed as the Acting Director of OSU’s Smalls Farms Program. Congratulations to both!
Snowy March weather didn’t stop Friends of Family Farmers’s Rally Day in Eugene, where I also presented, and enjoyed a fantastic posole and cornbread made by the talented Shelley Bowerman of Lane County Bounty and Moondog’s Farm.
While the OOC hoped to host an Organic Grows a Better Oregon event this year, the legislature is currently not allowing large gatherings because of construction taking place at the capitol. OOC also planned to take Dean Staci Simonich and Dr. Ivory Lyles from OSU’s College of Agricultural Science on a tour of OGC’s Portland facility, but it was canceled due to inclement weather. We look forward to re-scheduling both. We are planning more farm and facility tours for the summer season—if you would like us to visit your farm or facility, please reach out. Site visits are a great way to hear about your policy needs and learn more about your operations.
Dr. Garry Stephenson moderating the Plenary Panel (Lonely Lane Farms, Good Rain Farm, Zoom Out Mycology and 47th Ave Farm) at the Small Farms Conference and Mike Dill and Jacob Slosberg at Boldly Gorwn Farm in the Skagit Valley, which we toured after the Rodale Listening Session. Photos supplied by OOC.
PNW Organic Collaboration OOC and CORA, the Coalition for Organic and Regenerative Agriculture, housed at Washington’s Tilth Alliance, have officially started collaborating!
Both organizations put forth “Farmer Support” legislative concepts, though CORA's version asked for a certifier credit, whereas the OOC's asked for a reimbursement, owing to differences in the states. While CORA’s certifier credit didn’t move forward this session, the Washington legislature did allocate funds for a market assessment, similar to what OOC successfully advocated for last session.
OOC and CORA were also Seed Funders of the Back to the Root Conference in Tacoma last month.
And both groups are working on organic-specific Farm Bill advocacy and have already had meetings with most of Oregon and Washington’s U.S. congressional delegation.
I am incredibly excited to announce that New Seasons Market has joined the OOC and and that we’ve been asked to be an official partner of Oregon Tilth, in their regional leadership of the Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP). More info on both of these developments soon. And be on the lookout for our Spring Fundraising Drive or make a donation using the button below. We cannot keep up the high level of engagement this work requires without the collaboration of organic advocates and stakeholders throughout the state. Lastly, on a bittersweet note, it is time to say goodbye to Carol, Oskar, and Kara, who have been instrumental in launching the OOC’s new website and social media channels, and helping with behind-the-scenes policy work. Carol took a full time position with the VA, Oskar recently defended his dissertation at Lewis and Clark and will be attending graduate school in Switzerland in the fall, and Kara is headed into law school finals and a summer clerkship with WildEarth Guardians. Big thanks to all three for their hard work, and best wishes on their journeys. We’ve been fortunate to have their talents at OOC. Thank you for reading and for your ongoing support. Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions, comments or suggestions at any time. Onwards, Amy Wong Board Chair