Dear OOC Community: Greetings and Happy Year of the Rabbit! And welcome to the 2023 Legislative Session-- expect to see Action Alerts and other updates over the next few weeks. For now, you'll find a brief overview of OOC's legislative priorities, updates on important organic news, a recap of OOC farm and facility tours, and an introduction to our policy and communications interns!
Quick Overview of OOC’s 2023 Legislative Priorities:
SB 789 – Protecting the Willamette Valley Vegetable Specialty Seed Industry from additional canola acreage when the 500-acre cap on canola production sunsets this June;
SB 617 – Organic Policy Specialist at ODA;
SB 526 – Farmer Support Bill – state match to USDA’s organic cost share reimbursement;
Supporting expansion of the Organic Extension Program at OSU.
We also will be supporting and tracking many other legislative concepts and budgets. Please sign up for our newsletter and follow our Social Media channels below to keep up to date, respond to Action Alerts, and learn about other ways you can support our agenda. The OOC will be presenting our Legislative Agenda at OSU's Small Farms Conference this coming weekend--if you are attending, please come say hello!
Photo of Double J Jersey's Farm during a farm tour, taken by Natalie Hardwicke. Last Session, the OOC was successful in having organic declared organic as an “Emerging Sector,” and secured funds to conduct an economic assessment of Oregon’s organic industry. The OOC worked with Business Oregon, who managed the RFP process, to select a contractor to take on the project—Highland Economics was the winner. We anticipate the release of the assessment’s Executive Summary in March and will announce any celebration events closer to this time. We’re grateful to the many organic stakeholders and supporters who graciously made time for one-on-one interviews and shared data and other relevant resources with Highland as they started the project. 2022 also saw the release of several reports focused on organic agriculture that are useful for advocacy:
The OOC also made a point to literally get out in the field—often with legislators and other policy makers in tow:
In May, we joined a tour of Gathering Together Farm with long-time organic specialist Lynn Cody, OGC, OTA, as well as staffers from former Rep. DeFazio’s office. We are appreciative John and Sally took the time to show us around the farm and feed us lunch—we look forward to returning to try the fabled café;
In June, we met Brenna Davis, OGC’s new CEO and toured the impressive Portland facility;
In August, we attended Oregon Organic Hazelnut Collective’s Summer Nut Tour and learned that organic hazelnuts are in high demand all over the world—making it a key crop to focus on in terms of policy and TA support;
We also had the pleasure of meeting Hummingbird Wholesale’s Charlie Tilt, whose positive energy is infectious. Charlie gave us a private tour of their impressive facility—the emphasis on minimizing waste and being inventive are sentiments that make up core organic values;
In September, we brought OSU’s Vice Provost Ivory Lyles and Dean Staci Simonich to the Bansen family’s Double J Jerseys farm to see healthy pastures and a beautiful dairy herd up close. Shayan Ghajar, one of the three members of the Organic Extension Program, focuses on low-input pasture and forage management and has consulted at the Double J Jerseys farm. Speaker Rayfield also made an appearance and was thrilled to see the work of OSU Organic Extension Agents whose funding was, in part, was funded by the Legislature;
In October, we participated in Seed Academy at Siskiyou Seeds Farm and were reminded of the abundance of nature when looking at seed production.
Photo of Siskiyou Seeds Farm during Seed Academy, supplied by OOC. We are planning more farm and facility tours—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. We are also excited about the Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP), a new USDA initiative that will invest up to $100 million over five years to provide education, technical assistance, and support to help producers transition to organic. The goal of the initiative is to help grow the organic sector. TOPP funding will target: ● Farmer to Farmer Mentoring ● Technical Assistance and Training ● Community Building ● Workforce Training and Development Coalition partner Oregon Tilth was selected by USDA to lead the Northwest Region and the OOC will be one of Tilth’s supporting partners. The TOPP project is just getting started, but as it ramps up, stay tuned for updates and ways that you can participate. The National Organic Coalition recently released a publication, called the "Strengthening Organic Enforcement Rule" which aims to protect the integrity of organic supply chains by improving oversight and enforcement of the organic certification process. Read more about this here. The OOC made big strides recently in terms of increasing our communications capacity. If you haven’t read our 2022 Impact Report, you can download it here and please follow the OOC on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Our website also got an initial glow up this fall and we look forward to building out additional pages that better tell the stories of Oregon’s organic community. Two people who are integral in these efforts are Oskar Kohlbrenner and Carol Tessitore: Oskar Kohlbrenner serves as a a Policy & Communications Intern at the Oregon Organic Coalition (OOC) and a GlobalPDX Ambassador. Oskar is currently pursuing his BA in Environmental Studies at Lewis & Clark College. He is expected to graduate in May 2023 and continue higher education in sustainable development linking his passion to international affairs and environmental global governance. Oskar has been actively engaged in extracurricular activities throughout his undergraduate education that includes such experiences as a student co-chair of the 2022 L&C Environmental Studies Symposium and a liaison of the undergraduate Environmental Studies Program and the Law School Environmental Law Department. Oskar devotes his free time to language learning, always improving his lingual abilities, and currently speaks Polish, German, French, and English. His academic and professional interests are multidisciplinary and diverse, always encompassing his international perspective as an international student. Oskar is motivated to propel and contribute to collective climate action which is his ultimate life mission. Oskar so enjoyed his time with the OOC during the fall semester, he asked to come back for the spring and we are incredibly fortunate to have his research and analysis skills for another term. Carol Tessitore serves as a Communications & Policy Intern at OOC. She holds a Master of Science in Nutrition from NUNM, and a Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Food Systems from PSU. Her personal nutrition and wellness practice, Body Mind Belly, facilitates the cultivation and deepening of healthy relationships to food, community, and the natural world, informed by concepts of Agroecology and Deep Ecology which center the interdependent nature of individual, societal and ecological health. She advocates for LGBTQ+ and disability-informed healthcare, and for building equitable solutions to the issues facing our global food systems today. She managed and helped launch a program called Community Funded Coffee (with local business, Junior’s Roasted Coffee), which helps ensure more stable economic opportunities for coffee farmers in the global south while connecting consumers to the workings of the global coffee supply stream and ultimately the global food system. She presented at OMSI’s “PDX Youth Climate Summit” on the topic of Food & Climate Justice and looks forward to sharing more of this work with the Portland community and beyond. And we just welcomed Kara Parker, a law student at Lewis & Clark, into the fold. Kara hit the ground running and is looking forward to seeing policy in action. Kara Parker is a second year law student at Lewis & Clark Law School studying Environmental Law. Prior to law school, Kara worked as an environmental educator in middle schools, as a rock climbing guide and on the communications team at Crag Law Center. Kara received her Bachelors in Science from the University of Washington and a Graduate Certificate in Sustainability from Portland State University. She has been fostering her backyard garden for 4 years and is passionate about the intersection between environmental and agricultural policy and law.
And, Organically Grown Company (OGC) is the real reason that we have been able to bring on paid/for credit interns and externs. OGC made a generous donation to enable this new programming and we are incredibly grateful. Thank you to all of our supporters. We look forward to showing up in your inbox again soon to loop you into our advocacy work. It is going to be a busy session and we hope you'll join us in supporting and growing Oregon's organic sector. We are looking for people to join us in testifying and/or submitting testimony. If you are interested, please contact Amy Wong at firstname.lastname@example.org. Onwards, The Oregon Organic Coalition Team