Food-related bills passed in this most recent legislative session

Kyle Curtis Facebook

In case you’ve been hiding on Mars, under a rock, with both fingers in your ears, I would imagine you’ve been paying attention to the most recent legislature session that just completed down in Salem. I mean, if you are a regular visitor to Blue Oregon it’s safe to say that you are politically-minded and more likely than not keep a watchful eye on proposed state legislation and various bills that address important issues.

This most recent legislative session was just as tumultuous as ever. The Oregon public school system got a complete overhaul, Oregonians can still use plastic bags to carry groceries (and which will eventually despoil our state’s natural beauty), and Oregonian babies can continue to drink milk with sippy cups containing the carcinogen Bisephonal-A. Oh joy. Just all in the name of serving the public good, after all.

(On the other hand, there wasn’t any ALEC-introduced “model legislation” that banned unions resulting in a weeks-long occupation of the Capitol. And, comparatively, any year that doesn’t happen has to be considered a successful session, correct?)

Besides these successful- or unsuccessful, depending on whether you are pro-or-con cancer-causing agents in baby bottles- efforts, a handful of food-related bills worked their way through the legislative process, eventually becoming law. Months ago I highlighted some key food-related legislation, and now that the session has concluded, its only appropriate to take a look back and see what the eventual outcome of these bills were.

HB 2222- The Family Farm Act- which through a combination of waived fees, tax breaks, expanded representation and expanded raw milk sales opportunities would have eased the tremendous financial for the next generation of small farmers- never made it past the Agricultural and Natural Resources Committee, where it received a public hearing in early February before being shelved.

HB 2800- This current session’s version of Farm to School legislation, which created a grant program through the Oregon Department of Education to reimburse school districts the extra costs of purchasing locally produced food from Oregon growers and processors, received bipartisan support while being hurriedly worked on during the Legislature’s last month. After a flurry of activity, the Farm to School legislation was passed on the last day of the session.

HB 2336- The Farm Direct Bill, which clarifies the statutory guidance for regulations of farmers markets and CSAs while also exempting small-scale food processors from food safety licensing requirements, received bipartisan support as it wound its way through both sides of the Capitol and eventually signed into law by Governor Kitzhaber on June 9th.

HB 2975 and HB 2976- These two bills were companion pieces of legislation to restore funding to such critical nutritional programs as the Women Infant and Children (WIC) program, and the Senior SNAP voucher program. However, despite being recommended out of the joint Ways and Means Committee, neither bill received a full floor debate before the Legislative session came to a close.

HB 2868- The Temporary Restaurant Bill extended the temporary license for farmers market vendors and other food vendors at multiple public gatherings to 90 days with each renewal, which drastically reduced the inspection costs for vendors. This piece of legislation received a similar flurry of activity in the Legislature’s final month as the Farm to School legislation did, eventually being signed by both Co-Speakers Hanna and Roblan and Senate President Courtney in the final week of the session.

HB 3452- Although Ted Wheeler’s proposal for a virtual Oregon State Bank isn’t exactly a food-related piece of legislation per se, it did receive tremendous amount of support from food advocacy groups. However, this legislation was still working its way through committee- Rules on the House side, and just getting out of Finance Committee on the Senate side- when the legislation session came to a close.

So, there you have it folks. No matter where you lie on the food spectrum- whether you are a grower, processor or, simply, an eater- a number of bills were passed in this most recent session that is going to impact, to some degree, what and how various foods can be bought, sold, and consumed within our state. Keep in mind, however, that none of these bills were passed under the designation of responding to an “emergency” and, as such, won’t go into effect until January 1, 2012 after Governor K grants his signature.

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    I think you forgot to mention the on farm direct sale poultry slaughter bill (I forget the number on that one) that passed and was signed into law by the governor. It brings Oregon into line with federal regulations exempting on farm slaughter and sales of poultry from any inspection for those farms that slaughter 1,000 birds/year or less.

    That one did declare an emergency and is one reason why I can now raise and slaughter poultry on my farm for sale to the public without having to build an inspected facility.

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    Cool Joanne, there was a 1000 bird exemption passed, you are right. There are probably many more other bills passed that deal with food production and sales to some degree, my list was hardly an attempt to be comprehensive.

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