May Legislative Committee Meetings
One thing reemphasized during the Legislative meetings, the Legislative Majority leaders do not have a very high regard for, or understanding of, business and economic development in Oregon. The Legislature scheduled a three day series of committee meetings from May 24-26th. Most meetings scheduled only included information and reports from invited individuals, groups, organizations and government agencies or entities. Some highlights below:
- House Interim Committee On Agriculture, Natural Resources & Rural Communities:
Invited Jim Beers, Retired USF&WS biologist, to provide History of Wolf Reintroduction and Diseases. Invited ODF&W to provide update on Oregon Conservation Strategy.
- House Interim Committee On Environment & Water and Senate Interim Environment & Natural Resources: Invited updates for Umatilla Project, Pesticide Issues, Ecosystem Markets Work Group, and Climate Change.
- House Interim Committee On Business & Labor: Chair Schaufler invited numerous groups to provide information on What State Government Can Do to Generate Job Creation: Perspectives from Business and Labor Leaders.
- House Committee On Sustainability & Economic Development: Invited testimony on Electric Vehicles, Statewide Energy Plan, Energy Efficiency, Green Supply Chain, and Pacific NorthWest Economic Region.
- House and Senate Interim Committees on Transportation: Invited updates on Port of Portland, and Transportation Investment in Oregon.
Agency Budgets: More Fee Increases
The natural resource agencies have been holding stakeholder meetings involving their budgets addressing the anticipated General Fund shortfall due to the continuing recession. The Governor instructed the agencies to prepare budgets with present biennium reductions continuing and budgets with reductions of up to 25%. As of May 25th he has requested a 9% across the board reduction for all agencies to relieve the burden on the remaining biennium.
The deliberations are once again involving recommendations, by agencies, for General Fund revenue to be replaced with fee increases. OCA has made the point that a number of the programs that cattle producers participate in are required by law and rule, and were developed for public purposes and should therefore be funded by the General Fund, not fees assessed the producers. OCA has suggested along with others there should be reduction or elimination of non-essential budget items and administration to help reduce the agency budgets without the assessment of more and higher fees.
Wolves In Oregon
- The OCA and Eastern Oregon University Range Club hosted a Wolf Symposium May 22, in La Grande. The Symposium was aptly scheduled with May being a bad month for wolf predation in eastern Oregon. The keynote speakers were Jim Beers and Casey Anderson who provided more information about what to expect as the wolves grow in population and move across the state.
- OCA attended the Oregon Hunters Association (OHA) Board meeting at Seven Feathers Casino Saturday May 15th to discuss a common approach to dealing with wolf predation in Oregon. There was heightened interest from OHA board members and a commitment to work together in the future.
- OCA is preparing their recommendations, for the Fish & Wildlife Commission, on the five year review of the Wolf Conservation Plan. The OCA Wolf Committee will have some very significant recommendations now that they have experienced wolf predation and Wolf Plan implementation first hand.
- It is becoming obvious to cattle producers and others that the Oregon Wolf Conservation Plan is woefully inadequate for protecting the producer or even a property owner, hunter or hiker. As predicted five years ago by OCA the “Wolf Plan Minority Report” was the document needed to help protect the livestock producers in Oregon.
State Water Study
OCA is presently working with Water for Life addressing the Oregon Water Resource Department process for the Integrated Water Resources Study (IWRS) contained in 2009 legislation, HB 3369. The process raises many questions as to the eventual outcome of the exercise. The water of the state and their beneficial uses are important to all of us and any changes can put at risk those uses necessary for agriculture, or any other beneficial uses on the list. If in-stream uses become over prioritized we are in trouble. Most everyone watching the IWRS process are concerned about outcomes and the precarious balance that we have been able to maintain for years in Oregon concerning beneficial uses.
For example, the EFTAG (Ecological Flow Technical Advisory Group) within the IWRS and charged with defining “Peak and Ecological Flow” is made up of individuals who have no connection to water delivery, water management, irrigation districts, or more importantly agricultural interests. So, you see the concern with the outcomes of the IWRS process.
Toxics and Water
DEQ and the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission (OEQC) developed a parallel process addressing point source pollution and non-point pollution with their eye on the P3 list of pollutants identified and published in 2009 as directed by SB 737 of 2007. OCA is very concerned with the direction OEQC Chair Blossor has taken by indicating he wants to regulate non-point source land owners more in respect to a list of chemicals on the P3 list. OCA and the natural resources coalition believe there will be an effort to establish Agriculture Practices legislation. Some of the chemicals on the list have been reported to show up in fish. The OEQC is concerned that a certain population eats 22 meals of fish pre month. So, they would like to resolve this problem by restricting the use of certain chemicals. The Ag and Natural Resource Coalition is preparing their response as well is OCA and others.
Navigability and Property Rights
Secretary of State, Kate Brown scheduled the first two “Water Users” work group meetings recently. There are at least 25 participants representing recreation, fishing, and land owners. The first meeting was organized to outline the most acceptable issues where common ground might be found. The second meeting was not productive as it is obvious the private property coalition is in the majority and the remaining group is not providing any meaningful recommendations. Secretary Brown removed from the table for consideration the legislation proposed in the 2010 Special Session. The participants were have been discussing these topics pertaining to the issue:
- Definition of public use
- Definitions of floatable and navigable to understand the waterways impacted
- Portage problems and when it should be used
- Enforcement / management of eventual laws
- Liability of landowners if river users are injured while on the property
- Conservation / preservation / stewardship / management / taxes for this and who pays
The next meeting won’t be until August.
Agriculture Reformation Act
Not to be taken lightly, the Agriculture Reformation Act (ARA), is the brainchild of Friends of Family Farms here in Oregon. The so called group is made up of a handful of environmental activists with the intent, it seems, to affect agriculture as it is represented or influenced by “Corporate” agriculture. The legislative intentions of ARA are now revealed by the “Friends” but, there are no legislative drafts available. The Board of Agriculture invited the “Friends” to update them in June. OCA has an e-mailable copy of the ARA for anyone interested.
Ballot Measures Proposed: Signatures Sought Before July 2 Deadline
- Initiative 50: Amends Constitution and transfers legislative redistricting responsibility following census from legislature to new appointed commission of retired judges.
- Initiative 66: Amends Constitution and requires voter approval of taxes and fees on motor vehicle use, ownership, fuel; limited retroactivity. (This initiative is in response to SB 2001 passed during the 2009 Legislative Session).