The 76th Session of the Oregon Legislature will get underway Tuesday in Salem. It will wait only until the next day to take up a sweeping new farm law that includes making it easier–some say much easier–to sell raw milk.
Oregon’s Family Farm Act (HB 2222) is not your ordinary raw milk bill. Take Texas House Bill (HB) 75, for example. It’s less than a page. A Wyoming bill that has already been defeated ran five pages, and like Texas, only dealt with the single subject.
HB 2222 in Salem is a different story entirely. It’s been written by Friends of Family Farmers, an organization that purports to represent Oregon’s family-scale farmers and ranchers, and it seeks to advance a multifaceted set of policies to make small scale Ag viable in the Beaver State.
The Family Farm Act, if enacted, would:
— Allow a person to slaughter not more than 1,000 chickens for use as human food without state or federal inspection.
— Expands Oregon’s three-cow, nine goat limit for raw milk producers for those who undergo licensing and agree to conduct bacteria tests.
— Liberalize rules for those seeking special assessment for farmland.
— Adds to the State Board of Agriculture two Oregon commodity producers who are engaged in marketing their products within the state.
Oregon’s House Agriculture Committee will conduct the public hearing, beginning at 3 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011 in the Oregon Capitol’s Hearing Room. In addition to HB 2222, the committee hearing will also cover:
— HB 2872 exempting persons who slaughter 1,000 or fewer birds a year from food establishment licensing.
— HB 2947 requiring the State Department of Agriculture to adopt rules establishing standards for the identity, quality and labeling of honey sold in Oregon.
— HB 2336, exempting agricultural producers selling specified farm products directly to the public from Oregon laws regulating produce dealers and food establishments.
Friends of Family Farmers put out an “Action Alert” to its members, urging them to attend the public hearing and to testify. The organization has produced a color brochure on the Family Farmer Act, which says the legislation is need to “ease some of burdens faced by Oregon’s agriculture entrepreneurs, while not adding any budgetary demands on the state.
So far this legislative season, in addition to Wyoming’s thumbs down to a raw milk bill, New Jersey’s Assembly has held a informational hearing, but took no action and has yet to schedule a raw milk bill for consideration.
Minnesota, a state that like Oregon is well known for its ability to control food poisoning, also will see raw milk proposals this session. Legislation filed so far would allow deliveries to private homes and make buying clubs possible. Minnesota currently allows the sale of raw milk only on the farms that produce it.
Minnesota’s powerful pasteurized dairy industry has already said it will oppose the raw milk schemes.
Editor’s Note: Oregon was originally incorrectly referred to as the “Duck State” rather than the “Beaver State.” This error has been corrected.