When the Oregon Legislature adjourns — possibly today — Friends of Family Farmers will have suffered the loss of its comprehensive Family Farm Act as House Bill 2222 was known.
That was the do-all bill for small farmers. It proposed everything from expanding raw milk sales to adjusting farmland tax assessments. And although HB 2222 has been languishing ever since a February public hearing, that does not mean the Molalla, OR-based Friends of Family Farmers has not had a successful session.
The group’s strategy of taking the more popular elements of HB 2222 and running them out in separate bills proved very successful for the small farm group.
Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has already signed HB 2872, which allows chicken farmers who slaughter 1,000 or fewer birds a year to be exempt from food establishment licensing, and declares an emergency that allowed the new law to take effect immediately.
There were only two opposition votes in each chamber to the popular poultry measure.
Gov. Kitzhaber has also signed HB 2336, which removes so-called farm-direct marketers from laws regulating produce dealers and food establishments.
The exemption applies to sales of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs; fruit, vegetables and herbs dried or cured by the producer as part of routine post-harvest handling; and dried fruits, vegetables, and herbs for which drying is not part of routine post-harvest handling.
HB 2336 will also allow unregulated on-farm sales of such food items as shell eggs, honey, unshelled nuts that are cured or dried, and certain grains, legumes and seeds.
Another bill, HB 2947, directs the Oregon Department of Agriculture to establish standards for identifying and determining the quality and labeling of honey.
Friends of Family Farmers kept after the Oregon Legislature to pass its bills by showing up to testify at public hearings and staging rallies at the State House in Salem. Its major failure was its inability to expand Oregon’s raw milk law, which limits farmers who want to sell raw milk to three cows or nine goats, and requires bacteria testing.
Legislative sessions in Oregon are constitutionally limited to 160 days in odd years.
Recently reached agreements on education and taxing issues should clear the way for lawmakers to go home on time.