Dear State Legislator and Governor Kitzhaber:
I am writing to urge your opposition to LC 5/SB 633, a bill that would take away the rights of local communities to protect local food and agriculture through local ordinances.
For the reasons listed below, I believe that LC 5/SB 633 is bad policy for Oregon farmers, consumers and local communities, and should not be included as part of a complicated and unrelated legislative tax and pension reform package. I urge you to vote no on this bill and all bills in any package of legislation that contains it.
- The intent of LC 5/SB 633 is to stop community efforts to increase transparency and oversight over genetically engineered (GE) crops and foods. The bill takes away local control even as it does nothing to clarify or create statewide policies.
- The legislative record shows that many of the same groups most strongly supportive of the local pre-emption in LC 5/SB 633 were the most vocal opponents of each and every bill during the 2013 regular sessions would have clarified and strengthened statewide policies on these matters.
- Oregon needs better oversight and transparency around genetically engineered (GE) crops and foods in order to help ensure farm and land viability for independent family farmers in Oregon. The GE wheat scare in eastern Oregon earlier this year confirms again the need for robust local rules to protect family farmers.
- GE contamination can negatively impact both organic and conventional farmers, particularly those dependent on foreign and domestic markets where GE-free material is required or expected. Oregon’s farmers face serious economic losses when their products are rejected by consumers and major markets due to the threat of GE contamination.
- LC 5/SB 633 would hit Oregon’s important and nationally respected organic and natural food trade sector especially hard, which is a significant economic contributor to the state – experiencing double digit growth most every year for the last decade. Oregon ranks 5th in the nation for its number of organic farms: as of 2010 there were more than 444 certified organic farms operating on over 156,000 acres, and annual sales in excess of $200 million.
- ODA has the authority to establish control areas for crops for a variety of reasons under ORS 570.405, and ODA has used this authority to ban genetically engineered bentgrass from all counties in the Willamette Valley and establish isolation distances and management protocols in Jefferson County (OAR 603-052-1240). However, this authority has not been used to protect against other GE contamination risks, and does not address GE food labeling issues.
- In light of this lack of action from the ODA, the Legislature, and the Governor to address the need for greater transparency and oversight of GE crops and foods in Oregon, local communities have begun addressing these issues on their own, including through ballot measure efforts in Jackson, Lane, Benton and Multnomah counties. The Legislature should not take away the rights of local communities, especially when the Legislature and state agencies fail to take meaningful action.
- SB 633 is very broad and applies to products of seed (food, trees, plants, etc) and pre-empts any local regulations related to food, plants and seed, not only those limited to GE material. Local codes and ordinances in communities across the state may be impacted and could be rendered null and void by this bill.
Given the numerous problems with this bill, and its inclusion in an 'all or nothing' bill package, we respectfully request that you oppose LC 5/SB 633 and all aspects of any package that contains LC 5/SB 633.