Agriculture has long been a staple of Oregon’s economy, providing the nation and the world with a wide variety of products including onions, wheat, and cattle from Eastern Oregon; salmon and cranberries from the Oregon Coast; berries, hazelnuts, and nursery products from Willamette Valley; and pears and apples from the Columbia Gorge. Our state’s farms provide good jobs and drive the rural economy.
Leveling the Playing Field for Organic Farmers
Jeff believes that our farm policies need to work for all our farmers and growers – including small and organic farmers, who are too often left behind. Oregon is among the top five states for organic farming, and he’s been fighting to update our outdated laws to make sure they treat our organic growers fairly and help them succeed.
The farm bill passed into law in 2014 included Jeff's amendment to level the playing field for organic farmers when it comes to crop insurance. This provision directs the USDA’s Risk Management Agency to use actual organic prices to calculate compensation for losses in order to better reflect an organic producer's risk. Up until January 2014, organic farmers in Oregon who had crop insurance were paying a 5 percent premium for their crop insurance, but not receiving higher benefits if their crops were affected by weather or other unforeseen problems.
Ending the Monsanto Protection Act
The “Monsanto Protection Act,” a controversial rider to protect agribusinesses from lawsuits, was quietly and anonymously inserted into the continuing resolution passed in March 2013 to avert a government shutdown. After constituents brought their concerns to Jeff at town hall meetings in March 2013, he waged a campaign against the Monsanto Protection Act and offered an amendment to the farm bill that would have killed it. After his amendment was blocked, Jeff worked with legislative leaders to ensure that the provision would expire in September 2013.
This controversial rider required the USDA to grant a temporary permit to any farmer, upon request, to plant genetically modified crops, even if the crop was found to be potentially harmful by a court. This rider explicitly grants the USDA the authority to override a judicial ruling stopping the planting of a GMO.
Fighting for the Klamath Basin
For decades, tribes, farmers, ranchers, fishermen, conservationists, and state and federal agencies have struggled to resolve conflicts over water and natural resources in the Klamath Basin. These parties have moved beyond their long-standing disputes and worked together to develop solutions that will provide a sustainable agriculture economy and restore one of the most important ecosystems on the west coast. Jeff has continually advocated for a collaborative solution to the natural resources challenges in Oregon and has traveled throughout the Klamath Basin, listening to stakeholders on all sides. Jeff was the first federal official to endorse the Klamath Basin restoration agreements and is committed to working with the stakeholders in the basin and the regional delegation to advance legislation implementing these historic agreements. The agreements seek to advance and restore populations of salmon and other fish; establish reliable water and power supplies to sustain the area’s farmers and ranchers, as well as local economies and the Klamath National Wildlife Refuge; and give the Klamath Tribes the means to achieve economic viability.
In the short term, however, Oregon farmers and ranchers in the Klamath Basin have been facing one of the most severe droughts the region has ever seen. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared the Klamath Basin a federal disaster area. Jeff, enlisting the help of both Ron Wyden and Congressman Greg Walden, successfully secured emergency funding for a land idling program to provide relief to local farmers and ranchers. Jeff’s efforts helped obtain $10 million in drought relief for the Klamath Basin to ensure that family farmers and ranchers were able to get through that difficult drought.
Disaster Assistance for Farmers and Ranchers
Critical disaster programs that support farmers and ranchers that suffer damages from drought and wildfires expired in 2011. Consequently, these programs weren’t available when disastrous fires hit Oregon in 2012 or during the Klamath drought last summer. Jeff led the fight to reauthorize this disaster relief and to ensure that it was in the final farm bill. The retroactive authorization, which became law in February 2014, will ensure that Oregon farmers and ranchers who suffered disaster-related losses will now be eligible for relief.
Cutting Red Tape for Oregon’s Family Farmers
Sometimes regulations designed for larger corporations can cause trouble for family farmers. One example is trucking rules: In the past, U.S. Department of Transportation rules for interstate trucking, with requirements such as drug testing and logging hours of driving, also applied to any farmer transporting his or her own goods to market across state lines, such as an Oregon farmer taking his or her goods to market in Washington state. Jeff introduced a bipartisan bill to fix this issue for small farms, and it was included in the transportation bill that became law in 2012.
Jeff also added a provision to the Food Safety Modernization Act to support Oregon’s organic and sustainable farmers. Jeff worked to streamline regulations for small farms and processors to ensure small businesses don’t get bogged down with complicated paperwork and duplicate regulations. The bill includes flexibility and exemptions for small farms and processors in various sections of the law, including a change Jeff supported to guarantee small farms and processors have access to training necessary to comply with new food safety rules. Jeff continues to work with others to exempt small and local farms from certain rules meant for larger farms, while still ensuring strong public health safeguards.