Portland, OR – Oregon’s Senators Jeff Merkley, who is the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, and Ron Wyden announced that the Senate Agriculture Appropriations bill, includes key provisions that will help Oregon’s rural communities. These include $150 million in funding for a program that could help provide grants to address the loss of habitat for the spotted frog in Central Oregon, funding for wood products research programs that include Oregon State University’s work on cross-laminated timber products, and language encouraging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to fund industrial hemp research projects.
“I was glad to be able to put together a bipartisan bill with Chairman Moran that makes sure that Oregon communities are getting the resources they need to be successful,” said Merkley. “From Central Oregon farmers who are dealing with the spotted frog, to our rural communities that rely on the forest products industry, to finally allowing the federal government to fund industrial hemp research, this bill delivers for Oregon communities.”
“This legislation builds on the economic strengths of our state’s forests and rich farmland while preserving our pristine wildlife habitats,” Wyden said. “It opens up new avenues to turn Oregon trees into groundbreaking building technologies and for Oregon farmers to gain from a billion-dollar industrial hemp industry. The result is a treasure trove of opportunities for new Oregon products and jobs, all while protecting endangered species.”
Key elements of the legislation that passed the Senate today that will impact Oregon include:
Spotted Frog Habitat Restoration: The bill provides $150 million for the Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations program, including funding for irrigation districts that need to improve water efficiency and conservation or otherwise improve fish and wildlife habitat. This program is a good fit for the collaborative process underway in the Deschutes Basin to conserve water and improve the habitat of the spotted frog, helping to keep Central Oregon family farms in business.
Cross Laminated Timber: The bill includes $3.5 million for the advanced wood products program at USDA that would enhance Oregon State University’s (OSU) cutting-edge work on cross-laminated timber (CLT). CLT provides an innovative alternative to structural building materials. OSU was first included in the program last year after Senator Merkley succeeded in increasing the program’s funding.
Industrial Hemp: The bill urges the Department of Agriculture to clarify that it has the authority to fund industrial hemp research projects, and prohibits the Federal government from interfering with hemp research projects or with legally produced hemp products. Industrial hemp is used to make everything from rope and cloth to oil and soap. Hemp products account for over $600 million in annual domestic sales, and while hemp has the potential to be a multi-billion dollar domestic crop, we instead have to import all of our hemp from nations ranging from Canada to China. Oregon is one of the states that have enacted laws allowing for the cultivation of industrial hemp.
The bill was voted out of committee today on a bipartisan vote. The next steps would be for the bill to be sent to the Senate floor for a full Senate vote, and eventually to be merged with a counterpart bill from the U.S. House of Representatives in order to be passed by both houses and signed into law.