Governor Kitzhaber and legislative leaders urged to remove local food and agriculture pre-emption bill from special session PERS/Tax Package
Today, a coalition of small farm, organic industry, food safety, public interest and conservation organizations sent a letter to Governor John Kitzhaber, Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Tina Kotek urging the withdrawal of a controversial local food and agriculture pre-emption bill, SB 633, from an unrelated tax and public pension reform package up for consideration during a September 30 special legislative session.
SB 633, if enacted, would prevent city and county governments from making local decisions to protect farmers, the environment and the organic economy. See a copy of the letter here.
The groups wrote that the food and seed pre-emption bill (SB 633), which died during the regular legislative session, ‘has no place as a bargaining chip in the larger tax and public pension reform discussion. It strips away the rights of local communities to make locally appropriate decisions about food and agriculture and is a direct affront to Oregon’s respected organic and natural food trade which is a significant economic contributor in this state.”
“This bill 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,” said Ivan Maluski, Director of Molalla based Friends of Family Farmers, which favors greater transparency and oversight of genetically engineered crops and foods as a means to protect family farm viability in Oregon.
“The state should not hand the agrichemical industry immunity from regulation on a silver platter,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney with Center for Food Safety. “Zombie legislation effectively defeated through the democratic process is suddenly revived in the middle of contentious fiscal negotiations in order to gain corporate support. Center for Food Safety opposes this attempt to undermine the sovereignty of local communities and their ability to protect important organic industries.”
Oregon ranks 5th in the nation for its number of organic farms, with more than 444 certified operating on over 156,000 acres as of 2010. The organic and natural food industries in Oregon have seen double-digit growth almost every year over the past decade, but are increasingly threatened by the lack of effective state regulations around genetically engineered (GE) foods and crops, and the failure of federal oversight in this arena, most recently highlighted by the GE wheat scare in eastern Oregon.
The groups signing the letter to the Governor and Legislative leaders included Friends of Family Farmers, Oregon Tilth, Organically Grown Company, Center for Food Safety, Oregon Environmental Council, Oregon League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club.
About Center for Food Safety
Center for Food Safety is a national, non-profit, membership organization founded in 1997 to protect human health and the environment by curbing the use of harmful food production technologies and by promoting organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture. CFS maintains offices in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, California and Portland, Oregon. More information can be found at www.centerforfoodsafety.org.