Monday, May 23, 2011

Farm Bulletin: Healthy Markets & A Farm Tour

I am delighted to welcome contributor Anthony Boutard back to the blog with this post about an important piece of legislation that needs your support, HB 2336. Then, after you've written your senator, be sure to make note of the Ayers Creek Field Day scheduled for June 26.

Last week we finally bid farewell to April—the season, that is. The melancholy period exerted its grip on us for nearly 45 days. All told, though, the fields are in good shape. The raspberries and loganberry blossoms started to open Saturday, and the boysenberries should be a wall of white by the start of next week. We are looking forward to the fruit.

On the 17th of May, the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee voted to send HB 2336 to a vote of the full Senate with a "do pass" recommendation. Senators Thomsen (Hood River), Prozanski (Eugene), Hass (Beaverton) and Chair Dingfelder (Portland) voted aye. Senator Olsen (Canby) provided the single nay vote. The bill should have its third reading, debate and vote sometime this week. Senator Prozanski will carry the bill on the floor. If it passes, it will go to the Governor's desk.

Formally know as the "Farm Direct Bill," HB 2336 will clarify what foods may be sold directly to customers by the producer without getting additional licenses. For us, it will remove the regulatory questions regarding frikeh (left) production that initiated a stream of hems and haws when you all asked about it. In addition to making clear what foods can be sold without a license, the bill also clarifies that a seller who has food produced in a licensed facility can sell it directly to the public without additional licenses.

For example, we can sell our preserves (right) at Hillsdale without getting a separate retail store license. This latter point was equally important to those of us who worked on the bill over the last 18 months. If you have a moment to call or email your state senator in support of the bill, it will help.

The support the Oregon Farmers' Market Association, Friends of Family Farmers and Oregon Grows Partnership has been critical. Friends of Family Farmers has played a key role in bringing together an effective coalition of groups in support of family-based agriculture. Tomato tastings and exotic salt sampling are fun and may awaken interest in different foods, but hard-nosed advocacy is what changes the landscape. With their "muck boots in the capitol" strategy, the FOFF have made substantial advances in the Oregon's agricultural policy this session. There is a lot more to be done at the agency level and in future sessions.

Update: HB 2336 just passed the Senate (on Tues., 5/24) and now goes to Gov. Kitzhaber for his signature. Thanks to everyone who wrote or called! Woo hoo!

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Our Field Day this year is scheduled for the 26th of June, from 3:00 to 6:00 PM. It is the Sunday before our return to Hillsdale. We will send out a reminder and directions a week before. If you are interested, jot down the date.

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