Family farm bills move closer to passage

Two bills supporting small farms moved toward passage in the Oregon Legislature on Tuesday following a hearing that drew producers and supporters of family farmers.

One bill backs local beekeepers and the other would allow farmers to process fewer than 1,000 poultry a year without going to an inspected facility.

Both bills, discussed in an afternoon hearing of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, were moved to the Senate floor for a final legislative vote. They were earlier passed by the House.

A third bill, that would create a regulatory framework for farmers markets was discussed in the hearing but did not move to the Senate floor.

The bills would be a boon for hundreds of small farmers across the state, according to Kendra Kimbirauskas, president of Friends of Family Farmers.

"These bills will provide family farmers with the opportunity to look at new ways of becoming more economically viable," she said.

House Bill 2872A is aimed at farmers with small flocks of chickens, turkeys, ducks or other birds. It would authorize the butchering and processing of fewer than 1,000 a year provided they're raised on the farm, processed on the farm and sold directly to customers. Oregon only has one federally authorized poultry processing facility now, which is in Scio, forcing some farmers to travel long distances to have their birds butchered.

Jann York, who testified for the bill, said she and her husband decided to start their farm in Estacada after her husband lost his job as a carpenter. They now raise a number of animals, including pastured poultry. She said HB 2872A would allow them to hire their son, who's recently lost his job at the Blue Heron Paper Co., and other employees.

"Jan's story is not isolated," Kimbirauskas said.

The honey bill, HB 2947, drew its own fans, with hobbyist beekeeper Fred VanNatta turning up to testify in its favor on behalf of the Willamette Valley Beekeepers Association. The bill would require the state to establish quality and identity standards for honey and rules on labeling.

The idea is to ensure that honey sold in Oregon is pure, said Rep. Brian Clem, D-Salem, who authored the bill. He said it sprung from concerns about the sale of Chinese honey in Oregon that's contaminated with antibiotics harmful to humans.

"We really don't want Chinese honey here," he said.

In March, the U.S. attorney's office for Oregon seized 10,560 gallons of gooey stuff labeled "Thai honey" from a Salem warehouse that was actually a compound malt sweetener.

The honey and poultry bills were unanimously passed by the Senate committee but the farmer's market bill awaits discussion on an amendment.

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