Oregon lawmakers considering local seed, crop regulation

SALEM — Local governments could regain control over crop and seed regulation under a bill being considered by Oregon lawmakers.

More than two dozen people testified during a Tuesday hearing about the bill, which would repeal a 2013 law stripping that authority from counties, The Statesman Journal reported.

Lawmakers passed that bill in a special session after Jackson County made plans to put a local GMO ban to a vote. Jackson County was exempt from the rule and that ban has gone into effect.

"This bill puts the decision-making back to the local government. That's where people can't get bought out," said Elise Higley, a Jackson County farmer and director of Our Family Farms Coalition, referring to large campaign contributions from agribusiness companies.

A dozen companies, including Monsanto, Novartis and Syngenta, contributed at least $127,745 to lawmakers in the weeks after the 2013 special session was announced.

The money went to legislators' campaign committees, two Republican caucus political action committees and three other PACs that contribute to candidates.

Farmers argue that they can suffer financially when nearby genetically engineered crops contaminate their fields and hope local control can help prevent that.

The bill's opponents call on farmers to resolve conflicts among themselves and argue that local control would create a patchwork of regulations.

"It is very common for farmers and foresters to have land in multiple counties, and oftentimes a single field can straddle county boundaries," said Scott Dahlman, policy director for Oregonians for Food & Shelter.

The committee will take up the issue again on Thursday.

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