Ag Summit 2015 — presented by Dunn Carney, a law firm specializing in agriculture, food and natural resources — took place this past Wednesday, Jan. 21, in Wilsonville. OAN Executive Director Jeff Stone attended and shared the following notes on the proceedings.
Featured speaker Katy Coba, director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, reported that the agricultural economy has improved dramatically over the past few years. Farm gate value is now estimated to be more than $5 billion and growing. The top two segments of ag — cattle and nursery — are especially strong (cattle prices are high right now). She expects to see bills on forestry, pesticide applications, and GMOs. The two biggest challenges, according to Coba, are managing coexistence between farms and communities, and keeping the ag industry together on big issues.
The Dunn Carney agenda focused on estate planning. Within that discussion, much praise was heaped on the Oregon Natural Resource Credit. Passed into law in 2007, the measure has been cited by many as the greatest single reason keeping farms, forestry and ranches in family ownership. The OAN and Oregon Farm Bureau worked hard in 2007 to pass this landmark legislation, which gives a dollar-for-dollar tax credit up to $7.5 million per person.
Also addressing the upcoming legislative session was Sen. Betsy Johnson (D–Scappoose). She warned that it could be a tough year for agriculture, with legislation on pesticides (forest practices and neonicotinoids), minimum wage and paid sick leave, GMOs, and taxes all on the table. Sen. Johnson did not think the legislature would touch the driver’s card issue, since a ballot measure was just voted down. She anticipates support for the Oregon State University statewide budget and a transportation package, but with one in four House members being newly elected, Johnson thinks it will be interesting to see what actually emerges.
The 2015 Regular Session of the Oregon Legislative Assembly organized on January 12, and will convene on February 2. OAN has remained a bipartisan, issue-focused organization, and will continue engaging with the state Senate and House, along with the governor, to pass nursery- and greenhouse-friendly bills. The association fights hard to keep the business climate positive for its members. OAN uses Jordan Ramis P.C. law firm and Thorn Run Partners as part of its advocacy team.