OAN POLICY POSITIONS IN BRIEF
Oregon Association of Nurseries (OAN):
The OAN is a 1,500-member association representing the interests of its members who grow, handle and retail ornamental horticultural products by fostering a favorable business and regulatory climate. The OAN supports its diverse membership b offering opportunities for education, research and business development.
OAN members represent the vast majority of nursery and greenhouse production in Oregon. The nursery and greenhouse industry is the largest sector of Oregon agriculture with sales of nearly $1 billion. The industry is a major economic force for the state, as 81 percent of Oregon's nursery and greenhouse plant material sold is shipped to buyers out of state.
Like other sectors of agriculture, OAN members have a keen interest in many issues related to labor, natural resource management, transportation and pesticide use. The following provides a brief description of the OAN's position on key policy topics.
Regional Minimum Wage
The nursery industry is labor intensive and the cost of labor is a significant cost of production for many nurseries and greenhouses. Under a state law passed by the initiative process, when the Consumer Price Index for Urban areas goes up, so too does Oregon’s minimum wage, which forces increases in the entire wage structure for many farm operations. Consequently, automatic minimum wage increases jeopardize the competitive position of Oregon nurseries relative to other states with lower minimum wage requirements.
The OAN supports efforts to disconnect Oregon’s minimum wage from the Consumer Price Index. The OAN also supports efforts to provide alternative minimum wage trigger mechanisms that consider the overall health of the Oregon economy, the number of unemployed, and the effect of minimum wage increases on the national competitiveness of Oregon Businesses. Ideally, market forces should be allowed to regulate wages.
Farm Worker Immigration Legislation
The nursery industry is labor intensive and depends heavily on a reliable and skilled work force. The reality is that many farm workers are immigrants, who lack proper authorization to work in the United States. The result is that many farm workers live with uncertainty and fear of deportation. The high incidence of unauthorized workers in the agricultural labor force creates an unnecessary vulnerability, for workers and employers alike, and has the potential to destabilize the nursery industry.
The OAN believes agriculture’s continued reliance on workers who lack proper work documents is untenable over the long term, and the association strongly supports passage of federal legislation that would grant immigrant farm workers the opportunity to obtain legal work status in the United States. Also, such legislation must provide a process to legally replenish the agricultural labor supply as needed through a guest worker program.
Unionization of the agricultural workforce:
The nursery and greenhouse industry pays the highest average agriculture wage in the nation and would not support erosion of the current law for unionization. Issues such as card check, which would allow unionization without a private vote, are unfair to workers and employers. The OAN views this legislation as an intrusion into the right to bargain freely over working terms and conditions. It would have negative impacts on agriculture.
The OAN has the following positions on water issues—
- The fundamental right established in common law to access and use water for agricultural applications must not be abridged;
- Farm property values are inextricably linked to irrigation. State statutes should recognize that irrigation and the production of high value crops, such as nursery, provide for higher farm land values, a robust local property tax base and a more vigorous farm economy which provide important, widely felt public benefits;
- The State should develop additional water storage capacity to serve multiple uses (including agriculture) and to provide broad benefits to Oregonians; accordingly, the costs of such additional capacity should be borne by all Oregonians.
- The State should jealously guard against the encroachment of domestic and industrial demands on groundwater supplies, where agriculture has an established claim on such water supplies.
- The State should foster proactive, voluntary measures that enable nursery and greenhouse industry operators to maintain or enhance water quality.
Oregon ships more nursery and greenhouse plant material out of state than any other state in the nation. Consequently, access to timely and economical transportation is a key element of the industry’s success. Individual nursery and greenhouse operators have been stymied by inflexible and burdensome county-by-county restrictions on truck length and weight, and non-uniform implementation and enforcement of road access and permits. The OAN strongly supports statewide uniformity of transportation standards to facilitate commerce in nursery and greenhouse plant material.
Land Use Planning:
The expansion of Urban Growth Boundaries (UGB) threatens the long-term health of the nursery and greenhouse industry, the great majority of which is situated in and around areas in the northern Willamette Valley and near urban areas. Thus, the OAN supports rigorous prior review by appropriate state and local agencies of any proposed UGB expansion to assure full compliance with land use planning goals, and to minimize disruptions to agriculture.
The expansion of UGBs onto prime and unique farmland, a limited resource, should be discouraged and in the event that UGB expansion onto such lands occur, added protections should be applied to the area’s remaining prime and unique farmland base.
Agricultural producers throughout Oregon deserve the protection of “right to farm” laws that shield producers from nuisance lawsuits aimed at curtailing traditional and accepted agricultural practices.
Nursery and Greenhouse Industry Inspection/Research:
The OAN values highly the Nursery Inspection Program funded by the industry and operated by the Oregon Department of Agriculture. The OAN supports the assessment of fees on operators licensed under the Nursery Inspection Program for the sole purpose of funding program operations or to pay for programs of research directly aimed at benefiting the industry.