Our Family Farms will be the first to tell you that your vote matters. In 2014, Jackson County created a GE-free seed sanctuary because we had a record breaking voter turnout who supported family farmers. Proof that you can make the difference!
This year there are many races on all levels that will impact our economic and agricultural future. Our Family Farms encourages you to become familiar with the candidates in your district to understand their position on the issues that are important to you.
Our Family Farms sent a survey to all State Representative and State Senate candidates in Oregon, as well as all candidates for Jackson and Josephine County Commissioner positions to see where they stood on issues that we care about. Here's what we asked them:
1. What are your thoughts regarding GE-free agricultural zones as part of the overall mix of agriculture in Oregon?
2. How would you support family farmers looking to meet the growing demand for GE-free crops and seeds?
3. What ideas do you have to help farmers protect their traditional crops and seeds from contamination by GE pollen?
All responses are published below verbatim, and are listed alphabetically within each position or district. This information should not be construed as an endorsement for any candidate.
If you don't see a response from your local candidate, contact them and find out where they stand. Check your ballot for a full list of candidates in your district.
COUNTY COMMISIONER CANDIDATE RESPONSES
Jeff Thomas, Jackson County Position 2
1) GMO free agricultural zones are an economic asset to our community and would benefit the state as well. One need look no further at the decisions of foreign governments such as Japan to decline wheat from Oregon that is not GMO free.
We have seen Amy's Kitchen expand operations in Southern Oregon vs North Carolina because of the proximity to organic, GMO free, crops.
2) Family farmers have been impacted greatly in our region by the legalization of marijuana and the restriction of marijuana farmers to EFU, exclusive farm use, versus RR5, rural residential. As the price of land skyrockets, farmers who lease are being squeezed off their land by owners who want to take advantage of the higher profits from marijuana grows. I was recently told of a marijuana farmer in the Applegate who paved over acres of prime farm land in order to construct greenhouses for MJ. Commissioners should look into some provisions for EFU that retain their highest and best use, or at least require the return of the land to farmable condition upon sale.
I also have looked into the possibility of empowerment zones, using proceeds from marijuana taxes to purchase easements that allow farmers to continue to farm at reasonable lease costs, and allow for sustainable, living wage jobs from farming.
I support tight urban growth boundaries and keeping development inside city limits to protect valuable farmland from encroachment.
3) I would continue to lobby state senators and representatives to overturn the legislation that precludes counties from voting on the GMO free zone so that other counties in Oregon can join Jackson and Josephine County as a GMO free zone
STATE REPRESENTATIVE CANDIDATE RESPONSES
Pam Marsh, State Representative candidate for 5th District
1) I voted for the successful effort to make Jackson County and GE-free zone, and I believe that every Oregon county should have the right to make a similar decision. If elected, I will support legislation to eliminate the preemption on local GE free zones. In the meantime, Jackson County's status as a GE-free community provides a distinct marketing niche for this county's agricultural products. A successful, high profile campaign to push the non-GE Jackson County brand will demonstrate the legitimacy of that approach and create pressure to revisit preemption.
2 &3) Both of the questions above emanate from the increasing difficulty of maintaining the purity of traditional seeds and crops in a farming environment that is increasingly impacted by the presence of genetically engineered agriculture.
The passage of Senate Bill 863 in 2013 preempted local regulation of agriculture, effectively eliminating local implementation of GE-free zones. Subsequent passage of HB 2509 created a mediation process within the Department of Agriculture available to local farmers who believe that their crops/seeds have been impacted by neighboring agricultural practices. We do not yet know if the process outlined will be effective for local farmers seeking to protect their crops and seeds. Family farmers who pursue mediation will need to provide feedback about access and effectiveness. If mediation fails to address the conflicts inherent in coexistence, we will have grounds to reopen discussion of local controls. Clearly, protection of traditional seeds is vital to the food supply as well as to the livelihood of our small farmers.
In general, I think we should move forward on multiple fronts. As advocates, family farmers need to forge relationships with legislators and continue to educate them about the specific needs of small, GE-free agriculture. We also need to continue to look for opportunities to support family farmers via legislation, including controls on pesticide use, maintenance of land use regulations that protect farmland and enable the use of small parcels, and water management policies. In that regard, if elected, I intend to sponsor legislation limiting or eliminating the use of neonicontinoids, which have been linked to declining bee populations.
As we move toward converting our industrial agriculture economy to a locally oriented system that is not chemically dependent, research into organic, natural and traditional farming techniques will be increasingly important. I will advocate for empowering and funding such research at Oregon’s public universities.
I look forward to working with Our Family Farms and small farm advocates to address these and other issues. Organic and non-GE farming should be protected and encouraged as a valuable component of our agricultural economy and a critical piece of our community's food supply.
Martha Sherwood, State Representative candidate for 8th District
I am deeply concerned about the introduction, both deliberate and inadvertent, of BT and glycophosphate resistant genes into food crops and I have followed the controversies about growing BT rapeseed for oil production in close proximity to other brassicas. I would oppose any blanket legislation that lumped this sort of genetic engineering with the widespread use of genetic engineering techniques to produce new varieties that could be achieved by conventional breeding, especially in tree crops and plants normally propagated vegetatively. The idea of GE free agricultural zones is unrealistic. Small amounts of pollen can travel over long distances, and in most cases there are wild plants that can serve as bridges for genetic traits. If there is a demand for GE crops and seeds, the market will provide it and very likely large producers will come to dominate the consumer market, as they have with organic produce. The only useful role government has to play in all of this is to provide a legal definition of GE free for marketing purposes and to ensure that foods are properly labelled. I have a doctorate in biology and my husband and I were organic farmers in Oregon in the 80's and 90's. I am knowledgeable about these issues.
John Lively, State Representative candidate for 12th District
1) I think having and maintain GE-free zones as part of our overall agricultural mix is essential and I support efforts to promote rules to support them.
2) As with all small businesses I look for ways to diminish government regulation and oversight which creates undue burden on especially small businesses. In addition, I support making additional state resources available for loans/and or grants to assist in making investments for expansion.
3) I do not know as much about this area as I should, but I am fully supportive of taking action to protect from GE pollen including expanding buffer zones, limiting areas for GE crops and considering other measures that might be needed.
Robert Schwartz, State Representative candidate for 12th District
I personally would like to see the state take GE free zones seriously. The partnership between big AG and big pharma is very concerning to me. I am running because the present legislator, John Lively, takes thousands of dollars from big Pharma and I don't believe that he will in the long run support Family Farms past lip service. The state of GE free zones in Oregon is pathetic and even the status quo is very hurtful to me as I enjoy the health and taste of traditional food.
Jeffery Goodwin, State Representative candidate for 17th District
1) I believe in basic economic freedom, so if people want to use genetically engineered crops they can do that so long as it does not interfere with the rights of others to be free from them. I personally do not like them. See my responses to questions two and three below.
2) I believe that all genetically engineered products should be required to be clearly and conspicuously labeled as such, people have the right to know what they are buying.
3) It is a serious problem, and I am not sure what the solution is. Clearly you are the experts here, and I would appreciate your thoughts on what we could practicably do to address this issue. Like I said before, I believe people should have the right to be free from genetically engineered products if they want to be, the first step of that is knowing what you're getting, but where there is cross-pollination that is both making genetically engineered products out of things that shouldn't be, and contaminating heritage genetic lines that is an issue, and one that I'm not sure how to solve.
Alex Polikoff, State Representative candidate for 23rd District
1) I support community rights and the ability of counties or other jurisdictions to ban GE crops and seeds.
2) By redirecting any state monies currently being used to subsidize GE crops/seed and by establishing a State Bank to make low-interest loans available.
3) As with all small businesses I look for ways to diminish government regulation and oversight which creates undue burden on especially small businesses. In addition, I support making additional state resources available for loans/and or grants to assist in making investments for expansion.
Alissa Keny-Guyer, State Representative candidate for 46th District
1) We need GE-free zones with buffer zones to ensure that seeds from GE crops don’t contaminate GE-free products. This is an important physical health and “right to know” issue for people who want to be sure they are consuming GE-free food, and it’s an important economic issue for farmers who want to sell to a market who demands GE-free products. (Take for example the concern by the Japanese market when wheat in Eastern Oregon was contaminated by GE seeds a few years ago.)
2) I have voted for bills to allow GE-free zones and for the right for counties to decide if they want to be GE-free, and I supported the Working Families Party bill to support small farmer ag bonds.
3) Aside from my answer in #1, I’d love to hear YOUR ideas on this!!
Timothy Crawley, State Representative candidate for 48th District
1) As Oregon develops and as citizens continue to demand transparency and accountability for our food as well as its contents and its channels of delivery, we must ensure that this demand is protected and that our policies reflect an understanding that the critical nature and delicate balance of food production in our state. Our common resources such as our air, water and soil are likewise, reflective of that which we put into them. And each cause has its effect. In this case, we are witnessing an ever-increasing consciousness towards that which we put into our selves, through our food, and how we maintain the integrity of our food is the subject of important discussion. GE free agricultural zones provide one method for protecting the interests of a significant source of demand by the people of Oregon. We must promote such zones, similar to how we promote urban growth areas or preservation areas, as an integral balance to citizen choice and an important element of our food source.
2) In 2014, the GMO labelling bill failed narrowly here in Oregon. Measure 97 would have been an important step in adding transparency not only for the consumer, but also in supporting family farmers addressing the growing demand of GE-free crops and seeds. Despite the Measure's failure, the narrow margin by which it lost is a testament to the growing demand for GE-free crops and seeds. We must continue on this front as the "winds have shifted" against the interests which attempt to cloud the air.
3) While GE free agricultural zones a but one approach to protecting traditional crops and seeds from contamination by GE pollen, we know that this may not be enough to insure protection in areas where there are no such zones. We need merely to remind ourselves of the situation in Spring and Summer, 2013 when Japan and South Korea halted the import of Oregon wheat after news that it had been contaminated with GMO wheat. The area where the wheat was grown was not in a GE free agricultural zone. In fact, the GMO wheat had not even been approved for commercial production. Appropriate penalties should be put in place to deter GMO contamination and remunerations should be paid to farmers who experience such losses resulting from contamination.
Gary Dye, State Representative candidate for 48th District
1) This should be a cooperative agreement made between farmers. Cap and trade?
2) The free market should create an equilibrium matching supply and demand of GE-free crops and seeds.
3) Their traditional crops have been at risk from pollen for millennia. GE crops are nothing new in this regard. Current crops are already artificial variations of wild crops.
STATE SENATE CANDIDATE RESPONSES
Alan DeBoer, State Senator candidate for 3rd District
We have a great opportunity as the only GMO free zone to continue building our brand as southern Oregon. I am concerned about expanding boundaries that eat up our valuable farm land as well as marijuana farms springing up everywhere and out side investors flowing in. I was against Ashland expanding their urban growth boundary. It will take away the workers we all need and hurt local farms that we all depend on especially if a natural disaster occurs and we are dependent on each other for food. I am also concerned on neighbors fighting over GMO issues with cross pollution, I have a lot of experience in mediation and feel we can work on solutions without litigation. We all need to work together for solutions to problems that Oregon faces and I am up to doing that! I would appreciate your support. I am committed to keeping a positive campaign and solving issues.
(This response was received on 10/24/16 and added to the original article)
Tonia Moro, State Senator candidate for 3rd District
1) I agree with Our Family Farms that GE-free zones, or seed sanctuaries, ought to be part of the mix of agriculture in Oregon. Otherwise, family farmers will no longer be able to produce traditional crops. Since pollen from GE crops can blow into traditional crops, family farmers are at risk of being sued for selling or saving seed containing the intellectual property of GE patent holders like Monsanto and Sygenta. In addition, consumers will not want to buy traditional crops that may be contaminated.
2) I strongly supported the 2014 ballot measure by which the voters of Jackson County created a GE-free zone, and I will work closely with Our Family Farms to support other proposals to help family farmers meet the growing demand for GE-free crops and seeds. This stands in stark contrast to my opponent, who has received major funding for his state senate campaign from AgPAC, which represents Monsanto, Sygenta, and other global agribusiness corporate interests. Those companies won’t be supporting me because they know I stand on the side of family farmers and consumers who want healthy food and sustainable agriculture. I am proud to be receiving donations from family farmers, working families, seniors, students, veterans, and others who want a legislature that works for all of us, not just the biggest corporations and richest individuals.
3) I will support legislation to reverse the 2013 state ban on the voters of additional counties creating GE-free zones. 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. I won’t be beholden to those special interests. The arguments against reversing that ban do not hold water. In particular, it is ludicrous to say that counties should be barred from enacting GE-free zones because the matter should be left up to “farmer-to-farmer negotiation.” Jackson County family farmers attempted to negotiate with Syngenta to no avail – that’s why voters ended up having to pass a ballot measure to protect our farmers. To expect our family farmers to negotiate on an even footing with some of the world’s largest corporations like Monsanto and Syngenta is completely unrealistic. Clearly, the “negotiation” argument is just a fig leaf to cover up state interference with local control in counties where a majority wants to create a GE-free zone. In short, I look forward to working with Our Family Farms to achieve the goals of establishing local GE-free zones, helping family farmers to meet the growing demand for GE-free crops and seeds, and helping farmers protect their traditional crops and seeds from contamination by GE pollen.
Kathleen Taylor, State Senator candidate for 21st District
1) GE-free agricultural zones could be a useful tool to prevent disputes between GE-free and GE growers. By creating these zones, and ensuring that GE-free zones are truly GE-free (and vice versa) we can better understand the needs, barriers, and potential of these crops.
2) I would consider support for legislation that created protected spaces to ensure family farmers can meet the demand for GE-free crops, I would want to read bill language and consult with various experts before promising support to any particular concept.
3) I am not an expert in this area, and I am interested to learn more about how to help these farmers protect their crops. In additional to GE-free agricultural zones, perhaps there are ways we can offer incentives to help with natural barriers between crop land, and assist in harvesting rows that experience contamination.