HB 2882, the GE Liability Bill, survived the first deadline and is being moved to the Rules Committee!
HB 2882 has been scheduled for a Work Session at 1pm on April 3rd. This alone is a big win because the legislature is overwhelmed with thousands of bills and many pieces of legislation didn’t make it though, regardless of their underlying merits. The Speaker of the House helped ensure the forward movement of the bill and we are appreciative of her support.
What will happen at the work session? This work session is different from a public hearing in that no testimony will be taken, although the public may attend if they like. The purpose of this work session is to simply move the bill from the Judiciary Committee to the Rules Committee where it will (hopefully) get a full hearing. That's where you come in!
What you can do: Please do make sure you've signed on to support HB 2882 and let us know if you can be available to write testimony or testify in person once a hearing does get scheduled.
What this bill does: HB 2882 will create liability for patent holders or licensed manufacturers of genetically engineered products that cause GE contamination events in Oregon. The bill will not pit farmer against farmer. The parties that will be held responsible are the corporations behind genetic engineering, not the farmers who use them since in some instances, contamination is out of the hands of the farmer who planted the GE seed. GE contamination, and the threat of contamination, has cost farmers--including Oregon farmers--billions of dollars.
What happened to SB 434? We introduced identical GE Liability bills in both the House and Senate—a slightly amended version of the bill that was introduced in 2017. We got off to a great start in terms of getting the bills drafted early and into committees in both chambers where they would have a chance. Because GE issues are incredibly contentious in Salem, some committees would be hostile to the bills and not take steps to move them forward.
We were repeatedly re-assured from our Chief Senate sponsor, Sen. Frederick, that the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Prozanski, would be scheduling a hearing. Sen. Prozanski even signed onto the bill and has long been a supporter of GE issues! However, last week Sen. Prozanski changed his mind because he is concerned that the bill could create negative, unintended legal consequences.
While it is disappointing that the Senate version is not moving forward, we still have the House version, and Sen. Prozanski committed to holding an Informational Hearing followed by a Work Group in the Senate because he does see the need to “draw a line in the sand” with GE issues but wants to make sure that he does so in a way that he is comfortable with. Our Chief Sponsor has gotten pieces of legislation out of Work Groups before, so ultimately, this is a step in the right direction. Sen. Prozanski said that he would schedule this hearing in late April or May, so stay tuned.
It often takes multiple tries to get legislation passed, so while some of you may be feeling disappointed, we are still on a good track! We also found new Republican allies—Rep. Findley signed on and Rep. Stark is also supportive of the House version. We also are working with a new coalition partner, Oregon Organic Coalition, and through this relationship, we will be attending quarterly meetings at Oregon Department of Agriculture. These are really great developments!
What About Canola?
SB 885, which will address the sunset on the current limit of 500 acres of canola grown in the Willamette Valley, also has a work session scheduled on April 4th and we will know more after that time.