Capital press. (Salem, OR) 19??-current, April 21, 2017, Page 3, Image 3

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    April 21, 2017
Oregon water rights fee wins committee approval
Specific amount
of fee stripped
from legislation
Capital Press
SALEM — A proposal to
impose a new annual fee on
all water rights in Oregon has
passed a key legislative com-
mittee, but the amount is no
longer specified.
House Bill 2706 original-
ly set a $100 yearly fee for
every water right, capped at
$1,000 for individual irriga-
tors and $2,500 for municipal
The bill is intended to pay
for water management con-
ducted by the Oregon Water
Resources Department, but
opponents say it unfairly
targets irrigators who are al-
Mateusz Perkowski/Capital Press
A linear irrigation system operates in a corn field in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. State water regulators
want to increase water rights transaction fees by 15.88 percent over four years, the third hike since
2009. A proposal to impose a new annual fee on all water rights in Oregon has passed a key legisla-
tive committee but the amount is no longer specified.
ready under financial strain.
Rep. Ken Helm, D-Bea-
verton, proposed an amend-
ment stripping the specif-
ic amounts from HB 2706
to “lower the heat” on the
bill and demonstrate that a
fee amount is not “pre-or-
dained,” he said.
The House Energy and
approved the amended bill
5-4 during an April 17 work
session, referring it to the
Joint Committee on Ways
and Means, which isn’t sub-
ject to normal legislative
Helm said he’s overseeing
a work group that’s discuss-
ing a companion bill, House
Bill 2705, which requires ir-
rigators to install measuring
devices to gauge water use
and was previously referred
to the House Rules Commit-
During those negotiations,
the water rights fee has “di-
minished in popularity and
significance” but may still
provide a useful funding
source, he said.
Rep. David Brock Smith,
R-Port Orford, said he
wouldn’t support the amend-
ed version of HB 2706 be-
cause leaving the fee amount
blank “scares me more.”
The only fee amount
acceptable to irrigators in
the Klamath Basin is zero,
said Rep. Werner Reschke,
R-Klamath Falls, who like-
wise opposed the bill.
Finding a new source of
funding for water manage-
ment is a good idea, but the
burden shouldn’t fall dispro-
portionately on irrigators,
said Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-On-
Much of the activities
performed by OWRD staff
are aimed at protecting in-
stream interests, which aren’t
subject to any fee under HB
2706, he said.
“The cost of management
should not focus on the six to
seven percent (of water) that
is actually diverted,” Bentz
Research shows farmers as a
Oregon GMO liability bill
survives Legislature’s deadline group may benefit from drought
Proposal could
remain alive
through end of
legislative session
Capital Press
Capital Press
SALEM — Biotech pat-
ent holders would be legal-
ly responsible for losses
caused by their genetically
engineered crops in Oregon
under a bill that’s survived a
crucial legislative deadline.
House Bill 2739 would
allow landowners to sue bio-
tech patent holders for the
unwanted presence of genet-
ically modified organisms,
or GMOs, on their land.
The bill has now been
referred to the House Rules
Committee, which isn’t sub-
ject to an April 18 legislative
deadline that recently killed
other proposals.
The move could effec-
tively allow HB 2739 to
stay alive through the end
of the 2017 legislative ses-
sion, scheduled to end in late
However, the House Ju-
diciary Committee made the
referral without a “do pass”
recommendation, and even
then, two of its 11 members
voted against the action.
It’s unfair to punish bio-
tech developers — which
range from small start-
ups to major corporations
— for what happens with
crops they have little con-
trol over, said Rep. Rich
Vial, R-Scholls, who voted
against HB 2739.
The proposal should have
been vetted by a committee
with experience in agricul-
ture, said Rep. Bill Post,
R-Keizer, who also voted
against it.
Rep. Mitch Greenlick,
D-Portland, and Rep. Chris
Sean Ellis/Capital Press File
Malheur County farmer Jerry Erstrom points out a genetically en-
gineered creeping bentgrass plant June 14, 2016, on an irrigation
ditch bank near Ontario, Ore. The grass, which was genetically
modified by Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. to resist the Roundup weed
killer, escaped from field trials in 2003. House Bill 2739, which
would hold biotech patent holders liable for damages from GMOs,
recently survived a legislative deadline.
Gorsek, D-Troutdale, ex-
pressed similar concerns
about the bill, though they
voted in favor of the referral.
Even though the bill
wasn’t sent to the House
Rules Committee “with a
bow on top” recommend-
ing passage, it’s nonetheless
good news for the Center for
Food Safety, a group that
supports more GMO regu-
lation, said Amy van Saun,
legal fellow with the organi-
“For me, it was a great
sign that it wasn’t allowed to
die,” said van Saun.
Amendments to the bill
are being discussed, but
those remain confidential,
she said.
have already been filed
over GMO contamination of
non-biotech crops, but HB
2739 would provide farm-
ers with legal recourse in
more limited instances of
cross-pollination, she said.
“We would be a pioneer
in doing something like
this,” van Saun said.
Oregonians for Food
and Shelter, an agribusiness
group, is disappointed that
such poorly written legisla-
tion is moving forward in the
process, said Scott Dahlman,
the group’s policy director.
No states have passed a
law that would hold biotech
patent holders liable similar-
ly to HB 2739, he said.
Associated Press File
Irrigation water runs along a dried-up ditch between rice farms on
May 1, 2014, in Richvale, Calif. A researcher from the University
of Idaho says that while drought hurts individual farmers, it often
benefits farmers as a group through higher prices.
Despite droughts being
good for farmers in the ag-
gregate, they’re still hard
on many individual farmers,
Taylor said.
“Droughts are mean,
vicious, local things,” he
said. “But drought is good
for farmers, especially if it
happens to (you) and not to
Drought achieves what
many farmers know needs to
happen — less production —
to better balance supply and
demand, Taylor said.
“The more the quantity
goes down, the higher the
prices,” he said. “That is very
much overlooked when we
look at the effects of drought
and climate change.”
Taylor told Capital Press
that many farmers are initial-
ly shocked when he shares
this data with them “but
when you explain it to them,
they understand. They realize
what you’re talking about.”
“You’ve heard farmers
say, gee, if we could just
get everybody to reduce po-
tato production 10 percent
this year or onion production
20 percent, we’d do all right
with prices,” he said. “When
you have good water years,
it causes prices to go down
because you’re over-produc-
Over 40 Years
Caldwell, Idaho • Alan Greenway, Seedsman
Cell: 298-259-9159 • MSG: 298-454-8342
Alan Greenway,
BOISE — Droughts can be
harsh on the farmers who are
directly impacted, but farm-
ers as a group benefit from
droughts because they reduce
production and drive prices
up, according to a University
of Idaho ag economist.
“The old thing that
drought is bad for farmers is
just not there,” Garth Taylor
said. “The sky is not falling
when there’s a drought.”
Taylor pointed out that
during the most recent ex-
tended drought period in the
United States, the value of
crop production in the U.S.
set records in 2012 and 2013.
Crop value records were
set in California from 2012
to 2014 despite that state suf-
fering a severe drought, and
records were also set in Ida-
ho, Washington and Oregon
in 2012.
During the severe drought
that plagued Washington in
2015, crop value reached the
second-highest level ever,
behind 2012.
came during a joint meeting
of the Western Snow Confer-
ence and Weather Modifica-
tion Association here April
“That was a very unique
perspective and view on
drought that I had not heard
before,” moderator Mel Kun-
kel, an Idaho Power hydro-
meteorologist, told attendees.
“It gives me something to
think about.”
Taylor said he studied
crop production values, farm
income and weather data in
nine Western states as part of
his study and used 37 differ-
ent equations.
In Idaho, he found that
during nine drought periods
since 1958, farm income or
farm GDP in the state reached
record levels.
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