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CapitalPress.com
Friday, February 12, 2021
$10M grant program considered for meat processors
By MATEUSZ PERKOWSKI
Capital Press
Oregon meat processors
could vie for $10 million in
grants under a bill that seeks
to build on a state inspection
program authorized last year.
House Bill 2785 would
create a grant program over-
seen by the state’s Depart-
ment of Agriculture to invest
in constructing, expanding
and upgrading meat process-
ing facilities.
The proposal aims to help
meat processors who’d oper-
ate under the ODA’s state
inspection program, which
would regulate these facili-
ties for in-state commercial
meat sales.
Once the state inspection
program is fully functional
and approved by the federal
government, meat from these
facilities could also be sold in
interstate commerce.
The proposed grant pro-
gram would also invest in
Sierra Dawn McClain/Capital Press
Denise Pohrman, plant manager at Mohawk Valley
Meats in Eugene, Ore., moves carcasses. Oregon law-
makers are considering a $10 million grant program to
help meat processors upgrade their facilities.
meat processors who want
to be directly inspected by
USDA, which would permit
their products to cross state
lines regardless of the state
inspection program’s status.
An amended version of
HB 2785 being considered
by the House Agriculture and
Natural Resources Commit-
tee would carve out $300,000
for upgrades to Oregon State
University’s meat science lab
and make $9.7 million avail-
able for grants.
Lawmakers revived the
state inspection program last
year after the coronavirus
outbreak disrupted the oper-
ations of major meat pack-
ing facilities and increased
demand for local slaughter
and processing options.
“The COVID-19 pan-
demic revealed a break in
the marketing chain for all
livestock producers, as there
has been an overall lack of
capacity to process live-
stock into meat in Oregon,
said Carol Lorenzen, head of
OSU’s department of animal
and rangeland sciences.
The ODA’s previous state
inspection program was
eliminated for budgetary rea-
sons five decades ago, and
the agency expects time and
money will be needed to get
the program up and running
again.
The agency was allocated
more than $900,000 and
three full-time positions to
restart the program last year
but expects to require another
$600,000-$800,000 to make
it fully operational.
Aside from the $10 mil-
lion grant proposal, lawmak-
ers are also considering bills
that would require state reg-
ulators to study “barriers to
family-scale meat produc-
tion” and the possibility of
permitting animal rendering
facilities in Oregon.
Currently, Oregon has 13
processing facilities overseen
by USDA whose products
qualify for interstate retail
sales and another 16-non fed-
eral custom processors that
slaughter livestock for their
owners or process game
animals.
When demand for meat
processing surged in 2020,
PK Pastures near Sweet
Home, Ore., was bumped
from its processing slot and
couldn’t sell that pastured
pork and poultry at farmers
markets or to commercial
wholesalers, said Kait Crow-
ley, its co-owner.
“When there is a squeeze,
small producers like us are
most likely to get the boot
from large facilities,” Crow-
ley said during a recent leg-
islative hearing on HB 2785.
Wendy Bingham, a beef
producer near North Powder,
Ore., said her company cur-
rently uses a USDA facility
in Idaho that’s 2.5 hours away
in one direction, adding costs
and reducing productivity.
Though there are meat
facilities closer in proximity
that do a great job, they’re
not federally-inspected and
thus cannot process meat for
commercial sale, she said.
If these facilities became
USDA inspected, it would
greatly benefit the local econ-
omy, Bingham said. “People
are looking to find protein
sources that they know, trust,
and have a personal connec-
tion to, who treat their ani-
mals humanely.”
Bill seen as shutting
door on farmworker
housing in Washington
Oregon wineries seek to boost
direct-to-consumer shipping limit
worker is a foreigner with a
H-2A visa.
In that case, the tax
OLYMPIA — A proposal exemption
would
be
to penalize farms for hous- eliminated.
ing foreign workers got a
Marty Miller, the exec-
poor reception at a Senate utive director of the Office
Housing Committee hearing of Rural and Farmworker
Housing, a nonprofit
Tuesday.
Senate Bill 5396
that builds farm-
worker
housing,
would raise taxes on
said he strongly sup-
building or repairing
ported expanding the
farmworker housing
tax exemption.
if any bed is occu-
pied by a guest-
He called end-
ing the exemption
worker in the U.S.
Washington for housing with
on a H-2A visa.
State
Albert Zepada,
foreign
workers
Capitol
human
resources
“problematic.”
manager for Kyle
“This will harm
Mathison Orchards, told nonprofits who serve both
senators the Wenatchee farm domestic and H-2A work-
prefers hiring U.S. workers, ers,” Miller said.
Some 25,000 H-2A
but must fill out its work-
force with guestworkers workers, mostly from Mex-
because of a labor shortage. ico, come to Washington
U.S. migrant and foreign each year. The program has
workers are housed together, come under fire from critics
so it would be impossi- that argue it displaces U.S.
ble to avoid the tax hit, workers and exploits for-
eigners. Many guestworkers
he said.
“It would affect our abil- return to Washington year
ity to provide sufficient after year.
housing for the 90% or our
Zepada called getting
workforce that is domestic,” 200 workers from Mexico
he said.
to Wenatchee a “monumen-
For 25 years, the state tal task.”
has exempted from sales
“We have to do it, unfor-
taxes the materials and labor tunately, because we want to
that goes into constructing harvest our crops,” he said.
Taking away the tax
or maintaining housing for
farmworkers. The tax break break would be another
is intended to encourage blow to the industry, Zepada
farmworker housing built to said.
“At the end of the day,
state standards.
Sen.
Liz
Lovelett, our consumers won’t care
D-Anacortes, introduced a that we pay sales tax on our
bill to extend the tax exemp- housing. They’ll just say,
tion to any housing occupied ‘We’re not going to pay $5
by a farmworker, unless the for an apple.’”
By MATEUSZ PERKOWSKI
Capital Press
By DON JENKINS
Capital Press
Oregon wineries could increase the
amount of wine they send directly to
consumers under a bill that’s intended
to help offset lost tasting room visitors.
The state’s wine industry is calling
on lawmakers to pass Senate Bill 406,
which would allow them to ship five
cases of wine per resident a month, up
from the current limit of two cases.
More than 30 years have passed
since Oregon created its “direct-to-
consumer” wine shipping law and
it’s due for an update due to restric-
tions associated with the coronavirus,
according to proponents.
“With the pandemic, we are unfor-
tunately seeing a lot of these wine
tasting rooms being shuttered because
they cannot carry out wine tastings”
under mandates aimed at limiting
the spread of illness, said Sen. Floyd
Prozanski, D-Eugene, the bill’s chief
sponsor, during a recent legislative
hearing.
While wine producers in Washing-
ton and California do not restrict the
number wine cases shipped direct-to-
consumer, the stakeholders in Ore-
gon’s wine industry have negotiated
a cap of five cases and aren’t seeking
unlimited shipping, he said.
Only a handful of Oregon wineries
dominate sales through the “challeng-
ing, low margin” national distribution
system for wine, while most of the
state’s wineries operate outside this
model, said Gretchen Boock, CEO of
Dobbes Family Estate and Wines By
Joe in Dundee, Ore.
“They are highly reliant on the
direct-to-consumer sales channel,
where volumes are low but price
points are higher — often $50 per bot-
tle or more — and margins are reason-
ably healthy,” she said.
Boock said her company can cite
numerous instances of reduced sales
Sierra Dawn McClain/Capital Press
Wine bottles at Hyland Estates Winery. The Oregon wine industry wants
to increase the direct-to-consumer shipping limit from two cases per
month to five cases.
due to the current two-case limit, as
well as increased complications, such
as spreading a shipment over more
than one month to comply with the
restriction.
Thousands of visitors who’d usu-
ally buy their cases on-site are no lon-
ger traveling to wineries due to coro-
navirus restrictions, said Maria Ponzi,
president of Ponzi Vineyards in Sher-
wood, Ore.
“This DTC channel has been a life-
line,” but the existing law has created
barriers, she said.
Since the state’s wineries are typ-
ically too small to work through dis-
tributors, much of their sales occur
through wine clubs that generally ship
during the spring and autumn seasons,
said Mike McNally, owner of Fairsing
Vineyards near Yamhill, Ore.
Currently, the two-case limit pre-
vents wine club members from mak-
ing larger orders for weddings or hol-
iday gifts, McNally said. “A few extra
cases of wine sales to our customers at
these times are significant for the typ-
ical winery.”
Idaho legislation would create fund for ag water-quality projects
The Idaho Senate Agricul-
tural Affairs Committee voted
Feb. 9 to introduce legislation that
would create an Agricultural Best
Management Practices Fund for
water-quality projects.
The fund would operate on
a calendar year rather than the
state’s July 1 fiscal year, which
the Department of Environmen-
tal Quality says would better suit
project cycles and provide other
benefits.
“This will improve the agen-
cy’s ability to award these proj-
ects, and get them completed and
paid out,” Mary Anne Nelson, the
department’s Surface and Waste-
water Division administrator, told
Capital Press.
Establishing the fund also
would increase transparency, bet-
ter align state money with federal
programs, and possibly encourage
larger, longer-term projects, she
said.
The Legislature started fund-
ing the program in fiscal 2018,
with $500,0000. The following
year’s total was $790,000 includ-
ing an one-time $290,000. Totals
were $500,000 for fiscal 2020 and
$279,000 for ’21. Gov. Brad Little
proposes to increase funding sub-
stantially this year.
Nelson said about 35 projects
have been funded, from around
Brad Carlson/Capital Press File
A bill introduced in the Senate
would fund water quality proj-
ects.
$15,000 to $250,000. They range
from irrigation system change-outs
to riparian restorations.
Treasure Valley Water Users
Association Executive Direc-
tor Roger Batt has said the total
requested in matching grants has
far exceeded amounts awarded.
The department “has identified
complications with appropriating,
allocating, and disbursing these
funds all within the same fiscal
year,” Senate Bill 1079’s purpose
statement reads in part. “The nature
of these projects, spanning multiple
calendar years or seasons, and the
short time frame in which DEQ has
from appropriation to end of spend-
ing, makes it difficult for recipients
of these sub-awards to get the work
completed and invoices submitted
for reimbursement before the end of
the fiscal year in which the money
was appropriated.”
The legislation would set up a
dedicated account and require
annual reporting to the Legislature
on amounts received, spent and
unspent. It would take effect on
final approval, rather than on July
1. Nelson said it would not change
application or awards processes, or
spending restrictions.
Environmental
Quality
requests $279,000 for agricultural
best-management practices in fis-
cal 2022, plus a one-time $1 mil-
lion that is part of the governor’s
announced plan for spending state
surplus funds on projects benefit-
ing the economy.
The governor’s one-time expen-
diture would go into the Ag BMP
Fund if the Legislature approves
both.
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By BRAD CARLSON
Capital Press