Farm Bill holds benefits for Oregon sustainable ag
By Christina Williams
Sustainable Business Oregon editor
The farm bill contains good news for some Oregon farms.
The U.S. Senate passed the 2012 farm bill Thursday.
The bill contains two provisions by Oregon's Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley aimed at helping Oregon farmers. It does not include an amendment sponsored by Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, also a Democrat, supporting the cultivation of industrial hemp.
The first of Merkley's improves crop insurance for organic farmers and the other provides low-cost loans for energy efficiency renovations of homes and businesses in rural areas.
Wyden's amendment, introduced earlier this month, would have excluded industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana.
"I firmly believe that American farmers should not be denied an opportunity to grow and sell a legitimate crop simply because it resembles an illegal one," Wyden said in a statement. "I fought for an amendment that would have recognized industrial hemp as a legitimate crop, but since doing so requires amending the Controlled Substances Act it was considered non-germane to the current debate and could not be brought up for a vote."
Wyden added that he expects ongoing grassroots efforts to support hemp farming in the U.S. to prevail over time.
For his part, Merkley said he was pleased with the bipartisan support for the farm bill.
"With new support for Oregon’s organic farms and low-cost loans for Oregon’s rural energy co-ops, this bill is definitely good news for Oregon," he said in a press release.
Merkley's organic crop insurance amendment was added to bill Wednesday and calls for the USDA to do the necessary research to set organic crop prices which is expected to set crop insurance rates that are more favorable to organic farmers. Oregon has more than 500 certified organic farms.
The Rural Energy Savings Program was written by Merkley and co-sponsored by Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind. It allows rural energy co-ops to receive low-cost loans from the Rural Utilities Service to support energy efficiency retrofits. Similar to the Clean Energy Works Oregon program, the loans can be repaid by leveraging shrinking energy bills.
If you are commenting using a Facebook account, your profile information may be displayed with your comment depending on your privacy settings. By leaving the 'Post to Facebook' box selected, your comment will be published to your Facebook profile in addition to the space below.