Oregon farmers and ranchers set to get $ 100 million in new state support
If lawmakers approve the funding, the money will help rural areas of the state, but they likely won’t see the money for at least two months.
Oregon lawmakers meeting on Monday, December 13 are expected to give additional relief to farmers and ranchers. (The Company / File)
SALEM – Oregon lawmakers will consider a nearly $ 100 million disaster relief program on Monday to help Oregon’s farmers, ranchers and irrigation districts recover from two years of forest fires, ice, excessive heat and drought.
The Oregon Legislature is meeting in what is expected to be a one-day session originally scheduled to consider increasing rent relief.
But Gov. Kate Brown and Senate Republicans struck a late deal to shift aid to the state’s agriculture industry. The package includes:
• $ 40 million for forgivable loans for producers and irrigators.
• $ 12 million to the Klamath Basin for wells, irrigation and drought relief.
• $ 10 million for farm workers who missed their jobs because of extreme heat or smoke.
• $ 9.8 for irrigation districts to offset costs.
• $ 9.7 million for drought relief for the Klamath tribes;
• $ 6 million for deeper wells and in-water transportation costs.
• $ 5 million for the eradication of crickets and grasshoppers.
State Senator Lynn Findley, R-Vale, who represents the counties of Malheur, Harney, Grant, Baker, Wheeler and Jefferson, said he was alerted by farmers and ranchers in his district last spring that they were facing economic hardship caused by forest fires, pandemic and drought.
“They were stressed enough that they wouldn’t be able to remain economically viable, both the irrigation districts and the farmers associated with it,” Findley told the Capital Chronicle.
In June, a dome of heat hit Oregon, wiping out berry and cherry crops and causing massive damage to Christmas trees and seed growers. In early July, Findley began pushing the governor’s office to a meeting of the Legislative Emergency Council, which had $ 150 million available for disaster relief.
Farm, cattle and water groups also weighed in, calling for help across the state.
In October, nearly 20 advocates and associations such as the Oregon Farm Bureau, the Association of Oregon Counties, the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, the Oregon Association of Nurseries and the Oregon Water Resources Congress appealed to Senate leaders and House and Emergency Council members for relief.
“For family farms and ranches in Oregon to recover for the next growing season, the legislature must act now to provide assistance where federal programs fail,” the group’s letter said. “The Oregon farming community has endured multiple ‘once in a generation’ challenges over the past year, which are individually difficult but, cumulatively, are threatening.
Findley agreed the need is urgent. Producers in his district received only about a quarter of their irrigation water allocation this year, and supplies were cut off in August. At the same time, producers have seen the cost of equipment and fertilizers triple or more. “It will help them because they haven’t, they haven’t had a lot of paychecks this year,” Findley said. “They have coal in their socks instead of money.”
House Republicans have said they also support agricultural aid, although they want the package approved by the Emergency Council. Rep. David Brock Smith, R-Port Orford and leader of the House Republican caucus, lambasted Brown and legislative leaders for holding Monday’s special session.
“Extending the moratorium on evictions is unnecessary and disruptive,” Brock Smith said in a statement Friday. “Unlike the governor’s recent maskless escapades in the East, she is currently asking her agencies to write rules on permanent masks. Oregonians are ready to move on, get back to work and grow our economies. “
Andrew Fromm, the spokesperson for the Republican House caucus, said Democratic leaders did not invite Brock Smith to the special session negotiations, which Democrats deny.
Negotiations began in October. Initially, the farmers and ranchers associations asked for $ 50 million and Findley asked for $ 17.7 million for Jefferson County. Amounts continued to be “rounded up,” Findley said.
He ultimately landed $ 15.5 million for Jefferson County
Aside from the conflict over the special session, negotiations over the drought relief plan have not been bitter, Findley said.
“It was a statewide effort,” Findley said. “It was bipartisan. Everyone sat down around the table and agreed.
If the money is approved, however, it will not quickly reach producers and irrigators.
If the package is approved at Monday’s special session, it goes to the governor’s office. She has 30 days to sign it. Then rules must be written.
“It’s not a quick process,” Findley said. “It could take 60 or 90 days before the money can be deployed.”
This is another reason why it needs to be approved now, he said.
“It should have been done 60 days ago,” Findley said.
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