Town Hall Schedule
Please join me for my final town hall of the Session, as we discuss the issues facing Oregon's 77th Legislature.
We had great town halls in Halsey, Springfield, Eugene, Creswell, and Marcola. I am so glad to have had the chance to discuss Oregon's future with these communities
We have changed locations for our Coburg Town Hall. The new address is below.
Topic: General Information
Date: Tuesday, June 11th
Time: 6:00 pm-7:00 pm
Location: Coburg Rural Fire District Building
91232 North Coburg Road, Coburg, 97408
Click Here to RSVP
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Helping Families Facing Foreclosure
Since this recession began, middle class Oregonian families have endured tremendous economic hardships. Job losses make it harder to pay the bills, among which often include mortgage payments. In addition to being devastating for families, foreclosures bring down property values, hurting the whole neighborhood. A struggling real estate market means fewer jobs, and lower property tax revenue to pay for schools. We have all seen first hand the wide-ranging effects of our housing crisis.
Senate Bill 558, which passed the Legislature and was signed by the Governor on June 4th, would expand foreclosure mediation programs.
In 2012, the Legislature passed a bill requiring mediation in some cases of foreclosure. Allowing foreclosure mediation means that families have the opportunity to renegotiate their mortgage payments, and hopefully remain in their homes. While this program was a needed step, it only applied to non-judicial foreclosures. Senate Bill 558 expands that coverage to judicial foreclosures. Now, any family facing foreclosure (through judicial or non-judical means) has the right to mediation.
If you want to learn more about the program set up in 2012, click here.
Recently, the US Department of Agriculture announced that an unauthorized strain of genetically-engineered wheat had been discovered in Eastern Oregon. A farmer was spraying his fields with Round Up, when he noticed that a certain segment of his crops were not affected by the spray. Despite several attempts to kill off the crops with Round Up, nothing proved successful. Unsure of why these particular crops had survived, the farmer then sent off crop samples to Oregon State University's lab. An OSU scientist soon discovered that the strain, known as a glyphosate-resistant wheat, was genetically altered to be immune to Round Up. How did this strain wind up in an Eastern Oregon farm? The strain was traced back to trials Monsanto was running to develop genetically-engineered wheat in 2001.
This discovery is important because the production of genetically-altered wheat is illegal in the United States. In fact, it is illegal in every single country in the world. That is why when other countries found out that there could be genetically-engineered wheat coming from U.S. farms, they moved to limit it. Japan temporarily suspended imports of western white wheat (which Oregon grows a great deal of), and both Korea and the European Union decided to test American wheat shipments for more contamination. Since Oregon exports 90% of its wheat, this could spell trouble for our farmers.
Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, threaten not only our farms, but also our health. When companies combine and manipulate genes from different plants, they could be putting dangerous products in our food. We do not know enough about the health effects of GMO-infused food to declare them safe for human consumption. And when genetically-altered seeds or pollen are accidently carried into another field, they can infect neighboring crops and soil, making it impossible for farmers to grow organic crops again. Oregon is seeing a trend where smaller farms are replacing the mega-industrial farms of the past, meaning that local economies are growing, and we have a better idea of where our food is coming from. GMO strains not only threaten neighboring crops, but also threaten local farmers and local economies.
That is why I sponsored four bills to label, limit, or outright ban GMO crop-production in Oregon, and co-sponsored five other bills that would accomplish these same goals. While many of these bills were blocked by special interests, they are worth mentioning because we need to have a conversation about this issue.
I sponsored House Bill 2427, which would ban canola production in the Willamette Valley. The Willamette Valley is an agricultural powerhouse for our state, and produces a large share of the cabbage, broccoli, and radishes for the world. But canola, most of which is genetically-modified, and can easily infect these crops and damage a key component of Oregon's economy. This bill would protect our Willamette Valley farmers, and allow Oregon to keep producing a wide variety of agricultural products. HB 2427 has a fighting chance of passage.
Oregonians in some counties are frustrated by the Legislature's inaction on GMOs, and want to vote to ban GMO products on a county-wide basis. Most likely, they would vote in a public referendum to restrict GMO production within their county. But Senate Bill 633 would put up a hurdle to this process. This bill mandates that only the Legislature could ban GMOs, and that towns and counties are powerless to end its production. I am against this bill. Farmers within each county should be able to have a say about their industry. A small business has the right to defend the farm from GMO contamination, and people within these counties should have the right to vote on such an important policy. Since SB 633 passed the Senate, it is now in the House Committee on Rules. But I will work within that committee to see that it does not pass.
Genetically modified food is too unknown. It may be dangerous to our health. It is dangerous to local farms and non-GMO crops, because GMOs infect neighboring crops and fish. And it is dangerous to local economies, because genetically-altered products give an unfair advantage to mega-corporations, and may be banned from the export markets which we depend on. We are working to make Oregon foods and farms safer. Stay tuned!
I am looking on as Governor Kitzhaber signed House Bill 3296 into law on May 28th. As I mentioned in a previous newsletter, HB 3296 protects student athletes from predatory agent practices. I am joined by Senate President Peter Courtney, Representative Gene Whisnant, and University of Oregon's Director of Football Operations Jeff "Hawk" Hawkins.