A copy of your letter of support will be delivered to Governor Kitzhaber and Members of the Oregon State Legislature.
As farmers and free citizens, we believe in the right of self-determination in the consideration of legal protections that are deemed necessary and appropriate for the preservation of our individual farms and communities. This concept represents a fundamental principle of local control. It is for this reason that we urge you to support the right of local county elected officials to create appropriate standards for their communities in the state of Oregon in regards to the regulation, oversight, sale, distribution and planting of seed.
Local, economically and ecologically sound community-determined standards are best suited to provide long-term success for family farmers. As such, local elected officials and area famers and communities must maintain the right to decide their choice of seed and agricultural practices that are best suited for their regions as they work to create effective land stewardship and protection of our seed and agricultural heritage.
While we recognize the right of states to pass their own laws as they relate to the issues that affect their citizens, food and agriculture within their respective state, the current bill before the Oregon legislature (SB 633) regarding the regulation of seed affects all farmers throughout the United States, and indeed many farmers around the globe as the majority of beta seeds (chard and beet) originate in the state of Oregon.
The bill SB 633, which was recently attached to the budgetary spending bill for the state of Oregon, takes the regulation, sale and planting of seed out of the hands of local farmers and citizens, where it is best practiced and understood and grants it exclusively to the state, where nefarious lobbying efforts and bureaucratic oversight is ill-equipped to provide wise or appropriate determinations.
We urge you to oppose SB 633 and reject the abolition of local control over seeds and local agricultural production. Currently, Oregon ranks 5th in the U.S. for its number of organic farms, with more than 444 certified operating on over 156,000 acres. The crops grown by organic farms are sensitive to pollen and seed drift from neighboring farms. Therefore, it is of paramount importance to protect farmers’ crops and livelihoods and seed stock by allowing local citizens and farmers to oversee and determine the best agricultural protective solutions where they live, work and farm.
The recent deregulation of genetically engineered sugar beets by USDA has placed organic beta seed farmers’ livelihoods and seed stock at significant risk by reducing the scientifically invalid 4 mile isolation for GE crops to an indefensible, arbitrary and grossly inadequate quarter mile. The new guidelines set forth by the USDA are not enough to protect organic seed from contamination and needlessly threaten the very industry, our organic seed stock and our agricultural heritage.
Organic farmers in Rogue and Willamette Valley have created solutions appropriate and effective to providing community protection in their localities. However, should SB 633 pass in the budget bill, this would remove their ability to protect themselves and their communities from harm.
The effects of GMO contamination are far-reaching through time and distance. GMO contaminated organic seed fails to meet the requirements and expectation of the organic seed market. GMO contamination of organic seed stock will extinguish its value in the market and indeed, has forced organic farmers to plow under and destroy their ruined crops and has already resulted in significant economic loss for Oregon’s family farms.
As has been highlighted recently in the news, farmers from Oregon and Washington have been affected by contamination of their wheat and alfalfa by genetically engineered varieties, which has caused significant harm to their livelihoods, the market and potentially the long term viability of their seed stock. Organic farmers have the right to farm as they choose and they deserve to have protection from this type of unwanted infringement upon their farms and their livelihoods.
It is reasonable and legitimate expectation for local farmers and citizens to establish protections for their locality in order to ensure their survival as viable farms and businesses.
We urge you to oppose SB 633 and stand up for the right of Oregon citizens to determine for themselves the appropriate standards by which to protect their local communities and themselves.