As The State Turns…

oregonImpending Farm Bill Doom?
The looming, contentious piece of legislature known commonly as the ‘Farm Bill” passed last week in the U.S. House, and is poised to have far reaching effects here in Oregon. Heading to the Senate next, over what seems to be smooth waters, state leaders and concerned parties alike are assessing what the end result might actually be.

Amongst other contents of what at least one conservative blogger has called a “pork-filled crapburger,” the bill itself contains a yearlong extension of a system designed to pay counties for federal land that would otherwise be collecting taxes. Oregon counties saw that number alone as $15 million in 2013. Perhaps the most local-eyebrow-raising aspect of the bill, however, is the $8 billion that would be cut over a decade from the SNAP food stamp program. Although this cut is only roughly one percent, the Oregon Food Bank has stated that this will impact a program designed to align SNAP with energy assistance for low income households. Because Oregon is just one of fifteen states utilizing the program, it is likely to be greatly affected, with around 78,000 households experiencing a cut of $58 a month on average.

Whatever the results, this is just the tip of the iceberg. It would behoove all citizens to take a closer look at this bill. If all goes to hell, you should contact Oregon representatives Suzanne Bonamici, Greg Walden and Kurt Schrader, who voted ‘yes’ on it.

Peter Defazio and Earl Blumenauer voted against it.

Gypsy Moths Cause a Stir
In 2013, two gypsy moths fluttered into a Grants Pass glue trap set by the State Department of Agriculture and the Oregon Invasive Species Council. What started as a romantic getaway wound up a nightmare as these two star-crossed bugs were lured to their death by pheromones designed to make them believe that some hot action was in store.

While two moths may not sound like a big deal, state and federal agencies feel differently. Back in the 1980’s almost 20,000 of these critters were trapped in Lane County alone – a number which had been reduced to zero in 2011 and just one in 2012. That’s statewide. Because the gypsy moth, which was brought to the US in the mid 19th century, is so adept at eating both hardwood and softwood tree leaves, an out of control population would cause untold damage to the Oregon ecosystem.

How bad could they be? One moth can eat a square foot of leaves every day. So let’s all hope that 2 doesn’t become 10, shall we?

Medical Marijuana Conference a Big Draw
Last week the very first Oregonian medical marijuana business conference took off with the goal of clearing up any confusion regarding medical marijuana dispensaries, laws and to help pot entrepreneurs get started in this new industry.

Clearing the air is a great first step for an industry shrouded in the fog of misunderstanding and misinformation. With how fast this sector is growing and an expected 68% increase over the next year, this initial expansion will stand to show what new opportunities for Oregon will arise, including the potential for supplementary businesses that don’t even grow or handle marijuana.

An instant success, the conference drew people from all around the US and even foreign countries.

New Suicide Prevention Legislation
With a suicide rate that’s 25% higher than the national average, it’s no secret that Oregon has a serious and chronic problem when it comes to suicide, especially in youth. In Benton County alone, 24% of all deaths in the 15-24 years age bracket are caused by suicide. In a new attempt to stem the tide, Sara Gelser has unveiled new proposed legislation that would serve to drive suicide numbers down by way of an emphasis on research and development regarding prevention, in addition to repositioning resources and creating a position that will be completely dedicated to the cause.

While it is far too early to tell if this will have an immediate impact or manifest as just more bureaucratic paper-shuffling like so many other initiatives of its kind, nobody will argue that the cause isn’t worth the effort or risk involved in trying new things.

by Johnny Beaver