The Oregon Farm Bureau and the Oregon Farm Union are pushing back against a bill that would require farmers to sign a contract that would allow them to be held legally liable for any “injuries or damage” done to their crops.
The bill has been introduced in the House and Senate by state Rep. Kevin de León, D-Portland.
It has received more than 40 co-sponsors, and was introduced on Tuesday by Senate President Peter Courtney.
The Oregon Farm Board has said it has “never received a complaint about a farmer” who has been bullied online, but the state’s farm union says the bill would unfairly apply to farmers who are not farmers.
“It’s a problem that we’ve seen from farmers throughout the state, it’s a real problem,” said Bill Krumholz, the Oregon farm bureau’s president.
“The farmer, he’s the person who’s actually doing the damage, but we’re the ones who are supposed to take it to the court.
And the courts are supposed, for us to be responsible.”
Oregon Farm Bureau Executive Director Matt Purdy says that the bill is “not just another bill for state farmers to take to court, it actually is a dangerous bill for the state to pass.”
He said the farm bureau has “been told numerous times by the farm industry that we need to be ready to sue if the law was enforced.”
Purdy says he has been advised by a number of farmers that the bills is an attempt to “shatter their industry” and to make Oregon farmers “more difficult to work with.”
He says he’s concerned that the farm bill “would be an attack on our industry and our industry’s farmers.”
The Oregon Farmer’s Alliance is one of the biggest farming organizations in the state.
They sent a letter to Courtney and other House members, asking that they oppose the bill.
In it, they say that the legislation is based on “false claims about the farm and agribusiness industry.”
“This bill would make it impossible for Oregon farmers to pursue legal action against the Oregon agriculture industry, and that the Oregon farmer would have no recourse to recover damages for injuries to their farm,” the letter reads.
“It would effectively ban Oregon farmers from being able to protect their crops and their employees, and it would result in greater barriers to growing and harvesting their food, a practice that we believe will undermine the health of Oregon farmers.”
In the letter, the farm union said it was not concerned with the bill’s effects on the farm itself, but was concerned that it would allow for “farmer bullies to become the face of our industry.”
It says it’s working with Oregon state officials and the Department of Agriculture to “help them address the impacts of this legislation and protect Oregon agriculture.”
The farm union’s legal director, Steve O’Neill, told Politico that the Farm Bureau is “working with the [agricultural] board to develop a plan for how we can best respond to this, and protect our members and their families.”
In a statement, Courtney called the bill “a misguided effort to limit the rights of farmers to protect themselves.”
Courtney says he wants to “reinforce the protection of Oregon’s agriculture industry and farmers” and “allow Oregon farmers and farmers’ groups to stand up for themselves.”
He added that “farmers who engage in bullying are no different than any other farmer, they can sue anyone who insults them.”– The Associated Press