burning returns to Oregon legislative agenda
(AP) - It wouldn't be a legislative session without a debate over
Hearings begin this week on a pair of bills that would either ban
the practice immediately or over a three-year period.
Willamette Valley farmers have long burned away grass seed stubble
to kill off weeds and pests. The practice, growers say, has helped
Oregon become the world's largest producer of grass seed. The
state supplies nearly 50 percent of the seed that's used to grow
grass on soccer fields, golf courses and lawns around the globe.
But the burning fills the air with smoke, prompting hundreds of
complaints each summer, many from asthma sufferers.
House Bill 2183, from Gov. Ted Kulongoski, calls for a reduction
in the amount of acres that can be burned next year. In 2011,
burning would be banned.
Senate Bill 528 calls for an immediate ban on field burning. Rep.
Paul Holvey, D-Eugene, said he wrote the bill because a phased-in
elimination of the practice is unnecessary and dangerous to public
His view is shared by state Sen. Floyd Prozanski, a fellow Eugene
"There's no justification for it to be phased out in another three
years," Prozanski said.
Grass seed growers say a severe recession is not the time to pass
legislation that would hurt their industry. Roger Beyer, executive
secretary for the Oregon Seed Council, said an outright ban would
lead to less profit for farmers and lower tax revenues for the
Field burning has been a divisive issue for decades, most
dramatically in 1988, when the smoke caused a 23-car pileup on
Interstate 5 near Albany, killing seven people. The 1991
Legislature responded by capping the amount the acres that could
Holvey sponsored a bill to ban the practice two years ago, but
vociferous opposition from farmers helped stop it. With Democrats
now in firm control of both legislative chambers, speculation has
grown that this could be the year when a ban passes.
The Associated Press