Local Community Rights Efforts Undeterred: A Response to the Passage of SB 863

Oregon Community Rights Network

October 4, 2013

CONTACT: Kai Huschke
oregoncrn AT gmail.com

Paul Cienfuegos
paul AT 100fires.com

On October 2nd the Oregon State Legislature voted to adopt SB 863, which imposes state preemption on local regulation of agriculture. SB 863 specifically says that, “exclusive regulatory power over agricultural seed, flower seed, nursery seed and vegetable seed and products of agricultural seed, flower seed, nursery seed and vegetable seed [will be reserved] to the state.” It becomes law when signed by Governor Kitzhaber. The full language of SB 863 can be found here.

The sole purpose of SB 863 is to eliminate local control over seed, including genetically modified seed (GMOs). This new preemptive law was not adopted to protect local communities but has been enacted to protect the interests of corporate industrial agriculture against local decision-making with regard to farm and food systems.

A version of SB 863 (known as SB 633) was first introduced in the Oregon Legislature’s 2013 Regular Session in direct response to a duly qualified initiative to ban GMOs in Jackson County and efforts underway in Benton and Lane County to protect the right to a local food system. Besides protecting a right to seed heritage and the ecosystems required for sustainable agriculture , the initiatives in Benton and Lane County also prohibit corporate and governmental entities from engaging with GMOs.

“From where we stand, SB 863 doesn’t change a thing,” says Michelle Holman, member of Support Local Food Rights of Lane County and the Oregon Community Rights Network. “We are more committed than ever to bring the right to a local food system ordinance out to the people of Lane County. This action by the legislature just makes it crystal clear that our system of governance isn’t for the people, but exists to protect big corporations by undermining community rights.”

Support Local Food Rights of Lane County recently received the go ahead from the County Clerk that their initiative met the review requirements. The next step in the process will be the issuing of a ballot title before signature gathering can begin. The Benton County Community Rights Coalition is looking to refile its local food system ordinance by mid-October.

The Oregon Community Rights Network was launched on September 12th on the foundation of the Corvallis Declaration of Community Rights. The declaration calls upon communities across the state to join together in a movement to elevate the rights of people, their communities, and nature above the claimed rights of corporations. This comes with an understanding, as stated in the Declaration, that:

“We the people recognize that our health, safety, welfare, and survival of our local businesses, farms, ecosystems, and neighborhoods depend on restructuring the current system of governance, because it favors corporations over community-based, democratic decision-making …”

Corvallis Declaration

The formation of the Oregon Community Rights Network comes out of ongoing and emerging community rights campaigns in eight counties in Western Oregon, including Benton, Lane, and Josephine. In Josephine County their community rights effort is about protecting the right to clean air, water, and soil from toxic pesticide use.

More information on the active community rights efforts can be found at the following links:

Benton Community Rights Coalition: BentonCCRC.org

Support Local Food Rights: localfoodrights.com

Freedom from Pesticides Alliance: freedomfrompesticidesalliance.org

The Oregon Community Rights Network receives assistance from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund and Paul Cienfuegos. CELDF, headquartered in Mercersburg, PA, has been working with people and communities across the United States and internationally since 1995 to assert fundamental rights to democratic local self-governance, recognize nature’s rights, and end destructive corporate actions aided and abetted by state and federal governments. Paul Cienfuegos is a longtime community rights organizer based out of Portland, Oregon.

CELDF: celdf.org

Paul Cienfuegos: paulcienfuegos.com

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