Microchips or microgreens? Oregon tweaks farm protection law

Salem, Ore.: Oregon is changing a half-century-old land-use law to make room for semiconductor development and gain an edge in attracting the multi-billion-dollar industry, upsetting farmers who see their livelihoods at risk.

Lawmakers backing a bill that also provides about $200 million in grants to chipmakers said it’s needed to make Oregon more competitive in luring more of the multibillion-dollar semiconductor industry to the state. Other lawmakers argued that the measure is an attack on the nation’s first statewide policy — created a half-century ago — that limits urban sprawl and protects farmland and forests.

“These regulations have resulted in 50 years of success protecting our farm and forest lands, containing urban sprawl, and protecting natural resources,” said Republican state Rep. Anna Scharf. “Senate Bill 4 throws that out the window.”

The bill, which the state Senate approved last week and the House passed on a 44-10 vote Thursday, allows Democratic Gov. Tina Kotek to designate up to eight sites for urban growth boundary expansion — two that exceed 500 acres (202 hectares) and six smaller sites. The Oregon Farm Bureau was among the groups that opposed the bill.

“There is some extremely valuable farmland in the area that produces Oregonians’ food and provides those families and those employees jobs,” Scharf said. “Farmland, once it is paved over, can never be reclaimed.”

Image courtesy of (Image: KPTV)

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