As House and Senate leaders introduced a public lands agreement that will be swiftly moved through Congress in the coming days, U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Hood River) has secured inclusion of a bill into a public lands agreement to boost economic opportunities in Hermiston and allow important agriculture research to continue.
The Hermiston Reversionary Lands Act (H.R. 3366) would place the 290 acres of land currently home to Oregon State University’s Hermiston Agriculture Research and Experiment Center (HAREC) fully under local control. The bill allows important research to continue and provides flexibility for future economic development in the area.
“This common-sense plan is a win for jobs and farming in eastern Oregon’s fastest growing community and the Columbia Basin’s strong agriculture economy as a whole,” Walden said. “By repealing an antiquated federal rule, this bill provides an opportunity to grow Hermiston’s economy while allowing the flexibility needed for valuable, local agriculture research to continue. That’s why I worked hard to include it in this agreement, and am pleased to see it is on its way to becoming law.”
Walden’s bill passed the House unanimously as a stand-alone bill in May, but the Senate has not held a vote on it. Inclusion in this larger legislative agreement paves the way for it to be passed into law this month.
In 1954, the 290 acres near Hermiston was conveyed by the federal government to the State of Oregon for the creation of an agricultural experiment station. However, the federal government still holds mineral and reversionary interest in the property. Should any portion of the current research station property no longer be used for agricultural research purposes, the property would return to federal ownership.
Walden called the clause antiquated and said it creates management challenges for the station and denies the flexibility needed for OSU to generate revenue from portions unsuited for agriculture research. Walden said it denies the university the ability to sell the property and relocate the station out beyond city limits to an area better located for agriculture research as needed in the future.
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