You probably didn’t know it, but it’s against the law in Oregon to haul around more than 20 bales of hay unless you have paperwork that proves you own it. Break that law and you could be charged with a misdemeanor and spend up to 30 days in jail.
Now, Oregon lawmakers are considering whether to wipe the decades-old law off the books. The Oregon Senate’s Judiciary Committee could vote as soon as Tuesday to advance a measure that would do that.
At a hearing earlier this month, Jonathon Sandau of the Oregon Farm Bureau testified in support of the bill. He said the law it would repeal dates back to the early 1970’s, when hay bale theft was apparently a thing. Back then, bales were smaller and lighter, said Sandau. “You could easily drive a light-duty truck into a farmer’s field, lift more than 20 of them, and away you go.”
Now, Sandau says the regulation is no longer needed, as most large-scale farms use hay bales that weigh a ton or more. He says those are really hard to make off with in the dead of night. Sandau pointed out that if the measure passes, it would still be a crime to actually steal hay. But otherwise law-abiding farmers wouldn’t have to carry paperwork to prove they own the hay in the back of their truck.
The legislation is 40 years overdue for one eastern Oregon lawmaker. Rep. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, said he was pulled over near his Malheur County farm in the mid 1970’s. He said he had about 30 bales of hay in the back of his truck. “That was a day’s worth of feed,” he said.
Findley said he was “very surprised” when a state trooper grilled him along the side of the road as to whether he had come by the hay lawfully. Despite Findley’s insistence that he had purchased the hay from another farmer down the road, the officer cited him anyway and told him he’d have to make his case before a local judge.
Findley says he did just that, and the judge “ripped up the ticket” and dismissed the case. “It’s a bad law,” said Findley, who supports the efforts to wipe it off the books.