Oregon Ag Heritage Program Lobby Day

Nellie McAdams
Wed, 06/28/2017 - 12:00pm

On Thursday, June 21 several of Oregon’s top agriculture and environmental organizations were joined by 38 Oregonians and advocates to lobby Oregon legislators to pass HB 3249, the Oregon Agricultural Heritage Fund (OAHP) which would would help Oregon farmers and ranchers plan for succession and maintain agricultural land for future generations. It includes funding for permanent working lands easements, temporary covenants, and conservation management plans, as well as succession trainings and a tax study.

Chief sponsors of the bill, Representatives Brad Witt (D-Clatskanie), Knute Buehler (R-Bend) and Brian Clem (D-Salem) each spoke in support of the legislation noting the major potential economic and environmental impacts the loss of Oregon’s agricultural land would have on the state’s economy.

“Agriculture is our state’s second largest economic driver, from the coast to the Wallowas, our farmers are some of the nation’s best,” said Representative Witt. “We should be doing everything within our means to ensure the future economic vitality of our rural regions and the vibrant wildlife for which Oregon is so naturally known.”

HB 3249 was introduced by Representative Clem, Chair of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee passed out of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, and was referred to Ways & Means.

“The impetus for creating this fund is Oregon’s aging farmer population,” said Representative Buehler. “The average age of an Oregon farmer is almost 60, older than it has even been, and two-thirds of the state’s agricultural land is set to change hands in the next 20 years, it begs the question of where that land will end up.”

A diverse coalition of agricultural and conservation organizations met for over a year to develop a legislative package that would address farm and ranch succession and land preservation and create positive, lasting benefits to both the economy and environment.

Information tables were set up in the capitol building, highlighting the many ways Oregon's agricultural work supports our economy and our people. 

The Governor’s office convened the work group, which consisted of: the Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts, the Oregon Association of Conservation Districts, the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, the Oregon Farm Bureau, the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, Sustainable Northwest, The Nature Conservancy, and one farmer and one rancher representative.

The bill has been referred to the Ways & Means Subcommittee on Natural Resources and advocates are working tirelessly to pass this important piece of legislation.  “This cannot wait another session,” said work group member Nellie McAdams of Oregon Association of Conservation Districts.  “In the next two years, countless acres of agricultural land will be changing hands without a succession plan and, if programs are not in place, much of it might pass out of farmer ownership and eventually become fragmented, developed or permanently removed from the agricultural land base that supports the state’s second largest economic driver.”

To learn more about HB 3249 Contact any OAHP work group member with questions.