State of Oregon Agriculture Report: Protecting Farmland Is High Priority

The Oregon State Board of Agriculture has released its 2013 Oregon State of Agriculture report, a biennial assessment of the opportunities and challenges facing Oregon's second-largest industry. Among its key recommendations: don’t fall back on our duty to protect farmland.

"The board’s report is an honest, unvarnished look that avoids sugar coating the outlook for Oregon agriculture," says the Department of Agriculture in a news release. The report is intended as a priority-setting document for legislators and other lawmakers.

The news release quotes Board of Agriculture Chair Doug Krahmer, a blueberry farmer from St. Pau: “The reason we put this report together is to primarily educate our legislators on what is important to agriculture. ... In some cases, the report reviews good things that have been done and in other cases, we are bringing up some things that potentially might not be so good.”

Indeed, Oregon agriculture faces many challenges, explored in depth by the Board in its report. Although there is much to be proud of, Oregon farms still lag behind neighboring states in some areas, expenses are growing, and there is more to do to foster new farmers and connections between Oregon farms and consumers-- in Oregon and around the world.

The Board's report speaks with a clear voice on the issue of land use planning. Citing the slower pace of farmland loss in Oregon despite significant population growth, the report praises Oregon's land use program with protecting the lands that the industry depends on.

Still, loss of farmland for new housing (suburban and rural residential) and other uses remains a major concern. The nibbling away at farmland is an issue even around smaller communities, the Board notes, and it is of statewide concern: "[W]e need to make sure we are looking at cumulative impacts so that we don't eat away valuable farmland little by little, even farmland that seems less suitable." (The Board notes that most of Oregon's huge vineyard growth in recent decades has been located on lower-quality soils.)

The Board also advises a cautious approach to increasing numbers of events on farms and a growth in rural tourism. "These conditions may put pressure on neighboring agriculture operations, leading to conflicts about enforcement of local and state codes," the report states. 

Finally, the Board calls for a wide range of strategies to help new farmers succeed, including training and apprentice programs, farm incubators, direct-marketing opportunities like and Community Supported Agriculture programs (CSAs), and supporting the OSU Small Farms program. (1000 Friends will participate in the OSU Small Farms Conference this March. Details here.)

Most significantly for the work we do at 1000 Friends of Oregon, the Board of Agriculture urges Oregon's lawmakers to maintain constant vigilance and consistent support for the land use planning program’s farmland protections. In the coming legislative session and in our work all around the state, 1000 Friends will be working with policy makers to ensure that this advice is heeded.


From Field to Fork: A Brief Guide to Agriculture in Oregon from 1000 Friends of Oregon on Vimeo.

Many thanks to volunteer Joseph Webb of BLL Studios for creating this animation.