In Malheur County, a win-win-win for farmers, economy, & environment?

1000 Friends Staff
Tue, 10/30/2018 (All day)

At 1000 Friends of Oregon, we know that agriculture is critical to our future and that farmland is protected for good reason: farmers are pillars of our economy. That is especially true in Malheur County, where agriculture, coupled with other natural resource work like forestry, fishing, and hunting supply over 15 percent of jobs - the largest of any industry category in the County.

Artist rendering of Nyssa Rail Reload Facility Courtesy of Malheur County Economic Development.

When the legislature passed the transportation package (HB 2017) last year, it included funding for two “Reload” facilities that will support the local agricultural economy. These truck-to-rail facilities allow farmers to deliver their products to market much more quickly while saving costs. Thanks to the leadership of Senator Bentz (then Representative), the Reload facilities can result in thousands of trucks being taken off of Oregon roads, while supporting more efficient agricultural shipping. This supports Oregon’s environmental goals while saving shipping costs, giving farm families a needed boost to their bottom line.

The Treasure Valley Reload Center is a $24 million-dollar investment and will require an urban growth boundary expansion in Nyssa to fit the rail spur, supporting infrastructure, and room for value added industries to develop next to the site.

Given the potential benefits of this project, and the challenges of siting it, 1000 Friends assigned Urban Circuit Rider Alexis Biddle to review the proposal. 1000 Friends is motivated to support the region and help navigate through the land use and the permitting process to ensure that the benefits of the Treasure Valley Reload Center are delivered as soon as possible.  

As with all urban growth boundary expansions, we wanted to be sure that the land use system keeps doing what it does best: protecting the highest value farmland while accommodating a community’s growth needs responsibly. Because this project is being sited on prime farmland, we closely monitored the analysis that went into determining the needed acres for an urban growth boundary expansion. We are encouraged by local staff’s work to improve the proposal, and hope that this project continues to move in a positive direction. We believe this can be a win-win-win for Malheur County economic development, the farm families of this region, and the conservation of farmland.

We see local planning staff taking time to develop findings that adequately support the Treasure Valley Reload Center and providing a platform for the community to engage and be part of the site design and development process. In our comment letter, Alexis shared that we are always excited to be part of a project that strengthens the local economy while directly supporting so many farm families, minimizing the conversion of farmland, and removing trucks from the road to reduce our state’s Co2 emissions. The Legislature is making a valuable investment in rural Oregon and we are pleased to support this visionary project as it moves through the land use process. We look forward to working with Senator Bentz, Representative Findley and other leaders from Eastern Oregon to champion other win-win-wins that supports the rural economy and meets the needs of ranchers, farmers, and foresters.