Exploring the Wide Economic Reach of Oregon Agriculture

1000 Friends of Oregon Report Highlights Jobs, Communities, and People in Oregon’s “Agri-Cluster”

PORTLAND, November 26—As Oregonians set their Thanksgiving tables, many will be enjoying grains, vegetables, cranberries, and wine grown right here in Oregon. But the farming industry means much more to Oregon than delicious local food. It is an economic engine for the whole state, supporting over two hundred thousand jobs statewide and sending its products to the far corners of the world.

A new report from 1000 Friends of Oregon highlights these economic impacts and how they support Oregon communities. Entitled Great & Growing: People and Jobs in Oregon’s Agri-Cluster, the report explores the businesses, jobs, and communities that contribute to Oregon’s “agri-cluster,” a group of related industries that help bring farming products from Oregon fields to homes around the world. It also visits several communities directly touched by agriculture: Morrow and Umatilla counties, Malheur County, and Jefferson County.

Among the key findings of the report:

  • Oregon’s agricultural strength extends to all corners of the state, supporting over 200,000 urban and rural jobs across several industries, from processing to shipping to selling. Most of these jobs cannot be outsourced.
  • Although the Willamette Valley is often seen as Oregon’s farming heartland, eastern Oregon counties also populate the state’s list of most productive agriculture counties. In fact, two of Oregon’s top three farm counties are in eastern Oregon. The report visits several of these counties to glimpse the local impacts.
  • Oregon’s agricultural industry, the state’s second-largest, is a traded-sector industry. About 80 percent of Oregon’s farm products leave the state, bringing fresh money into Oregon’s economy.
  • To grow Oregon’s agri-cluster, leaders should do more to protect farmland from incompatible sprawl. The recent Oregon Values & Beliefs survey confirmed this is a priority for a full two-thirds of Oregonians.

“For over four decades, Oregon’s land use program has helped our state lead the nation in protecting farmland,” said 1000 Friends Executive Director Jason Miner. “This report both confirms how prudent a choice that has been, and how important it is that we continue working to protect farmland and the jobs it creates statewide.”

The report is the culmination of a summer of research by Arturo Romo, 1000 Friends’ 2013 Paul Gerhardt, Jr. Intern. Romo, an Illinois native and senior at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, said the experience of learning about Oregon farming has broadened his view of agriculture. “I was born and raised in a big city. Before this project, agriculture was something I drove past on my way to other big cities,” Romo said. “Even in grocery stores, I was nearly oblivious to the fact that my groceries are the product of a complex, far-reaching system that includes farm workers, food processors, and much more.”

The report can be downloaded at 1000 Friends plans to use this report as its advocates at the state and local level for farmland protection and for policies that can further grow the agri-cluster.

About 1000 Friends of Oregon: 1000 Friends of Oregon is a nonprofit charitable organization with offices in Eugene, Grants Pass, and Portland. Founded in 1975, 1000 Friends works with Oregonians to enhance the state’s quality of life by building livable urban and rural communities, protecting family farms and forests, and conserving natural areas.