Priority policy recommendations to the legislature, governor, and regulatory agencies
- Ensure access to irrigation water (statewide).
- Expand markets and increase sales locally, regionally, and internationally.
- Support truck transportation, but begin to maximize rail use, and barging and other water modes, to move product to market more efficiently.
- Provide relief from the high cost of inputs, including taxes, energy, and labor.
- Encourage management of natural resources in a way that enables farming while protecting water, soil, air, habitat, and endangered species.
- Support a land use system that protects farmland for farm use.
- Support high quality research and experiment and extension services that enable growers to diversify cropping and capitalize on unique geographic micro-climates and soils, and to remain competitive in a world market.
- Offer assistance for food processors—as key markets for growers—with technical and financial help to address wastewater permits that incorporate recycled, reclaimed, or reused water methods and technologies.
- Help growers meet new food safety standards that are becoming more stringent and costly.
- Help young or new farmers and transitional family farmers successfully become the next generation of aspiring producers.
Creating vibrant, competitive, healthy, and sustainable farms and ranches in Oregon
This report evaluates comparative agriculture data between Oregon and three other western states: Washington, Idaho, and California.
Farm income (gross and net) is arguably the key measure of farm success and viability. Without adequate profit, many farms must rely on outside income, government support, or borrow more than they can repay. This hampers their ability to hire and pay employees, invest in natural resources management, or continue as a business and community member in the long term.
- The bad news: Oregon agriculture lags behind our three neighboring states in many key areas.
- The good news: Oregon policymakers can take positive actions to help us catch up.
By the numbers
How does Oregon compare, and what can be done to help Oregon’s farmers and ranchers?
- While Oregon has roughly the same number of farms as Washington, and slightly more than Idaho (and more land in farm use than both states), average sales per farm are half of these two states, and one-fifth that of California farms. Further, Oregon has fewer farms with sales over $100,000 and more farms with sales less than $10,000 than neighboring states. Oregon growers need more help expanding their sales in a variety of markets.
- Growing food and fiber requires water. Oregon agriculture uses a smaller portion of available Columbia River water than Washington or Idaho. Oregon agriculture needs an assured, growing supply of water to create economic progress. The State of Oregon needs to support Oregon’s Integrated Water Resources Strategy currently under coordination by the Oregon Water Resources Department, placing an emphasis on capture and storage with creative delivery systems and efficient technologies. This includes working with the State of Washington for stored water to be delivered via the Columbia River to expand irrigated production in the Columbia Basin. Expanding the water “pie” for agriculture and other uses can enable more productive ground to be cultivated and create economic stimulus and jobs.
- Oregon’s agricultural sales have continued a long upward trajectory, but expenses are climbing faster than income, and recent market volatility has taken a toll. Compared to neighboring states, Oregon’s average net farm income is lower, fewer farms have positive net income, and the average income for those farms that are positive is less than in the other states. Oregon growers need assistance in stabilizing costs of production, including energy components, taxes, and a legal workforce.
- Farmers in all four states are engaged in a variety of programs (local, state, and federal) to address soil conservation, water quality, and wildlife. The three most significant challenges that loom:
- Threatened and Endangered (T&E) Species listings and habitat designations.
- Invasive species (plants, pests, and diseases) with their threat to natural, agricultural, forest, and urban landscapes and environments, as well as animals—both livestock and pets.
- Miles of streams or area of water bodies designated as “water quality impaired” by EPA or the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. Such listings prompt the need for Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs, or allowed impairment levels), which influence agricultural management and activities.
Oregon growers need technical assistance and financial support to address these imperatives.
- Population growth and expanding urban areas, along with rural non-farm uses, create challenges for agriculture to operate and maintain an adequate supply of land for commercial production without nuisance complaints and other public pressures against common agriculture conditions (noise, dust, smell, etc.). Some growers in various areas of the state favor more flexible land use laws. While limited flexibility is being examined, on the whole, farmers need certainty around land use laws that minimize speculative pressures on farmland prices and limit non-farm conflicting uses.
- Traded sector agriculture (exports) brings new dollars into Oregon. Not all production can be consumed locally. In fact, 80 percent of Oregon’s agricultural products are shipped out of state. For long-haul shipping, water movement (barge or ship) is the least cost per mile of any mode. Oregon’s ports and shipping lanes, along with container availability, are a priority need for agriculture and all other products moving out of Oregon. While Oregon is larger than Washington, it has fewer rail miles and short lines. Rail is the next most efficient mode of shipping after barging. Food processing and other businesses should be encouraged to locate around port and rail nodes to enable competiveness in moving product out of state. The State of Oregon needs to negotiate short-line rail and railcar capacity measures, including piggyback refrigerated units, to retain cost-competitive options for Oregon growers. Air capacity is also important for high-value export products such as blueberries, seafood, and nursery crops.
- Long-term competitiveness is driven by productivity gains coming from research that develops new seed varieties, technologies, management systems, and knowledge of plant and animal pests and diseases. Oregon’s statewide agriculture research stations and Extension programs have suffered catastrophic staff reductions of 25 percent over the past decade, threatening the R&D pipeline that underlies Oregon’s economic competitiveness. A robust Research and Extension program at Oregon State University and other schools to support agriculture is key to the future, including training future employees and leaders in all related fields of biosciences. It’s also important for students to know that there are a wide spectrum of jobs in high demand in agriculture and food-related fields.
- Oregon farmers are aging, and a new generation of growers is on the scene—many of them small-scale producers. Oregon leads Idaho and Washington in the number of farmers’ markets and sales derived from direct-to-consumer or establishments. But more outlets are needed to
help these small farms generate higher sales. Successful transition between generations will also require further work on estate taxes. Additionally, fundamental information about agriculture is nearly missing from our schools, where an understanding of farming and food begins. Policy makers can support beginning and small farms in Oregon through:
- Supporting Agriculture in the Classroom program (http://aitc.oregonstate.edu).
- Supporting high school FFA and other technical training programs that can prepare interested students in applied learning and career development related to agriculture and natural resources.
- Exploring creation of an “apprentice” certification for new farmers in Oregon.
- Supporting farm incubator programs.
- Supporting OSU Small Farms Program.
- Supporting food-hub.org and other online marketing outlets for growers.
- Supporting farmers’ markets, farm stands, Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs), and other local venues to expand outlets for small operations.
- Making business planning more readily available to new farm start-ups.
- Eliminating the estate tax for farmland transfers to family or new/beginning farmers.
- Helping solve the transportation puzzle for small farms to get product to customers.
How growers and food processors adapt to new production safeguards and testing measures from the federal Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) will prove crucial—not only to maintain the reputation of a product in the market, but also to remain competitive financially despite additional costs to meet these increased standards. Growers will need technical assistance, development of best management practices, and possibly financial help to meet these challenges.
see the entire report here: http://www.oregon.gov/ODA/pages/pub_bd_rpt.aspx