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Land Use
Without agriculture, there would be no food to eat. This may seem an over-simplistic statement, but all too often our society, through policy choices, legislative actions, zoning, and personal actions, relegates agriculture to second-class status in economic and environmental decision making. The belief that food will continue to appear on the supermarket shelf from somewhere else is a dangerous notion. The world has a limited supply of land with high quality soils on which food can be grown. In less than 25 years, an expanding world population will require 2-3 times the amount of food we are currently able to produce. Due to the increased conversions of farmland to industrial and urban uses, the needed food production must occur on an ever-smaller portion of land.
The Willamette Valley, home to 70% of the state´s population, also contains most of prime farm land in the state (71%). Between 1959 and 1992, Oregon lost over 3.6 million acres (17%) of farmland. The Willamette Valley contributes nearly 50% of the value of the state´s farm sales, about $1.5 billion in 1996-97. Eastern Oregon agricultural output makes up 23% of total agricultural sales; Central and Southern Oregon each account for another 10% of total value; and the coastal counties make up the remaining 6% of agricultural sales.
Strict zoning for preservation of agriculture land is monumentally important in protecting the remaining farmland from conversion. Farmers and ranchers are making major strides in managing farmland resources through new technology and farm practices, such as utilizing cover crops, crop rotation, and low- or no-till planting to reduce soil erosion. But these accomplishments have little value if the land is later paved over to development.
It´s a case of competing interests. People want to live in locations where other people and services are congregated, but those are areas where the best soils exist. The most populous counties are among the most productive agriculture areas; Marion, Clackamas, Linn, Washington, Yamhill, and Lane counties are six of the top nine agriculture counties in Oregon.

Questions & answers
Where is farmland being lost in Oregon?
Of the 89,000 acres of farmlands converted to residential and urban uses between 1982 and 1992, losses occurred in the following locations:
  • Willamette Valley at 66%
  • Central Oregon at 9%
  • Mid-Columbia Basin at 8%
  • South Coast at 7%
  • Other at 10%
How is farmland lost in Oregon?
  • By cities expanding onto agricultural land.
  • By land in agricultural zones being rezoned for development.
  • By a proliferation of nonfarm uses in agricultural zones.
  • By competition from nonfarm uses, urban and suburban uses for infrastructure.

Jim Johnson - Land Use and Water Planning Coordinator - (503) 986-4706