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Loss of Oregon farmland slows down, but still a concern

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Oregon continues to lose farmland to development and other uses, but at a much reduced rate:

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Audio 01
New numbers from an inventory of land uses show overall agricultural land decreased by 19,500 acres over a three year period ending in 2010. More than ten times as much land was lost between 1982 and 1987. Jim Johnson with the Oregon Department of Agriculture says the state’s land use laws have been effective, but there is room for improvement:

JOHNSON:  “While overall agricultural land loss– crop land, range land, pasture land– has slowed down very much, the agricultural land that we are losing is really focused on crop land, and within that is focused on prime crop land– the best of the best.”  :13

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Audio 02
Further analysis of the inventory will give a better idea of where the ag land conversion is taking place, but it is probably no secret:

JOHNSON:  “Based on my past experiences and, just in general, being involved in land use in Oregon, what that’s telling me this is occurring because it is prime farm lands in the Willamette Valley, predominantly, where the development is occurring.”  :12

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Some of the lost ag land has been converted to other uses, including the creation of wetlands. But the vast majority of what has been lost over the years is attributed to urban and rural development. And one thing has stayed constant– once farmland is converted and built upon, it never reappears as farmland again. In Salem I’m Bruce Pokarney.

Additional audio: Audio 03
JOHNSON says even though Oregon has lost more than 59,000 acres of crop land between 2007 and 2010, that’s a huge improvement over the 394,000 acres of crop land lost between 1982 and 1987:

“We lost a lot of acres of agricultural land. While we are still losing, that progression has really slowed and you can really kind of see where the statewide planning program kicked in because that’s where the changes started to occur in terms of slowing down the progression.”  :13

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JOHNSON says it appears much of the ag land conversion is taking place in the Willamette Valley due to urban and rural development pressures:

“Our best agricultural land in Oregon is also where our greatest population is. So we have to maybe think a little bit of more about our policies in the state in terms of land use as it relates to the protection of our highest value crop land.”  :14

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