State of Oregon Agriculture
|About this report|
agriculture is a dynamic, complex mix of many issues, challenges, and
opportunities facing our farm, ranch, and fishing communities. People and
business rely on a healthy farm sector to sustain the Oregon way of life. As a
representative of this great and diverse enterprise, the State Board of
Agriculture recognizes this report cannot address all issues and developments.
But the board has focused on a list of key factors that it feels are the
highest priorities and essential steps towards a brighter future for Oregon
report should help the reader understand where Oregon is competitive, and where
it is not; what things are going well, and where challenges exist; and what the
Legislature, Governor, Congressional representatives, and Oregon's citizens can
do to help.
that this report fosters a better understanding and appreciation of Oregon
agriculture, and a chance for all Oregonians to join together to address key
dedicated, with the rest of Oregon's agriculture, fishing, and other natural
resources sectors, to demonstrate ingenuity and innovation in solving problems,
to raise the bar in stewardship of natural resources, to produce quality, safe
products, to be transparent and open in our discussions, and deliberate in our
efforts to a better future.
commend Oregon's farmers, ranchers, and fishers for their contributions to our
2013 State of the Agriculture Industry, Board of Agriculture Report
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.
|State Board of Agriculture
The State Board of Agriculture advises the Oregon Department of Agriculture about programs, policies, and issues affecting Oregon agriculture.
Contact: Sherry Kudna, 503-986-4619
Barbara Boyer, McMinnville
Jan Kerns, Haines
Doug Krahmer, St. Paul
Tracey Liskey, Klamath Falls
Laura Masterson, Portland
Jerome Rosa, Gervais
Steve Van Mouwerik, Portland
Lynn Youngbar, Portland
New Board Members in 2012/2013
Pete Brentano, St Paul
Sharon Livingston, Long Creek
OSU Dean of Agricultural Sciences, Dan Arp
ODA Director Katy Coba
State Board of Agriculture subcommittees (2012)
Government relations, Tracy Liskey, Chair
- Biennial Report to the Legislature
- Labor, immigration, and minimum wage
- Tax policies
- Farm Bill program priorities
- Legislative contacts and federal issues
- Governor’s Office liaison
- Wildlife depredation
- Renewable energy issues
Land use, Lynn Youngbar, chair
- Land use policy for agriculture
- Urban growth management policies
- Interim review of land use system
- Agri-tourism use of agricultural lands
- Utility siting and aggregate mining issues for agricultural lands
- Right to Farm laws
- Agriculture in urban environments
Marketing and Food Safety, Steve Van Mouwerik, Chair
- Market development for agricultural products (local, regional, international)
- Transportation and infrastructure, freight movement strategy
- Food processing and agri-business development issues
- Farmers’ markets, direct to consumer, and other local marketing ventures
- Farm-to-School Program
- Phytosanitary issues and international trade barriers
- Food safety programs
- Small farm assistance
- Certification programs
Natural resources, Doug Krahmer, Chair
- Water, air, and soil quality
- Water quantity, availability, irrigation efficiency
- Long-term water strategy
- Invasive species
- Pesticides: crop and animal protectants
- Global Warming Commission
Current Board of Agriculture members
Board of Agriculture member profiles
report evaluates comparative agriculture data between Oregon and three other
western states: Washington, Idaho, and California.
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.
The comparisons in this report establish relative competitive values,
opportunities, and challenges to agricultural viability in Oregon for farmers,
ecosystems, communities, and Oregon’s economy.
In each state, agriculture has experienced ups and downs over time, but
not with the ferocity of recent swings in market prices and economic
Farm income (gross and net)—is arguably the key measure of farm success
and viability, both collectively for all farms and ranches, and individually
for each of them. 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.
Chart 1 captures 26 years of combined output for all farms in Oregon
(billions of dollars). The top, red line in this chart indicates the
steady upward trend of agricultural value of production (nominal yearly values,
not adjusted for inflation). The continual increase demonstrates the
efficiencies, technologies, greater yields, and management experience of
The lower line is net farm income (NFI); this is the value left to the
farmer after expenses are deducted. In other words, the growing chasm between
the two lines is the cost of production—and it is getting larger, representing
more costly inputs of land rent, seed, machinery, fertilizers and chemicals,
fuels, electricity, labor, taxes, regulatory compliance, etc.
Net farm income is what is left to the grower and family for living
expenses and personal use, and to pay the principal on land mortgages. It has
remained relatively flat (in aggregate) over the past three decades except for
a bump from 2003 to 2006. Farmers, on average, have been compensated by
building equity in land, but cash returns from production are lagging behind
Looking at the average individual farm (Chart 2, Census of Agriculture,
2007), Oregon farmers and ranchers receive about $23,400 NFI.Compared to
neighboring states, Oregon lags considerably. In 2007, as a reference,
agriculture was headed into a recession. Fortunately, recent USDA data document
2011 as a banner year. Even while Oregon growers, in aggregate, produced a near
record net farm income overall in 2011, average net income per farm improved
only $3,000 since 2007. Comparatively, Washington growers netted $30,000 more
than in 2007; Idaho growers $45,000 more; and California growers increased net
income in 2011 by more than $100,000 per farm over 2007 levels.
Question: Why are growers in Washington and Idaho attaining net
farm incomes more than double that of Oregon? What about California’s net
income nearly five times higher?
First, let’s define a farm.
USDA designates a farm as any enterprise with $1,000 or more of
agriculture sales in a year (or the potential to do so).
Using this definition, Oregon has nearly 39,000 farms.
Washington has only slightly more farms than Oregon; Idaho some less,
and California, being the largest agricultural state in the nation, has
considerably more farm enterprises. Oregon is comparable to Washington and
Idaho based on number of farms.
The amount of land in agricultural use is also very comparable between
Oregon and Washington, with Idaho trailing. California, again, is dominant, but
helpful as a reference point when viewing the other states.
Oregon’s farmland covers approximately 16.3 million acres. Washington
has 14.8 million; Idaho, 11.4 million. California leads with over 25 million
acres in agriculture production or related use (conservation acreage). The data
help conclude that land available for farm use is not the comparative limiting
factor to NFI for Oregon.
Farm structural differences
The size and structure of farms can influence markets, processing
capacity, access points to wholesale or retail/direct sales, types of crops
grown, how much human labor is used versus mechanical energy, and even the
profitability of the operations.
Because Oregon has the highest percentage of farms with sales less than
$10,000 (Chart 5) of all the comparative states, the average income per farm is
lower. The difference with Washington is small, but noticeable with Idaho,
and striking with California.
On the other end of the spectrum, a small percentage of Oregon farms
(12 percent) have sales of more than $100,000 (Chart 6).
A farm must generate about $250,000 in sales to net enough (NFI) to
support a family, without outside income from another source. Only about 7
percent of Oregon’s farms meet that measure. Most farms have off-farm income to
support the family and provide medical insurance.
Compared to the other states, fewer Oregon farms show a positive net
cash income from their farm operations (Chart 7).
The average net income for Oregon’s 13,400 farms with a positive NFI
was $95,534 (Chart 8). A respectable take-home pay, but note that this is
for the “farm operation,” which could be supporting more than one family, and
it is before repayment of principal on loans for purchase of farmland. And as
shown in the chart, these farms lag significantly behind the neighboring
An average NFI of $23,400 indicates many farms have a negative net
income. Indeed, over 25,000 Oregon farms report red ink NFI of -$15,000 per
Many Oregon farmers, even when they are making a profit, “net” less
than farmers in neighboring states. And for more than 25,000 operations, an
additional $15,000 in sales is needed just to break even.
Question: Why are Oregon farms consistently behind in net farm
income compared to those in the neighboring states? Are Oregon farms selling
less to start with?
Unfortunately, yes. Oregon has the lowest average amount of farm
products sold (sales per farm, Chart 9) of the four comparative states.Washington
and Idaho nearly double Oregon sales, and California farm sales amount to five
times the value of Oregon’s average sales per farm (2007 Census of Agriculture,
Farm structural patterns (including many small farms serving direct
customer markets), state and federal policies, access to irrigation water,
accessibility to markets, and geographic limitations may all help explain these
differences, and point to some opportunities for Oregon. Some of these issues
will be explored in more depth in this report.
To compare in a more precise way, average sales per acre of all
agricultural land (including grazing and dryland) can provide insight into the
type or intensity of production. Again, Oregon farms lag in sales per acre of
land in agricultural use.
Farmland used in crop production returns higher values per acre than
grazed, pastured, or conservation enrolled land. Chart 11 compares each
state’s agricultural output (sales) based on acres that are in cultivated row
crops or harvested (orchards, vineyards, etc.).
Using this comparison, Oregon’s farms appear relatively even with Idaho
and Washington, but still considerably behind California.
The bright side for Oregon is that the beef cattle sector, which is
what dominates the large uncultivated acreage, has seen good market prices in
recent years. Beef cattle in Oregon (604,000) outnumber both Washington
(476,000) and Idaho (274,000), and nearly match California (662,000).
The biggest factors affecting the profitability of this sector include:
high feed costs, high transportation costs to ship cattle out of state for
processing (lack of in-state processing and rending facilities), interfaces
with wildlife (wolves, coyotes, bears, etc., creating depredation), wildfires,
and management issues around water quality and Endangered Species Act listings
that affect access to, timing of use, and ability to graze the large expanses
of private and federal lands in Eastern Oregon.
Chart 12 denotes the percentage of all agricultural lands that are in
crop production, and demonstrates that Oregon agricultural land is less
intensively cropped than Washington and Idaho. This is partly a function
of access to water to grow crops. While California has the same percentage of
all agriculture lands under cropped acreage as Oregon, its land mass is
significantly larger and therefore the acreage base captures the best lands already
Question: What is influencing Oregon farms to be smaller, have
lower sales, be less productive per acre, and end up with lower net farm income
than neighboring states?
Question: What factors or challenges do Oregon farms face that may
differ from those in surrounding states?
Question: Are there regulatory or non-regulatory hurdles that
limit Oregon producers’ profitability?
Question: What are some ways to help farmers generate more jobs?
Question: What are the Oregon advantages that help those farms
with profitable incomes and sustainable operations stay that way?
Question: What policies or initiatives can boost Oregon sales and
net income, per farm and overall?
Question: How can policy makers, state and federal agencies, and
the public help more Oregon farms achieve positive income?
Question: How will Oregon producers fare in an increasingly
competitive international market?
Conclusions and recommendations
In response to the above questions, the following policy actions and
recommendations can make a positive and significant economic difference for
Oregon farms and related businesses. In turn, this can result in more jobs,
increased local foods and agriculture exports, and sustainable natural
resources that protect the open spaces and the vistas we all enjoy.
- Finding creative ways to conserve, capture, and make available more
irrigation water that enables broader cropping ability, yield increase,
certainty for growers and lenders, and creation of jobs and economic
- Creating new local markets for agriculture (including government,
schools, and other institutions), and capitalizing on export potential in Asia,
and supporting alternative income options for growers to expand opportunities
for increased revenue.
- Making investments in transportation infrastructure, including road,
rail, port, and waterways.
- Reducing cost of production through research, tax incentives, energy
inputs, and a stable, legal workforce, with improved mechanization for routine
- Supporting technical and financial programs that help growers face
higher standards and increasing costs to protect natural resources and ensure
- Maintaining a land use system that protects farmland for farm use and
minimizes conflicting uses.
- Supporting a high quality research, experiment, and extension service
that enables growers to diversify cropping and capitalize on unique geographic
micro-climates and soils, and to remain competitive in a world market.
- Assisting 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.
- Helping growers meet new food safety standards that are becoming more
stringent and costly.
- Assisting new/beginning growers in their quest to become next
Oregon and other areas of the US are experiencing a growth of the local
food movement. A growing number of small farms, many owned and/or operated by
young and beginning farmers, serve this market, helping create a potential new
generation of farmers. The Oregon Department of Agriculture supports these
efforts. Oregon’s metro areas embrace direct-from-farm efforts and even encourage
food production within the city with new codes and accommodating regulations.
Farmers’ markets are flourishing, restaurants are clamoring for local food, and
“foodies” are gathering to enjoy the feast. Many people, particularly in urban
areas, are more aware than ever of where their food comes from and express
interest in supporting their local farm community.
However, not all of what is grown in Oregon can be consumed in Oregon.
More than 80 percent of Oregon's agricultural production must find markets
outside of Oregon. This is the basis of trade. Certain types of foods will
always be imported into Oregon (for example, oranges and bananas) because the
soils and climate don’t support them here, whereas what does grow well here in
volumes will be exported to customers who seek to enjoy Oregon’s bounty.
So, Oregon agricultural policies should focus on how the state is
uniquely positioned—geographically, structurally, with diverse products,
utilizing water and agricultural lands to their potential, and thinking
strategically about local and global markets.
The potential of job creation and economic development possibilities
are endless with support for and investment in research and extension; water
development; regional, national, and global market development; a stable land
use policy; and technical and financial support for food safety compliance and
natural resource management.
Policy makers, government agencies at all levels, and consumers have a
role to play in the viability of Oregon’s farms and ranches. Vision,
creativity, and collaboration are the ingredients for success.
We support all segments of agriculture—working together—to address the
monumental challenges of providing the world with safe and nutritious food,
feed, fiber, energy/fuel, and ornamental products; managing resources for
current and future generations; and helping farmers and communities be
prosperous and successful.
|Water: Looking to the Future|
author of the statement, "Whiskey is for drinking and water is for
fighting," probably underestimated how many people would really be
fighting for water and how important it would be to all of them.
sitting on the Oregon Water Resource Strategy Public Advisory Committee for the
past two years, I got to see just how passionate people are about water and the
many different thoughts on how water should be managed and for what purpose.
The agriculture culture changes slowly, and for good reason: time tested
practices work. Our passion is embedded in the past and we are proud of our
history—it is all about family and heritage. But agriculture is also about
adapting. If our forefathers had not been able to learn new ways, none of us
would be here today. Agriculture has changed a lot from the simple hand dug
well, to very efficient sprinkler systems, drip irrigation, and satellite
today’s rising demands on our water supply for all kinds of needs (fishing,
recreation, environmental, municipal, and agriculture), it will be increasingly
important for agriculture to adapt and learn to use the most efficient tools
available, while at the same time making sure we educate the public on what we
are doing and why we are doing it. We have learned to make a living off the
land in the West, tapping Mother Nature for life giving water. We have learned
how to grow crops that feed the ever-growing population; but now we need to learn
to be even better at what we do. This would include getting along with all the
people that have an interest in our life blood, WATER.
grown for food consumption need water. Some areas of the US receive rain during
summer months (Midwest and Southern US), but Oregon does not. One of the key
limiting factors of growth in agriculture productivity is water—it affects what
can be grown, yields, and the amount of carbon that can be sequestered, among
other things. Water for agriculture translates into water for everyone in the
form of food and other agricultural products.
fruits and vegetables grown in the United States, and animal feed for livestock
(non-range grazing), require irrigation because these plants optimally thrive
where summers are warm, the air is dry (reducing molds and fungus), and nights
are cool. In these areas, most moisture accumulates during the winter and is
used during the dry summer months. Some of the moisture is stored as snow in
the mountains, captured in reservoirs, or recharged into aquifers. Even so,
more than 92 percent of precipitation in the Western US region eventually flows
down rivers and streams toward the Pacific Ocean, where it will again evaporate
and seasonally re-deposit moisture as rain or snow in a never-ending hydrologic
cycle. Changes in climatic conditions appear to be affecting frequency and
severity of weather patterns.
Water Resources Department (OWRD) estimates that total surface water output in
Oregon is equivalent to 96 million acre feet each year. An acre-foot is
approximately equivalent to a football field covered with one foot of water.
availability of water for agriculture use is limited in most regions of the
state due to timing of flow, as can be seen in Chart 13 (OWRD).Creative
"capture and storage," as well as efficiency and cutting edge
technology in irrigation is imperative.
uses roughly 6.5 percent of all water that is produced in Oregon in an average
water year. This represents 80 percent of consumptive use for the production of
food and other products for human sustenance. Consumptive use means water that
is used by plants and animals, transpired into the environment, and therefore
not returning to its immediate point of withdrawal. Some of the water remains
in the product itself.
applied to soils can make the difference in how a soil is classified for
agriculture use, and whether a crop can be grown or not. Irrigation can boost
yields two to six times. As world population increases 50-75 percent in the
next two decades, there will be great pressures to expand agricultural output.
Irrigation can help produce more food and agricultural products on a fixed
amount of land, creating more certainty for farmers and consumers, and leaving
more land to wildlife habitat.
of irrigated agricultural land by state has remained relatively flat in Oregon,
Idaho, and Washington over the past decade (Chart 14). All states peaked
in 1997, particularly California. Irrigated acres have declined since due to:
drought in California that resulted in water restrictions; Endangered Species
Act (ESA) listings that have reduced water availability and removed some areas
from cultivation; urban and industrial demand increases (population growth and
land conversion previously discussed), and other use needs.
Washington and Idaho crop more intensively (more of the available agriculture
land is planted in harvested crops), irrigating more of the cropped land will
produce higher yields, leading to more sales value per farm.
California are also irrigating a higher percentage of cropped acres than Oregon
or Washington (Chart 15).
water vary in each state, and may include wells, on-farm ponds or storage,
reclaimed or recycled water, off-site storage, and surface waters such as
rivers and streams.
sources of off-farm water for agriculture are the Army Corp of Engineers and
Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) projects. These are mostly dam projects built
decades ago, primarily for flood control and irrigation. Additional uses for
this stored water have been added over time, including recreation, in-stream
usage (fish/wildlife), economic development, and municipal demand.
example, in-stream water rights in Oregon have grown to about 16 percent of all
surface water flows, compared to the 8 percent diverted or removed from flows
for consumptive use.
each state irrigated by water derived from BOR storage are shown in Chart 16.
lies one reason why Oregon lags in cropped acreage, output per acre, farm
profitability, and other measures. Not only are fewer acres irrigated, but
access to BOR water is significantly less than surrounding states. Increased
supply of BOR water is potentially available on both sides of the
mountains—from the Columbia River flow and the Willamette Valley storage sites.
be discussed later in this report about ESA listings. However, listings can
have a significant impact on available impounded water for irrigation from BOR
reservoirs. For example, although Beulah Reservoir in Malheur County was
developed as a BOR project for irrigation, the ESA listing of the bull trout
pre-empts the use of the full pool for irrigation. The irrigation district and
farmers were obliged to implement changes to irrigation conveyance and
practices, such as piping the water (rather than running it down open canals)
to avoid evaporation and ditch loss; installing lift pumps (and their additional
operational expense) to heft the water from the canal to the mainline delivery
system; and infrastructure for the conversion from flood irrigation to center
pivot and wheel line irrigation. All this was done to offset the bull-trout
needs, resulting in the reduction of available water to agriculture.
many other BOR irrigation reservoirs throughout Oregon where the types of
conservation practices portrayed in Malheur County have already been
implemented. The ESA listing of a fish species will reduce available irrigation
water due to the required habitat reserved pool, with a limited range of
additional water conservation options available to growers who are already
using good water conservation practices. Therefore, not all “available” water
is really available where and when needed. New infrastructure, off-stream
storage, capture and recharge, and other strategies need to be explored—and
soon—to meet increasing environmental limitations and to protect and enhance
the ability of agriculture to produce products and generate jobs and income.
states in these comparisons have some version of an integrated water resources
strategy or policy at varying stages of development and implementation. The
Oregon Water Resources Commission adopted the state's first Integrated Water
Resources Strategy on August 2, 2012. The Strategy provides a blueprint to help
the state better understand and meet its instream and out-of-stream needs,
taking into account water quantity, water quality, and ecosystem needs. The
full text of the Strategy, as well as an executive summary and draft workplan,
are available at:
additional acre irrigated means a higher-value crop can be grown, or yields can
be increased dramatically—the economic impact ripples throughout the economy.
Further, irrigated crops help create “clusters” of certainty around local
production which can bring in processing and associated industries.
water allocated to agriculture must be balanced with other needs. Yet, Oregon
lags in supporting feasibility studies, creativity of water capture and storage
(expanding the pie), aggressiveness in negotiating with BOR on reserved water,
and focusing economic development around an industry that has a significant
footprint in Oregon's economy.
for policy makers
agriculture by recognizing the importance of water and its role for the
viability of agriculture in Oregon’s future. Together we must aggressively
search out and develop additional sources for all uses if Oregon is to remain
competitive while growers adapt to new crops, changing weather patterns, new
technologies, and new markets.
incentives for growers to implement water delivery system improvements,
conversion to more energy-efficient systems.
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 across the state.
the consensus options identified by the Columbia-Umatilla Solutions Task Force
and continue to engage in long-range planning to provide water for irrigators
and others in the Columbia Basin.
negotiations with BOR to deliver more stored water for agriculture in the
Willamette Basin, and move forward on delivery system considerations.
- Explore a
water exchange “bank” as operated by the Idaho Water Resources Board to
facilitate ability to move unused water to other acreage or uses via a
voluntary process. http://tinyurl.com/aefmhmp.
- Support a
Water Quantity Specialist position at the Oregon Department of Agriculture to
help growers with water related issues, to identify and apply for financing of
irrigation projects and efficiency improvements, to assist with regulatory
reviews of water projects, and to advocate for agriculture water in
negotiations with BOR and other entities.
|Expanding Market Access: Transportation|
attention—including that of legislators—is pulled toward health care,
education, and the economy. Transportation runs a distant fourth, and the
lion’s share of that focus is allocated to more visible projects, such as the
Columbia Crossing and light rail.
profound dependence on infrastructure and market access that agriculture
producers and processors have is a hidden one—and one that is carried on
yesterday’s visions and investments.
legislator must find the time and the will to see the hidden harvest and
logistics that enable agriculture to make a strong and steady contribution to
Oregon’s economy, bringing and keeping dollars in our state for our coffers, be
they public or private.
legislator must understand that Oregon agricultural economics and resource
conservation are set to the fast pace of meeting and exceeding national
standards in environmental and conservation performance, while fulfilling a
strongly local sense of place and purpose.
legislator must understand that the production and processing of agricultural
goods is geography-bound like no other human activity, except for perhaps the
increasing urbanization of our human population.
legislator must find a portion of their time to understand and take action on
what we can do to shrink the distance between the farm, the processor, and
their many markets, evaluating the resilience and flexibility of the
transportation and energy infrastructures on which we currently rely. And in so
doing, offer a stronger marriage of the fundamental values of economic and
More than 80 percent of Oregon’s agriculture produce, premier food
products, seeds, and animal feeds leave the state, with half of it going
overseas. Oregonians can’t possibly consume all that is grown here, just as
Oregonians don’t buy every Nike shoe or Intel computer chip simply because they
have a presence here.
Agricultural producers need market access assistance, as well as
processing and transportation infrastructure, to reach domestic and
Expanding local markets is especially important for smaller farms. But
even local markets need processors and efficient transportation.
Oregon’s 23 ports serve as state, national, and international
transportation gateways. They provide recreational, commercial, and economic
services to residents and businesses in Oregon and beyond. Idaho has one
commercial port in Lewiston, as the state is mostly land-bound. Washington has
75 port districts that move products worldwide.
California has 11 commercial ports, but the number of ports belies the
volume of trade—it swamps the other three states combined, many times over.
More than 40 percent of the total containerized cargo entering the United
States arrives at California ports. Almost 30 percent of the nation’s exports
flow through ports in the Golden State.
The largest volume of commodities shipped in, to, from, and through
Oregon moves by truck. One study forecasts truck tonnage to grow from 330
million tons to over 631 million tons by 2030, although this may be moderated
by rising fuel costs. Total Oregon rail commodity tonnage is forecast to
increase from 55 million tons to 100 million tons by 2030. Beginning with a
very small tonnage base, air cargo is forecast to increase the fastest at a
compound average annual rate of 2.6 percent, to 0.7 million tons by 2030.
Waterborne cargo is expected to see growth increasing from 38 million tons in
1997 to 45 million tons by 2030; again, this may be added on as shippers
respond to higher fuel costs. Pipeline transport is expected to see no growth
due to the lack of additional construction or capacity. Table 17 summarizes the
forecast commodity tonnage by mode over the 1997 to 2030 period for Oregon.
(Commodity Flow Forecast, Global Insight, 2005)
Trucks are the most flexible form of transportation for agriculture. A
reliable road and bridge system is critical for movement of commerce and
commuters. However, Oregon’s overall reliance on truck shipment volume is quite
astounding given the barge system on the Columbia and the coastal waterway
available for ocean barging. Each barge carries the equivalent of 134
semi-trucks. The cost per ton of moving product is magnitudes lower on barge;
the usage of fuel is immensely less; and the impact on air quality is also much
While Oregon is larger than Washington, it has fewer rail miles and
fewer short lines. Rail is the next most efficient mode of transportation after
barging. Oregon’s nursery industry is moving more to rail, with an estimated 25
percent of out-of-state sales moving from truck to rail in 2012.
This will require the full intent of the State of Oregon to negotiate
with the two major railways for increasing cars and piggyback reefers, and
cooperating with short lines and intermodal transportation hubs, especially the
ports. More rail cars need to be added to the system. Continued support for
“unit trains” (long hauls with full loads) can be helpful in some projects for
export, but a careful evaluation of Oregon’s railway strategy, using more short
lines, could make it a more attractive transportation mode and reduce truck
traffic for movement of agricultural commodities and other goods.
Air cargo capacity has diminished recently from Portland, forcing
high-value shipments of blueberries, seafood, nursery products, and other goods
to be trucked to Seattle for large cargo capacity plane shipment to Asian
markets. Focusing on creative remedies to this challenge would be helpful to
Oregon’s growers and food processors.
Transportation systems deliver goods to markets. A robust,
well-maintained transportation system is key to economic vitality and links
producers with consumers. It's an investment Oregon cannot afford to overlook.
Recommendations for policy makers
- Negotiate with the two major railways for increasing cars and piggyback
reefers, and cooperating with short lines and intermodal transportation hubs,
especially the ports.
- Give higher priority to barge and port systems, infrastructure
development, and placement of processing, manufacturing, distribution and
commercial development projects near ports.
- For reasons ranging from cost efficiency to reduced air quality impact,
state strategy should emphasize and support rail transportation as an
alternative to reduce truck traffic.
|Expanding Market Access: Food Production|
agriculture’s success is based on the efficient production, marketing, and
distribution of products. Farmers and ranchers growing crops and raising
livestock are at the core of the ag industry. Value is added to the state’s
agricultural commodities through processing all around the state. Food
processing adds more than $2 billion in value to farm products, provides tens
of thousands of jobs, and runs the gamut from large facilities to smaller
ventures like domestic kitchens. Whether agricultural products are simply
washed and sorted, bagged and boxed, or used as an ingredient for further
processing, it all provides an avenue for the growers who need to market the
product. Selling a raw commodity is not the best option for many Oregon growers
these days. Value-added processing puts more money in their pocket.
that food processing is a vital component to a successful Oregon agriculture,
it is important that we take the necessary steps to keep existing processors
viable, help them expand in Oregon, and attract new processors to the state.
Whether it is a small entrepreneur, or a national or international food
processor wanting to be part of Oregon’s value-added processing industry, our
support is critical to their success.
Food processing is a key market access point for many producers; it
represents a place to sell product. The processor aggregates, processes, and
packages food for consumers. Some producers are vertically integrated to
provide these services, but most rely on separate processing businesses. The
number and strength of the food processing sector is a reflection of the
strength of the growers and their farm operations, and the ability of both to
compete in a world market.
The Northwest Food Processing cluster (Oregon, Washington, and Idaho)
represents a diverse group. The extended cluster is a mix of commodity
producers, specialized niche producers, processors, distributors and packagers.
The Oregon cluster includes 197 companies in the food processing sector,
meeting the size requirement of 20 employees or annual sales of $1 million or
more. This cluster does not include retail supermarkets providing final food
preparation or other food-related businesses downstream from the initial food
The extended cluster includes hundreds of companies that provide
supplies and services to food processing firms in the state. Food manufacturing
(processing) companies—bakery, dairy, fruits and vegetables, meat and poultry,
seafood, and snacks—specialize in products of all types: canned, dehydrated,
freeze dried, fresh cut, frozen, juiced, organic, powdered, and pureed. In
addition to food processing, the expanded food cluster includes farm
production, packaging, machinery, transportation, and warehousing.
Concentrations of food processing firms are found in greater Portland, the
Willamette Valley, the Columbia Gorge, the Oregon Coast, and Southern Oregon.
(OR Business Plan,http://tinyurl.com/77lztos).
In addition to the larger processors in Oregon noted above, there are:
- More than 650 licensed domestic kitchens or bakeries in Oregon, many
on-farm enterprises. Most employ fewer than five people.
- Approximately 400 licensed food processors employing between 10-20
Together with the nearly 200 larger firms noted above, this is the most
food processing facilities in Oregon in more than a decade.
- Total average annual employment in food processing is over 22,750.
- Food processing is one of the few industries that added jobs during the
- More than $800 million in annual employee wages are paid in the food
processing sector, with the average annual wage of $33,874.
Food processing occurs in every Oregon county, with Multnomah County
leading the ranks in the number of processors and employees, followed by Marion
and Umatilla counties.
The food processing cluster has these goals or initiatives:
- Implementing 25 percent energy intensity reduction in 10 years.
- Increasing the industry's operation productivity.
- Developing a robust workforce pipeline.
- Developing an industry-wide sustainability process.
- Building an economic distress strategy.
- Collaborating on transportation strategies.
- Exploring international markets for Oregon food products.
Chart 19 details over 31,300 jobs and the $12.4 billion in annual sales
related to food processing in Oregon.
Food is not manufactured, it is processed in facilities
that are the intermediaries between growers and consumers. These businesses are
major employers in metro areas as well as rural areas. Flourishing food
processing and distribution facilities mean more outlets for Oregon's
producers, more jobs in Oregon, and more dollars in our economy.
Recommendations for policy makers
- Help (technical and financial) with wastewater permits, focusing on
recycled, reclaimed, or reused water methods and technologies.
- Leverage the resources of the Food Innovation Center for consumer
product taste tests, labeling requirements, product packaging, and other
- Assist with intermodal and collaborative transportation efforts.
- Establish a market intelligence network that provides entrepreneurs
with ideas that state trade partners (ODA, Business Oregon, Tourism) discover
while in foreign markets. An industry-supported members-only website could host
- Assist (technical and financial) with compliance of new food safety
Labor"—when one hears the term the first thought that comes to mind is
hand labor harvesting crops. Ag labor is so much more than we see on the
surface. Farms are getting more sophisticated than ever before. We have so many
more responsibilities than we have had in the past.
work in our fields is performed mainly by migrant farmworkers. But our
immigration system is broken. We need a stable, legal workforce to perform
these duties. Without them our perishable crops are destroyed.
a federal issue, and it needs a federal fix of our immigration system.
the ever-expanding world, we are always trying to increase yields with fewer
inputs. To accomplish this we need a highly skilled labor force that can
operate tractors and other equipment with new technology.
not forget all the support people in the field of agriculture. One in every
eight workers in the state is involved in agriculture in some way. We work with
multiple vendors, sales people, crop agronomists, processors, inspectors,
Exention agents, and countless other people to provide us with our inputs.
Agriculture is a very important part of our economy. Without it the state
are our greatest asset. Bringing new people into the agricultural workforce is
vital to our future. This includes both next generation and foreign workers if
necessary to get the job done. We encourage Congress to get their job done.
The costs of hiring employees may be viewed as a reflection of the
industry’s ability to support wages at higher levels, or the cost impact of
wages on the sector as a comparative advantage or disadvantage to other
jurisdictions or countries.
As to the first perspective—Oregon’s minimum wage is the second highest
rate in the US, at $8.80 per hour. Oregon growers pay some of the highest
hourly farm wage rates in the nation.
Washington’s $9.04 minimum wage is highest, and ahead of California, at
$8.00. Idaho’s minimum wage rate is set to the federal rate of $7.25 per hour.
It is difficult for most farmers—without a special agreement or
specialty markets—to pass wage increases along to their buyers. The buyer will
simply move to the next grower willing to sell at a lower price.
More than 10,000 Oregon farms hire employees directly, with another
4,700 farms hiring workers through farm labor contractors (2007 Census of
Average annual Oregon farm employment includes at least 45,000 workers,
and as many as 100,000 workers during peak harvest seasons. The average annual
pay for Oregon employees working primarily in crop production (which includes
field work) is $23,252. Wages in Harney and Linn County are near $30,000.
Agricultural worker wages are comparable to and often higher than those
in retail food establishments, clothing stores, social services, leisure and
hospitality industries, textiles, and many other sectors. http://go.usa.gov/gkt5
Minimum wage isn’t the only influence on wages. The specific type of
crop or livestock work dominates the wage structure, as do other factors, like
time of year, seasonality of the work, and employee experience. This data
set (USDA, 2010, Chart 21) indicates that Oregon had the highest average annual
wage rates of the four states and higher than the US average.
The four states in this evaluation invest more in employment and have
higher workforce costs than any other comparable region in the US. In fact, 40
percent of all wages paid in agriculture in the US come from California
(predominant), Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.
To put this in more contrast, Oregon ranks about 26th of all states in
measure of total agricultural sales, but fifth of all states for total wages
paid to its workforce. That is a large investment and competitive damper unless
productivity and/or food prices can outpace the rising cost of labor. In fact,
in an October 2012 USDA survey, Oregon farmers were paying, on average, more
than $13.50/hour to employees.
Wages differ significantly within agricultural sectors (Chart 23). Some
of the variance is explained by seasonality of the job (strawberries vs.
nursery, dairy and livestock, etc.).
The other major concern with workforce is an adequate supply of
trained, able, willing, and legal workers.
Estimates place legal status of farm workers in Oregon and surrounding
states at roughly 30 to 40 percent, indicating that upwards of 60 to 70 percent
do not have legal documentation for residing and working in the US.
Decades of confusing federal policies regarding immigration and worker
programs have resulted in a quandary for agriculture—with few domestic workers
interested in farm work, and the magnitude of labor-intensive produce grown in
the region, what are growers to do? They must accept documents that appear
legal on their face at the risk of lawsuits over discriminatory hiring. New
systems are being developed to check Social Security numbers, but enforcement
of legal status without addressing employment needs through an improved H2-A
temporary worker program or transition to legal status for agricultural workers
already in the US leaves agriculture very vulnerable to economic chaos.
- Farm workers are an integral part of our food system. The vast majority
of farm employers treat their workers well, pay top wages for agricultural
work, and follow state and federal labor laws.
- Oregon’s farm wages are high, partly due to the indexed minimum wage
law in Oregon. This can be viewed as a benefit to employees, but puts a burden
on farm employers who are challenged to pass on the cost.
Recommendations for policy makers
- Send a clear message to Washington, DC that an adequate supply of legal
workers for agriculture is imperative to national security. Food is survival.
Federal policy controls immigration and worker status.
- Be sensitive to the local workforce needs of agricultural employers.
Encourage the US Department of Labor and OR Employment Department to streamline
the H-2A program to enable legal guest-worker availability for sensitive
harvest timing needs.
- Support workforce training to enable workers to progress in skills, pay
scale, and duties.
- Continue to support the Oregon Farm Labor Mediation program operated by
ODA to assist in addressing farm labor disputes.
- Support research in the use of robotics and mechanization to help ease
labor demands for routine work, and support new job creation around technology
- Support tax credits and other incentives to help provide adequate
housing for farmworkers.
farming sector has accomplished sizable gains in energy efficiency over the
past two decades. Higher costs of fuel and fertilizers have led manufacturers
to produce more efficient motors for on-farm equipment and to develop more
precise and efficient practices for fertilizer and crop protection inputs.
this same two decade period, environmentally minded practices—aimed at reducing
nitrates and eliminating unwanted crop protection impacts—have also furthered
the energy efficiency trend as well.
believe the foundation of these improvements, and the foundation of those to
come, have everything to do with technology and with educated growers. To
continue such gains into the future generation requires two areas of support
the continued support of our Land Grant University (OSU) and community colleges
that provide technical education and training to the sons and daughters of
agriculture—and of those wishing to find their way into the field of
agriculture not having grown up within a farming legacy. The energy and
environmental accomplishments we have and that we seek rely profoundly on
20-somethings with their new ideas, tools, abilities, and visions to become
tomorrow’s farmers. The 20- and 30-somethings of two decades ago have brought
us this far. Only investment in agriculture-related fields of education will
prepare us for challenges that are coming head-on in the near future.
the development of thoughtful incentives for implementing the technology and
agronomic practices that foster capturing of newer, better practices on
Oregon’s farms. Policy makers and elected officials who envision tougher
environmental standards, energy standards, or other dramatic changes should
also be part of enhancing the means for Oregon producers of all sizes and
visions to accomplish these benchmarks with access to tools—equipment upgrades,
precision application tools, analytics, etc.—that keep Oregon growers
productive, competitive, and sustainable.
Energy is a national security issue critical to food production and
societal stability. Energy prices have been extremely volatile during the past
few years, making it difficult for growers to project long-term energy costs.
With a typical profit margin of 3 to 4 percent in agriculture, highly variable
input costs, such as energy, can play havoc with financing of annual operating
Energy inputs, including electricity, fuels, and fertilizers, represent
approximately 10 to 15 percent of total production costs for farmers and
ranchers to produce food and other products, varying with type of operation. Chart
24 shows national figures on the types and relative costs of energy used by
agriculture (Miranowski, 2011).
Farmers use more solar energy at a higher efficiency rate than any
other industry by growing plants that cover millions of acres, transforming the
sun’s energy into fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, and grasses. To do this,
plants require adequate water and proper nutrients.
Nutrients are like vitamins to plants. These are necessary elements for
growth and yield. Without them, in whatever form (plants don’t distinguish
between organic or synthetic), farmers would have to plant millions of
additional acres to compensate for yield reductions. Fertilizers or natural
nutrients are key to feeding the world.
Fertilizers require energy to mine, gather in some manner, process,
transport, and apply. The retail prices of key nutrients paid by growers have
increased substantially in the past decade, roughly doubling in cost. The peak
was reached in 2008, then prices dropped off some, but began escalating again
in 2011-12. Prices are driven by world-wide acres under production (growing
demand for food), availability of product, the energy (natural gas and oil)
required to produce fertilizers and other inputs, and delivery mode.
Fertilizer and pesticide use on US farms has peaked in terms of total
amounts applied. Further, the types of chemicals used today are more benign to
the environment. These trends indicate that growers are carefully managing the
quantity of these inputs. This may be due in part to price increases, but more
importantly, the levels of current use are the optimal levels for the types of
crop production occurring.
In addition to fertilizers, farmers use fuel to power tractors, trucks,
harvesting equipment, and other vehicles, and for heating, drying, and
processing. Diesel is the predominant fuel, but gasoline, natural gas, propane,
and other forms are also used. The other major form of energy used on farms is
electricity for pumps, fans, and other motors.
Energy prices and price volatility can impact consumers as well as agricultural
growers. Under a scenario where energy costs increase 5-8 percent in any
production year (which is happening at the present), USDA modeling suggests
that wheat acreage could be reduced by upwards of 20 percent, unless wheat
market prices also rise in tandem. This would have devastating impacts on grain
markets and world food prices. (Impacts of Higher Energy Prices on Agriculture
and Rural Economies/ERR-123, Economic Research Service/USDA).
Oregon’s agricultural growers spent $550 million in 2007 on fuels,
fertilizers, and electricity/utilities (USDA National Agricultural Statistics
Service). Utility expenses include electric and natural gas services, as well
as telephone, Internet and other types of utilities. These inputs represent
14.7 percent of total farm production expenses, compared with 12 percent in
2002. Fuel, fertilizer, and utility expenses increased 62 percent for Oregon’s
growers between 2002 and 2007, while overall farm production expenses increased
Farmers have little control over the costs of these diverse and
necessary energy forms. But they do have some control over the quantity used
and how they are applied.
On a comparative acreage basis of input cost, Oregon growers appear to
be judicious in use, or have relatively lower cost inputs, than surrounding
states. California is simply an expensive location to operate a farm, but
it is close to major population centers and distribution hubs, providing
offsetting advantages (Chart 27).
Further, Oregon growers continue to make their farms more
energy-efficient. Nearly 5,000 Oregon farms, representing about 50 percent of
Oregon’s irrigated farms, reported making irrigation efficiency improvements
between 2003 and 2008 (NASS, 2008). More than 2,080 farms reported reduced
energy cost associated with the efficiency improvements.
A 2004 survey of small grain management trends in eastern Oregon and
Washington found 17 percent adoption of no-till cropping systems, a dramatic
increase from 1 percent in 1996 (Smiley et al, 2005). Fuel costs can be reduced
60-80 percent through no-till systems. A 2004 survey of Oregon wheat farmers
found 21 percent of Oregon’s nearly 1 million wheat acres had no-tillage
operations and 47 percent of acres were in conservation tillage (systems
requiring over 30 percent residue left after tillage operations; USDA Economic
Research Service, Horowitz et al, 2010).
While Oregon's growers have significantly reduced energy inputs and
costs, more opportunities remain. Policy makers could encourage faster adoption
of energy conserving or generating technology through incentives, technical
assistance, or other strategies that help farmers overcome implementation
obstacles and costs.
Energy is an integral part of our modern food system necessary to
support the world's population. National and state policy should reflect and
prioritize food and agriculture production as essential for economic growth as
well as food and societal security. Farmers have little control over energy
input supplies or costs, necessitating governmental policies to ensure stable
markets and availability.
Recommendations for policy makers
- Support incentives and technical assistance for energy conservation.
- Create incentives for efficient fertilizer use. Fertilizer is
energy-intensive to produce; therefore prices vary significantly along with oil
or natural gas prices.
- Establish policy tools to stabilize or increase prices for renewable
fuels and electricity produced on farm. For example, a feed-in tariff could
help support renewable energy projects and make it easier for project
developers to secure financing.
- Support further research into biofuel and bioenergy crops appropriate
For more recommendations and options, see “Agriculture and Energy in
Oregon,” Stephanie Page, 2011, Oregon Department of Agriculture.http://www.oregon.gov/ODA/docs/pdf/ag_energy_report.pdf
for estate tax is one part of succession planning, or passing on the family
farm. Although farms and ranches have high investment and operating costs, they
are often "cash poor." In general, it can be said that the estate tax
on farmers is double taxation, as the assets of the farm or ranch have been
purchased from profits that were already taxed. Without careful planning,
portions of an operation may also have to be sold by the heirs to pay the
and ranchers should invest in the professional help of an attorney and
accountant who specialize in agricultural succession planning. Minimizing
estate tax upon death of the estate owners helps subsequent family or new
owners continue a viable operation without taxes eating away the hard-earned
Oregon’s legislature created an exemption for natural resource-based estates
that helps significantly, but is still costly to plan for and administer. Idaho
and California have no estate tax, and Washington’s is more straight forward.
planning tool to transfer an estate is the federal Gift Tax Exclusion, which
allows an individual to annually gift up to $13,000 from his estate, tax free,
to any number of individuals as cash, or other legal mechanisms that represent
cash value, such as stocks or shares in a corporation or LLC. Once the value of
the shares is determined, they can be transferred to the heirs, thus utilizing
the full annual gift tax exclusion. This accomplishes both transfer of the
estate in an orderly manner, as well as minimizing the financial blow of the
operation having to be sold to pay estate taxes. And with uncertainty over the
federal estate tax rate, planning is imperative.
planning comes at the cost of hiring attorneys and accountants. But, as one
professional advisor stated, "The worst thing to do is to do
Comparative tax rates
Like most other employers, farmers
- Withhold federal income taxes from employees' wages and forward to the
- Withhold Social Security and Medicare taxes and pay FICA taxes equal to
- Pay state and federal unemployment taxes (farmers who employ fewer than
10 workers or pay less than $20,000 in wages per quarter are exempt from
- Pay Workers’ Compensation Insurance.
Oregon advantage: Workers’ Compensation (WC) is paid by all
employers into a fund to assist with job-related injuries. Since 1990, Oregon
has gone from the eighth most expensive state in the US for the cost of WC to
the 10th most affordable. Premium costs to Oregon employers have dropped by 60
percent in that same time, saving (all) Oregon employers more than $18 billion.
Oregon disadvantage: On the opposite end of the ranking, the
unemployment payroll taxes paid by Oregon employers rank among the highest in
the nation for mature companies, but even higher for start-up companies with no
experience ratings. Essentially, Oregon employers are paying $1,000 in
unemployment taxes every year for every employee with $33,000 in earnings,
which is a cost that is not borne by employers in other states.
Oregon advantage: No sales tax in Oregon is a clear and important
advantage from a business perspective. All three surrounding states have a
sales tax. Property taxes are assessed with differing methods in the four
states, but all receive some sort of tax rate reduction based on agricultural
value versus developed value of the property.
Oregon disadvantage: The corporate income tax in Oregon sits about
equal with Idaho, less than California, and higher than Washington, which has
no income tax. The minimum tax of $150 on S-Corps, and the gross receipt tax on
C-Corps are both a disadvantage, and are regressive. Gross receipts taxes are
incurred even in a loss year—which various agricultural sectors frequently
experience. Personal income tax in Oregon is among the highest in the nation.
Oregon advantage: Oregon’s farm vehicle registration fees are very
competitive compared to surrounding states (varies based on vehicle size and
number of axles).
Oregon disadvantage: The average age of farmers in Oregon is the
highest on record at 57 years. Millions of acres of land are pending transition
to the next generation within the coming decade. Two taxes impact farmer
retirement or death, and ability to pass the farm to family members or make a
sale to someone else: 1) long-term capital gain, and 2) the estate tax (none of
the four states have an inheritance tax for deaths after Jan. 1, 2012).
Making a farm sale (retirement, without a death) subjects the farmer to
a capital gains tax rate of 9 percent if there is a gain in value. Oregon has
the second highest capital gains rate in the United States, second only to
California, which is 9.3 percent. Idaho has a high rate of 8.2 percent, but if
the property is agriculture, 60 percent of the value is exempt, making the
effective rate about 5 percent. Washington has no capital gains tax.
In the event of a death, the transfer of the estate may trigger estate
taxes in Oregon. Idaho and California have no estate tax. Washington exempts
all agricultural property from estate taxes if the agriculture or forest
property value is more than 50 percent of the estate value. Only twenty states
continue to levy a “death tax.”
The federal estate tax exemption (ETE, until January 1, 2013) is $5
million for singles and (a nearly “automatic”) $10 million for married couples,
with a 35 percent maximum tax rate on value beyond those exemptions. However,
with the law expiring on December 31, 2012, unless Congress acts, the exemption
will revert to $1 million and the tax rate will increase—this is a serious
concern for the agriculture industry since it is these assets of land and
buildings where farmers have "invested" their earnings and
retirement, and the income which purchased them has already been taxed.
A new estate tax law took effect in Oregon on Jan. 1, 2012. All estates
valued less than $1 million are now exempt from estate tax. If the value is
over $1 million and less than $15.1 million, an estate can receive a natural
resources credit if the value of the natural resources property (agriculture,
forestry, etc.) is more than 50 percent of the value of the estate. The credit
is applied against taxes owed, graduated from 10-16 percent. The calculation of
the credit is rather complex, and for growers it is another cost burden of
transferring the farm.
A simple example: A $5 million estate that is 100 percent natural
resource land (agriculture) would owe an estate tax of $425,000. The natural
resource credit is calculated at $425,000 since the entire estate qualifies as
natural resource land. Applied against taxes owed, this leaves a net balance of
$0 in estate taxes under the new law for deaths occurring in 2012 and beyond.
Under prior law, the estate would have owed over $52,000. (Calculations
provided by the Oregon Department of Revenue.)
The changes to the law will definitely benefit agriculture estates in
Tax rates, credits, and incentives affect the viability of agriculture
businesses in the state as they compete in a world marketplace.
Recommendations for policy makers
- Oregon’s present tax structure presents advantages to Oregon’s farmers
in areas of Workers’ Compensation rates, no sales tax, low farm vehicle license
fees, and preferential property tax rates. Competitive disadvantages exist with
the state’s Unemployment Payroll tax rates, corporate and personal income tax
rates, capital gains tax rates, and the estate tax. The Legislature could help
Oregon farmers by addressing these disadvantages.
- While the legislature made progress in providing a natural resource
credit for estate tax calculations, the process would be much simpler and less
costly to growers if the estate tax were eliminated entirely for qualifying
- Oregon policy makers could help agriculture’s competitiveness and
long-term viability by eliminating the long-term capital gains tax and estate
tax for farmland transition when the sale is to a young or beginning farmer or
to a member of the family.
|Soil and Water Quality Initiatives|
Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA), Soil & Water Conservation Districts
(SWCDs) are helping producers address the challenges of soil erosion, water
quality, and stream-side restoration. The Conservation Reserve Enhancement
Program—which helps with riparian work—is a key tool and incentive for farmers
in some areas of the state, but may not be the right program for all. Creative
partnerships and "out of the box" alternatives for site specific
landscape management is needed to address broader areas of the state. One
example of this may be a voluntary certification. We need to engage mainstream
commercial producers, as well as smaller landowners, to make it a larger gain.
looking to our partners to help ODA and the SWCDs with a renewed focus and
collaboration in helping landowners make even more progress in natural resource
management—USDA/Farm Service Agency and the USDA/Natural Resources Conservation
Service, the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, and OSU Extension can extend a
hand to make these changes. Better incentives, including financial resources,
need to be provided for technical assistance to continue to make progress.
state was founded and remains economically viable due in great part to agriculture.
Yet, all of Oregon's natural resource agencies combined are supported by 1
percent of the state budget. Protecting agriculture and our natural resources
simultaneously, both financially and philosophically, leads directly to
economic stability and sustainability.
interest in sustainability, local production, and organics on the rise in the
State of Oregon, I see the need to increase awareness of soil quality and water
quantity needs for all growers.
Using and preserving Oregon's natural resources
All four states have versions of Soil & Water Conservation
Districts and state policies designed to help growers address soil erosion and
water pollution from agricultural activities.
Further, the state departments of agriculture and other cooperators
work with the US Department of Agriculture to facilitate delivery of federal
program funds for streamside restoration, riparian vegetation, wetland
restoration, animal waste management, and soil erosion control. Most often this
is through cost-share programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives
Program (EQIP), or land conservation programs (Conservation Reserve Program,
Wetlands Reserve Program, etc.).
Oregon has 972,000 acres enrolled in or managed for conservation
enhancement objectives. Idaho has a total of 927,000; California has 1.2
million; and Washington has the most with 1.85 million acres enrolled or
treated, primarily in the CRP program.
Washington dominates CRP acreage; California leads in Wetlands Reserve;
Oregon has championed the CREP for streamside restoration; Oregon and
Washington farmers take greater advantage of the Conservation Stewardship
Program; and California leads in EQIP and Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program
Washington leads with percentage of all farmland enrolled in
conservation usage at 13 percent; Oregon and Idaho enroll 6 percent of farm
acreage; and California has 4 percent in these efforts.
These conservation programs are all crucial to address many resource
Despite the best efforts of growers and the federal conservation
programs, there are three natural resource challenges to farm operations that
intensely impact agricultural lands and management options:
and Endangered (T&E) Species listings and habitat designations
of streams or area of water bodies designated as “water quality impaired”
by EPA or the state environmental agency. Such listings prompt the need
for Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs, or allowed impairment levels), which
influence agricultural management and activities
species (plants, pests, and diseases) that threaten natural, agriculture,
forest, and urban landscapes and environments, as well as animals—both
livestock and pets.
Threatened and Endangered (T&E) Species
Chart (30) shows total T&E listings in each state, and includes all
fish, mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, insects, plants, and mollusks
considered Threatened or Endangered on state or federal listings. Listings are
based on scientifically documented threats and endangerment to the species.
Listings also reflect the flora and fauna that exist in a certain geographic
Washington has more T&E plants listed than any other state, which
boosts its overall total (320 plants of 467 listings). California also has many
T&E plants, comparatively (246 of 408).
Idaho stands out in stark contrast, with no birds or insects listed,
and only a handful of fish, mammals, plants, and reptiles. One distinctive
factor is Idaho’s inland location, which buffers it from the impact of many
anadromous fish (who live most of their lives in the ocean, returning to inland
streams along coastal states to spawn), many of which are listed as T&E by
state or federal agencies.
One caution about using the number of T&E listings is that it
doesn’t provide a picture of the total acres or land area affected by the
listing. Even though Oregon has fewer overall listings than Washington, the
fish listings affect much of Oregon’s landmass and available irrigation water.
Although T&E listings have a great impact on available irrigation water and
use requirements, plant and animal T&E listings also have a great impact on
land uses and agricultural operations. For example, the wolf listing negatively
impacts livestock owners’ ability to protect the health and well being of their
animals. The sage grouse listing impacts range operations on locations of
allowed grazing. Listings may prohibit or curtail actual uses of private land
upon which a species is found.
Miles of impaired streams or water bodies
Each state is in a different stage of assessing and reporting water
The leading causes of stream impairment in Oregon are temperature,
sedimentation, nutrients, pH, dissolved oxygen, pathogens, and to a lesser
extent, naturally occurring minerals, and some pesticides. Similar causes of
impairment, but in different order, appear for bodies of water.
More than 60 percent of Oregon’s landmass lies in an arid climate. This
means there is less rain or snowfall to contribute to perennial stream flow
that is necessary for cool water. In addition, the more arid regions also have
less land vegetation and natural riparian vegetation, due to lack of water.
This contributes to higher natural temperatures in the streams across much of
eastern Oregon and Washington, Idaho, and California. Getting to
"cool" may never be possible, making temperature modeling and
regulation a challenge.
Agriculture bears some, but not all, responsibility in these
situations. Many conditions are naturally occurring. There are several factors
beyond the control of growers, such as:
vegetation and rain or snowfall that greatly impact the amount of
from degraded forest conditions, due to fires
weather events, creating slides, floods, and washouts
levels from wildlife contamination of waters
occurring high background levels of various mineral components.
Keeping this in mind, agriculture does have an important part to play
in minimizing impacts and improving conditions. Strategies include protecting
and restoring streamside areas, managing croplands to prevent and control
erosion, and managing manure and other nutrients to promote plant uptake and
Each state has unique challenges, site-specific issues, a variety of
causes leading to impairment (some of which are from natural or legacy
conditions), and various resources available to help landowners, businesses,
municipalities, and the urban public implement strategies and remedies.
Invasive pests in Oregon include, but are not limited to, plants,
animals, aquatic plants and animals, plant diseases, and animal diseases. All
are devastating in their own way and need to be prevented whenever possible—a
difficult task in a global trade and travel environment. For invasive species,
the states stack up similarly in rank to the T&E listings. Idaho has the
fewest invasive species, again stationed more insularly and less directly
impacted by trade. Oregon follows next, with fewer invasive species than Washington.
California tops the comparisons with over 470 introductions within the last 100
years. From 2000 to the present, Oregon has had 43 new introductions; Idaho-26;
Washington-51, and California-38. All states have invasive species councils
that actively engage the public in the battle to slow the introductions and
control the impact of invasive species.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture has been successful controlling
insects like gypsy moth and the Japanese beetle, but challenged by the
persistence of P. ramorum—which causes sudden oak death—and other
disease-causing organisms, as well as emerging insects such as the spotted wing
drosophila. Some invasives become pervasive and more difficult to eradicate.
Then, the goal is to control these species on private working lands in a manner
that is cost-effective, control-effective, and with minimal impact on the
surrounding environment. Equally important are public lands, parks, scenic
areas, rights of way, waterways, riparian areas and wetlands, and other natural
settings where invasive weeds, insects, aquatic life, and diseases can wreak
has a role to play in responsible management of natural resources.
conditions that impair water or soil quality are naturally occurring and beyond
the control of growers.
and state agencies responsible for species management can accomplish more
through collaboration with landowners than by restrictive listings and
proscriptive management practices that impact farm or ranch resources and
disrupt rural economies.
need to be profitable and have access to cost-share programs in order to
reach standards and achieve improvements in resource management.
is key to preventing the spread of invasive species. Efforts require
tracking, controlling, and eradicating, if possible. Collaborative public
and private participation is the most effective way to achieve success.
Recommendations for policy makers
are important. Investment in resources is sometimes more costly than landowners
can afford. Grants, cost-share, or other financial incentives are
necessary to help farmers manage their lands to protect water quality,
fish and wildlife.
technical specialists at Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs),
watershed councils, and other organizations that help farmers and ranchers
design their projects, review technical proposals, and secure grants and
flexibility in regulatory programs and focus on outcomes rather than
establish assessments of both landscape conditions and water quality as
indicators of agriculture’s progress to address water quality concerns.
funding ODA plant programs that offer robust tracking systems, control
tools, and resources to respond against invaders that continually threaten
the ecosystem and economy of the state.
with the pressure of population increases, Oregon’s hallmark land use process has
protected much of our land base for agriculture. However, continued development
pressure, particularly around existing metropolitan areas, requires constant
vigilance by the agriculture community. Also, we are losing prime farmland in
the Willamette Valley annually to aggregate (gravel) mining. The state should
take a proactive approach to finding other locations for aggregate mining by
requiring an alternatives analysis on prime farmland.
success of Oregon’s wine industry and the public’s growing interest in food and
agriculture has sharply increased the development of rural tourism and
entertainment activities in rural areas. These new ventures, from winery events
to pumpkin patches and farm stays, can help diversify the agriculture economy
and increase the support of agriculture in urban areas.
we want to ensure that these activities are directly related to commercial farm
use or processing on the farm where they are located, and that they are
compatible with other farm and ranch operations in the area. Without a
consistent and even public policy approach to these enterprises, conflicts can
occur over excessive traffic, noise, dust, etc. We urge the Oregon legislature
to take a comprehensive approach and analyze the myriad complex issues involved,
before taking action on new legislation around agritourism.
A key requirement of agriculture's viability is long-term availability
of land, especially lands with high-value agriculture soils and water.
Unfortunately, many of our most productive crop lands are in flatter areas with
water access and near urban areas. These also tend to be the most desirable for
new development, e.g. much of the Willamette Valley and parts of southern and
In order to preserve land for productive agriculture and forestry, the
Oregon Legislature created a land use system in 1970 that specifies zones in
which primary activities are devoted to agriculture (cropping and livestock),
forestry, or urban development. This zoning helps minimize conflicting uses.
There are various blends of these zones, and an exception process that may
allow certain other uses in agriculture zones, such as the location of
utilities, churches, schools, etc. when evaluated for the impacts on
Oregon’s land use system is more comprehensive than that of surrounding
states, although each has ordinances, and developmental review and approval
processes, which provide protections for farmland. Idaho is the least
restrictive on farmland conversion. California instituted an easement program
that provides a lower property tax rate in exchange for 10 or 20-year
commitments to agricultural land use. This is a voluntary “sign up” program,
whereas Oregon’s system is applied equally across all property in a respective
zone. Preferential agricultural property tax rates are applied in Oregon
(reflecting agriculture rental values rather than development potential) as
public policy in recognition of the broad benefits of agriculture to society,
the economy, and the ecosystem.
(A Comprehensive Valuation of Agriculture: http://oregon.gov/ODA/Pages/do_reports_land.aspx).
The amount of land preserved in agriculture—or conversely, the amount
of agriculture acres converted to developed use—is a strategic measure of
policy and societal influence on the viability and structure of agriculture in
California has the highest rate of total farm acres lost, with 21
percent of acreage converted over the past 25 years, forever under asphalt and
buildings. Idaho has lost 17 percent of overall ag land to development,
followed by Washington at 9 percent. Oregon lost 8 percent. Prime farmland
fared better, so the best of the best is being preserved longer while non-prime
lands are given over to development as population increases, ranging from 4
percent to 6 percent in all states.
Two-and-a-half decades of data show Idaho and Washington faced the
greatest increase in population, both with over 65 percent growth (1982 to
2007). California population increased 59 percent, and Oregon population grew
by 47 percent.
While Oregon’s land use process is envied by many states, it is always
under pressure, particularly in expanding urban areas to provide jobs and
housing for future populations. But who will provide food and landscape
materials if we eat away at our valuable farm land for future development?
The Governor’s Office has recently convened stakeholders in an Urban
Growth Advisory Committee to streamline the urban growth expansion process for
smaller communities (less than 25,000 population). While this process can help
Oregon’s smaller communities accommodate the growth they are experiencing, it
will be important to make sure that options other than the conversion of the
best farmlands are seriously considered for new boundary expansions. And we
need to make sure we are looking at cumulative impacts so that we don't eat
away valuable farmland little by little, even farmland that seems less
Keep in mind that nearly 900 vineyards have sprung up in the past 30
years, mostly on class III-VI soils. “Some of this land was claimed to be
non-farm land in the past. Had the Goal 3 definition of agricultural land
adopted in 1975 not included 'other lands suitable for agricultural use,' much
of this class V land would likely have been developed for other uses.” (2008-09
FARM & FOREST REPORT,http://go.usa.gov/gQ5W).
Also, the fast growing rural tourism industry, while an asset to many
farms, is also impacting farm operations. Rural tourism is on the rise and an
increase in events on farms (for example, concerts, weddings, wine related
events) increases traffic on rural roads, and objections to dust, spraying and
farm related noise. These conditions may put pressure on neighboring
agriculture operations, leading to conflicts about enforcement of local and
state codes. A consistent, statewide approach is necessary to create an
environment of certainty for those undertaking these events and to protect
those who farm near them. Cumulative impacts of these uses are also important
considerations, as Napa Valley in California demonstrated with a moratorium on
Other pressures on ag lands include energy facility siting and
transmission, rural residential developments, aggregate mining, parks, and
other non-farm uses.
We urge the strong support by policy makers of agriculture land
preservation for agriculture use.
Oregon appears to be losing ag lands to rural (non-farm) uses, and then
these rural lands are further re-zoned or developed in ways that can impact
production agriculture. Lawmakers need to keep an eye on the overall loss and
cumulative influence of these conversions and uses.
Recommendations for policy makers
- Require an alternatives analysis on any application for mining
aggregate on prime farmland.
- Implement a consistent and even statewide policy on rural tourism and
related events including wineries.
|Local Foods and Small Farms|
number and variety of direct marketing opportunities for farmers in Oregon has
increased dramatically since I started farming 16 years ago. Then, there were
only a handful of farmers' markets in the state. Last year over 90,000 shoppers
visited farmers' markets weekly and spent several million dollars directly with
Oregon farmers. Fresh market growers are also reaching more consumers every
year through CSA (community supported agriculture), farm stands, u-pick, and
local restaurant sales.
many people, market farmers are the face of Oregon agriculture. These farmers
are dedicated to bringing high quality products to market and their enthusiasm
for local markets has benefits to both farmers and communities. Everyone knows
we should be eating more fresh fruits and veggies so the benefits there are
obvious! When consumers shift their food dollars to local and regional farms it
can create more jobs on the farm and for related businesses. In addition, many
small farms have chosen to be certified organic or self identify as sustainable
which helps to protect natural resources, if managed well.
said, there is so much more we can do. Both small farms and communities will
benefit if local food can be made more available and affordable. Balancing
concerns about food safety and habitat improvements is an ongoing struggle for
many fresh market growers. And last, but not least, there is work to be done to
improve the profitability of small farms. While there are some great success
stories out there, many farmers still depend on off farm incomes to support
sustainable small farms and strong local food systems provide big benefits to
the citizens of Oregon. We must support key programs and policies in order to
resolve some of the current challenges and insure the success of small farms
now and into the future.
Sustaining successful small farms
Based on Oregon’s farm structure, it is no surprise that direct
marketing is an important strategy in many areas of the state.
The number of Oregon farmers’ markets has increased nearly four fold in
the past two decades. The phenomenon is not unique to Oregon, however.
Increased interest in supporting local farms is evident across the nation.
Here’s how the number of farmers’ markets stack up between the four
states (Chart 32):
Oregon is outpacing Washington and Idaho in this venue, but California
is clearly the leader.
- A percentage of the number of farmers engaged in direct marketing of
any sort has Oregon well in the lead with 16 percent, followed by Washington
(14 percent), California (9 percent), and Idaho (8 percent).
- Oregon ranks second in all direct farm product sales—including those
from farm stands, Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs), online marketing,
etc.—totaling over $270 million in the four states.
As expected, California dominates the volume of direct farm sales.
Oregon follows in second place with 21 percent of the total, or nearly $57
million, going to Oregon farmers from direct sales.
Direct sales are important for smaller farmers, especially those just
starting out. On a per farm basis, the sales average about $9,000 in
Oregon (see Chart 36). This is clearly not enough to support a family or
even one person, especially after expenses are deducted from this sales figure.
The need to assist small and beginning farmers to boost sales is evident.
Averages, of course, don't tell the whole story. There are certainly
some small farms that are doing well and growing. That's what we want to see.
However, because most small farms lack “scale” or size that brings
certain economies or efficiencies, they need to collaborate or enter into
agreements with other farms to aggregate goods; share equipment, cooler space,
cleaning or processing facilities; jointly lease land; or create cooperative
The US Department of Agriculture has made beginning and small farmers a
priority and is allocating significant resources, policy, and technical
assistance to this sector. As many small farms in Oregon are also focusing
their production practices on organic certification, that arena is also a focus
of USDA programs and funding.
Some of the incentives for small farms include:
- Cost-share for organic certification (administered by the Oregon
Department of Agriculture)
- Cost-share of technical assistance and qualifying practices to
implement buffer strips, conservation crop rotation, cover crops, drip
irrigation, fencing, field borders, mulching, nutrient management, pest
management and others practices through the Environmental Quality Incentives
- Research funding into organic practices to increase yields, control
weeds, and address pests and diseases (Oregon State University and other
- Dedicated loan funds for beginning and small farmers through USDA's
Farm Service Agency.
- Farm to school, farmers’ markets, and other direct marketing program
Expanding alternative income opportunities
Upwards of 13,000 Oregon farms are participating in various types of
alternative incomes that help support agriculture operations (Chart 37).
Average farm income from these enterprises in Oregon is nearly $19,000
per year for each operation (includes direct marketing).
Renewable energy siting policy needs to recognize that sizable
facilities should not be on prime farmland or interfere with the principle use
of farmland for farm purposes. However, there are many opportunities for
expanding renewables and other alternative enterprises with careful and
creative zoning, siting standards, and model criteria for counties to consider.
Smaller operations are an important part of the character of Oregon
agriculture. These farms need assistance in expanding sales and alternative
income opportunities using the natural resource base to remain viable.
Recommendations for policy makers
Policy makers can help beginning and smaller farms, and alternative
income opportunities on Oregon farms by:
- Supporting the Agriculture in the Classroom program (http://aitc.oregonstate.edu) so a
rising generation will understand food and natural resource issues, and career
- Supporting high school FFA and other vocational and technical training
programs that can prepare interested students in applied learning and career
development related to agriculture and natural resources.
- Creating an “apprentice” certification program for new farmers in
- Supporting farm incubator programs throughout the state.
- Supporting OSU Small Farms Program and research.
- Supporting Food-hub.org and other online marketing outlets for growers.
- Supporting farmers’ markets, farm stands, farm to school, community
supported agriculture (CSAs) and other local venues to expand outlets for small
- Making business planning more readily available to new farm start-ups.
- Eliminating the estate tax for farmland transfers to family or
- Creating model county siting standards for renewable energy or other
alternative farming models (agro-tourism) to minimize conflicts with other
farming operations while enabling income opportunities for small or diversified
in a country with an abundant supply of safe, nutritious food. It’s delicious
and fresh, waiting to be enjoyed, whether from the farmers’ market or grocery
store. However, it doesn’t just happen. Abundant, safe food takes a team of
farmers, ranchers, employees, veterinarians, scientists, and food safety
professionals at the federal, state, and local levels of government.
dairy farm, we are visited by an ODA food safety inspector, a veterinarian who
checks our cows to ensure they are healthy and happy, and a CAFO inspector who
makes sure that manure nutrients are used in the best way for the land. The
milk receives even more scrutiny with quality checks at both the farm and the
processing plant. That sounds like a lot of regulation, but these steps ensure
that each gallon of milk is as safe as possible and is produced in an
environmentally friendly way.
farmers and food producers are responsible for providing a high level of safe,
nutritious products regardless of farm or food operation size or scale. Food
safety is not an option—it’s a priority.
united goal is to produce, deliver, and serve wholesome and safe agricultural
products for each and every family.
Safe food is smart food
Throughout all stages of the food system, everyone has a role to play
in ensuring food is safe and wholesome to consume. This includes from seed to
farm, through processing to the consumer, and the preparation and handling by
consumers at home or in restaurants and other outlets.
State resources are critical in times of food recalls to pinpoint
sources as quickly as possible, to protect potentially affected consumers, and
to minimize financial damage to the rest of the industry from “guilt by
Comparing states in this arena is very difficult due to the difference
in how food safety programs are configured and what agencies are involved. Food
illness outbreaks are as likely to be caused by contamination during
distribution as from the farm source. Hence, impacts can be anywhere food is
distributed, not just at a single location. Also, food is sourced from all
across the globe, year round. How the end product is handled and cooked can
also be the cause of an outbreak. These and other factors all play a role in
this complex array of present day food systems.
One program that cuts across states for food safety adherence at the
farm, food processing, and packing levels in fresh produce is the USDA Good
Agricultural Practices (GAP-farm level) and Good Handling Practices programs
GAP/GHP certification audits are conducted by third-party entities
based on FDA’s Guidelines to Minimize Microbial Contamination for Fresh Fruits
and Vegetables. The practices are a set of parameters that growers can
implement during growing, harvesting, sorting, packaging, and storing to reduce
the possibility of microbial contamination.
Some process similar to GAP for growers will likely be part of the new
FDA Food Safety Modernization Act requirements. A complete list of the criteria
for growers to pass GAP certification can be found here:
Global GAP that transcends borders is also being widely adopted: http://www.globalgap.org
For growers to adhere to this level of management on a daily basis
requires a dedicated staff and additional resources, especially in
documentation and recording all activities, the ability to trace product to
fields and through the chain of custody, as well as certification fees for
third-party audits—in other words, costs increase for the grower. There may be
a marketing return, or there may not.
A multitude of certification programs have emerged from large corporate
buyers to address food safety (including Walmart, Kroeger’s, and many fast food
companies). These evolve, and the specifics of what will be required as a
minimum in the future remains uncertain. But this much is certain—the time,
attention, and resources devoted to food safety in farm production will be
- Growers and food processors must adapt to new production safeguards and
testing measures of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)—not only to
maintain the reputation of a product in the market, but also to remain
competitive financially with additional costs to meet the standards.
- State agency food regulators also need adequate resources to assist the
industry and continually ensure safe food is available for the public.
Recommendations for policy makers
- Growers need technical assistance, development of best management
practices, and possibly financial help for food safety efforts.
- Prioritize food safety in the state budget. The Oregon Department of
Agriculture food safety inspections and commodity inspection audit programs
help ensure that consumers enjoy a safe food supply. ODA programs also help
growers of all size understand and comply with food safety codes and best
management practices. This requires dedicated state resources and priority
importance, affecting consumers everywhere Oregon products travel.
Priorities for Oregon ag
- Research—public funding of agriculture research returns great benefits
to the public; Extension is essential to make research accessible to growers.
- Conservation—strong Title II conservation programs and incentives for
growers, especially around water quality and ecosystem benefits.
- Crop Insurance—replace most Title I programs (direct payments) with a
strong safety net that protects growers from catastrophic disasters and wide
market fluctuations and other risks; coverage for a variety of crops and whole
farm income protection options.
- Marketing—Strong export programs (MAPP, etc.) and local program support
(farmer’s markets, farm to school, etc.).
- Specialty Crop Grants—continue with state block grants; very effective.
- Value-added Producer Grants—important to help growers diversify and add
value-streams to their operations.
- Energy efficiency and renewables—continue support for more biobased
products, tax incentives, and agriculture market options.
- Financial Programs—Farm Service Agency loans serve a critical niche in
agriculture lending, especially to small and medium-sized growers.
- Food Safety—assisting growers to meet standards of the new Food Safety
Modernization Act, as well as continuing cooperative efforts with state
agencies through appropriated resources.
- Invasives—growing problem that needs continual attention; prevention is
less costly than eradication or control.
Non-Farm Bill priorities
- Estate tax elimination for agriculture, or reset to 2010 levels.
- Legal and available workforce.
- More resources for water capture and development projects.
|Board of Agriculture Resolution: Big Tent, all Agriculture Needed/Welcome|
At its quarterly meeting in June 2011, the
State Board of Agriculture approved a policy resolution in support of diverse
farm systems, scale (size), markets, and technologies—an approach commonly
called “the big tent” because of its inclusiveness to the diversity found in
today’s Oregon agriculture. The resolution reads:
- Whereas a broad spectrum of production systems,
certification programs, and technologies exist in agriculture (with many
labels)—ranging from organic, natural, sustainable, Good Agriculture Practices
(GAP), conventional, biotechnology, and many more;
- Whereas Oregon farms vary in scale, business
structure, and length of time in operation—some new, some over a century in the
same family farm business—all contributing to the mosaic of agriculture in our
- Whereas farmers have opportunities and
responsibilities to many markets, including those nearby (local), regionally,
and internationally, any of which may involve selling direct to consumers or
wholesale, via contract or open market pricing;
- Whereas those engaged in production of
agricultural crops or livestock are entrepreneurs, venturing their own
knowledge, capital, resources, and ideals to bring products to market with the
intent to make a profit;
- Whereas farmers should, of their choosing, be
able to pursue and utilize all available legal technologies and agriculture
production systems to grow crops and raise livestock while preserving the
safety of our food supply;
- Whereas all growers have the responsibility
for good stewardship of natural resources, and every farmer/rancher must make
management decisions that can support such stewardship regardless of production
- Whereas good communication between neighboring
farmers about practices and cropping choices is important to maintain crop
integrity, resolve potential conflicts between neighboring operations, and help
maintain successful farm operations;
- Whereas those engaged in agricultural pursuits
recognize that improvements in production processes require research,
technological advances, and infrastructures to support adoption of new methods;
- Whereas feeding and supplying a world
population projected to increase from 7 billion to over 9 billion people in the
next 30-40 years will require every available production methodology and
technology, adapted to local conditions, that improves output while maintaining
Therefore, the State Board of Agriculture supports
- Wise management of all production systems on
farmlands and agriculture applications, striving for economic viability,
natural resource stewardship, good neighbor and employee relations, and
- Growers retaining the legal and economic
opportunity to choose production technologies and resources, size of operation,
and business structures necessary to produce products that meet the markets
they choose to serve.
- Growers using best management practices (BMPs)
where needed to minimize conflict between production systems as necessary, such
as required isolation or control areas, good neighbor (farm-to-farm)
communications about crops to be grown, pinning systems that notify other
growers of crops and production systems, and other methods of adequate
management to minimize cross pollination or crop commingling, noise or nuisance
impacts, and other potential interactions.
- State and federal programs that encourage a variety of agriculture
production systems with appropriate research, infrastructure, tax policies and
marketing support to engender new ideas; facilitate commerce; support
efficiencies in inputs, production and yields; sustain natural resources; and
provide financial and technical assistance when available and appropriate.