Agriculture is a natural resource based industry that includes the production of food, fiber, fuel & foliage (nursery and forestry). Oregon leads the nation in the production of a variety of products, including Christmas trees, hazelnuts, grass seeds, blackberries, Dungeness crab and mint, to name a few. Nursery crops represent the leading sector in terms of value at nearly $1 billion.

Industry Overview

Oregon’s agriculture industry is highly diverse. Oregon’s 38,500 farms produce over 220 different products, including commodity crops, livestock, hay, and specialty crops. A few of Oregon’s signature specialty crops include hazelnuts, grass seed, greenhouse and nursery products, cranberries, Christmas trees, pears, blueberries, and cherries. Oregon is a leader in producing high quality beer and wine, and also has a growing distilled spirits industry.

The vast majority of Oregon’s farms are family farms. About 85 percent of Oregon’s farms are operated by sole proprietors. Another 10 to 12 percent are organized as family partnerships or family corporations. Less than 2 percent of Oregon farms are non-family corporate entities.

Oregon’s agricultural products go to local, domestic, and foreign markets. About 80% of Oregon’s agricultural products leave the state. Interest in locally grown food is increasing, and there are also many exciting opportunities in domestic and international markets.

Agriculture remains a major contributor to Oregon’s economy. OSU studies estimate that agriculture provides one in every 8 jobs and comprises 15% of Oregon’s economy. Agriculture is an important economic engine to both rural and urban communities in Oregon.

Agriculture by the Numbers

The farm gate value of Oregon’s agricultural bounty is valued between $4-5 billion, with 70% coming from crops and the rest from livestock. According to a recent report by Oregon State University, the “economic footprint” of agriculture in Oregon accounts for over $49 billion, or 15 percent of the state’s economic activity. Associated jobs generated number over 260,742, or 12% of the state’s employment. 

As much as 80% of the agricultural products produced in Oregon are sold out-of-state, and half of that is exported to foreign countries. Exports bring in new traded-sector dollars to Oregon’s economy and help improve the U.S. and Oregon’s trade balances.

Sector

Agriculture

Economic  Impact

Total Farms: 38,553 (2007)
Average Annual Wages: $28,490 (2012)
Direct Employment: 36,621 (2012)
Employment Growth: 7% (2009-2012)

Source: USDA NASS, 2007 Census of Agriculture; Oregon Employment Department, Covered Employment and Wages, www.qualityinfo.org. 

Industry Trends

  • Certification: Farmers operate in a competitive global food and agriculture marketplace. Price and quality are always the dominant drivers, but food safety, sustainable farming practices, and other factors are becoming increasingly important. Many Oregon growers are trying to tap into consumer and retailer interest in these areas by incurring the cost and process of third-party certification audits verifying their production story. It can be expensive, but many times this is the means of getting into or staying in a market.
  • Sustainable Farms: As defined in the 1990 Farm Bill, sustainable farming practices satisfy food and fiber needs, enhance environmental quality and natural resources, efficiently use non-renewable resources, keep farms economically viable, and enhance quality of life for farmers and society. There are many opportunities for Oregon’s diverse farms to learn from each other, and from a suite of public and private resources, as they strive to achieve these components of sustainability.
  • Aging Farmers/New Farmers: Today’s farmers are getting older, averaging 57 years. Older farmers own over 55% of Oregon’s farmlands. Succession plans and transitions to a younger generation are critical. A renewed interest in farming and ranching is starting to resound with more young people than in recent decades.
  • Local: Public interest in food, local sourcing, and sustainability is growing, as is interest among agripreneurs in starting small farm businesses. Tools and strategies to link farmers to local markets include farmers markets, food hubs, and farm to school programs.
  • International: Middle classes in Asia and other regions of the world are growing. Oregon’s location gives the state a competitive edge as an exporter to Asia. Oregon agriculture’s reputation for safe, high-quality products, combined with state and industry efforts to build business relationships, continue to increase demand for Oregon products.

Cluster Strengths

  • People:  Oregon’s diverse agricultural industry includes pioneers and innovators in sustainability, technology use, new crops, and new markets. A variety of collaborative efforts involving the agriculture industry, industry groups, government agencies, and other partners have led to new business deals, state investments, and reasonable and practical regulations.
  • Diverse growing regions:  Altogether, Oregon’s growing regions produce over 220 types of agricultural products. This diversity helps keep the industry healthy.
  • Land base:  Oregon’s land use system has protected agricultural land around the state for existing and future generations.
  • Location:  Oregon’s location gives it a competitive advantage to access export markets in Asia.

Cluster Challenges

  • Labor – Many Oregon farmers reported severe labor shortages during the 2013 harvest season. Some reported losing hundreds of thousands of dollars because they were unable to harvest valuable produce crops. Oregon’s agricultural industry desperately needs a reliable supply of labor and comprehensive immigration reform.
  • Environmental Concerns:
    • Resource Utilization – To be productive and supply the population with agricultural products at a competitive value, most of agriculture in Oregon requires irrigation to grow crops (over 75% of harvested crop value in Oregon is irrigated). But agriculture faces increasing competition for water allocation, distribution, and availability for instream fish needs, growing population demands, and industrial considerations — even while climate change is predicted to pressure water supplies further. Farmers and ranchers across the state are also engaged in concerted efforts to minimize water quality impacts from farming activities.
    • Similar pressures face agriculture land availability, with growing urban areas and rural residential and non-ag uses on farmland.
  • Transportation Infrastructure – Even with Oregon’s rail and port systems, the agriculture industry is highly dependent on truck transportation to move product to market. Additional investments are needed, particularly in rail transportation systems, to diversify the modes of transportation available the industry.

Recent Accomplishments

  • The State of Oregon recently committed resources to provide water supplies for irrigators and instream needs with the passage of SB 839 and several other investments to implement Oregon’s Integrated Water Resources Strategy.
  • ODA administers USDA Specialty Crop Grants to increase the competitiveness of Oregon’s specialty crops. This year, ODA and USDA awarded funds totaling $1.4 million to 22 projects.
  • Oregon’s agriculture industry is collaborating with ODA and KATU on the Celebrate Oregon Agriculture campaign, which encourages consumption of Oregon agricultural products.

Key Initiatives

  • Integrated Water Resources Strategy – continue to participate in implementing Oregon’s integrated water resource strategy together with other agencies and stakeholders.
  • Food Safety Modernization Act – ODA and many industry stakeholders are tracking and commenting on proposed rules to implement this federal legislation. ODA Food Safety and other programs will likely have an ongoing role in implementing the Act and working with industry to identify and address risks of food-borne illness.
  • Local, domestic and international market development – ODA staff support market development at the local, domestic and international level. Diverse markets help support a healthy agriculture industry in Oregon.
  • Protecting sensitive species while keeping agriculture viable – a variety of stakeholders are working together to address habitat issues for sage grouse in eastern Oregon and explore strategies to control Western juniper, which has encroached into many sage grouse habitats.
  • Certifications – Demand continues to grow for certification services for farmers, packers, and processors to gain and maintain market access.

Who is Involved?

Companies

There are approximately 38,500 independently operated farms and ranches in Oregon. There are hundreds of farm organizations, farm suppliers and equipment dealers, wholesale buyers and shippers, research institutions, environmental organizations, and many other entities engaged with agriculture on a variety of issues and efforts.

Industry Associations

The Agri-Business Council of Oregon is a private, non-profit volunteer membership organization dedicated to growing Oregon agriculture through education and promotion. The Council brings together farmers, ranchers, and processors throughout the state, and works to preserve and enhance Oregon agriculture by showcasing its importance to the economy and lifestyle of Oregon.

There are a variety of public and private organizations that help organize and promote the agriculture industry in Oregon. Many sub-sectors of the industry have their own trade associations or industry groups and there are commissions representing Oregon’s 14 commodity categories. The Oregon Agripedia provides a directory of agricultural groups.

 Education and Research Institutions

Institute for Natural Resources (INR) is a cooperative enterprise bringing the scientific knowledge and expertise of theOregon University System and other Oregon higher education institutions to bear on resource management. INR works to provide Oregon leaders with ready access to current, science-based information and methods for better understanding our resource management challenges and developing solutions.

Research and education from Oregon State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences is fundamental to the needs of the world. Everyone, everywhere is concerned about the same things: food, water, health, energy, environment, and the economy. These are the concerns of the College, where discovery has a purpose and learning has an impact on the world. The College of Agricultural Sciences at Oregon State University is a major source of knowledge regarding food systems, environmental quality, natural resources, life sciences, and rural economies and communities worldwide. The College provides undergraduate and graduate education leading to baccalaureate and graduate degrees, and extended education programs throughout Oregon and beyond. Its research programs create knowledge to solve problems and to build a knowledge base for the future. It is a source of information and expertise in integrating and applying knowledge with benefits that are felt in domestic and international settings. The College has 12 academic departments, many nationally ranked, centers and institutes, and research and education farms on the Corvallis campus, along with 11 Branch Experiment Stations at 15 different locations throughout the state and Extension personnel in every county of the state. These units serve as the research and development arm of the food, agriculture and natural resources industries in Oregon.

External funding in 2009-2010 for research at the College of Agricultural Sciences exceeded $55 million, leading all OSU colleges. In 2009, based on citations per paper from 1998-2008 among institutions worldwide with 5,000 or more citations, the college was rated no. 3 nationally and no. 10 internationally for frequency of citations by peer scientists in published studies.

Several of Oregon’s community colleges offer courses and degrees in various aspects of agriculture, including agriculture business, viticulture, precision agriculture, and horticulture.

Nonprofit Organizations

Sustainable Northwest brings people, ideas, and innovation together so that nature, local economies, and rural communities can thrive. Headquartered in Portland, Oregon, Sustainable Northwest works in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Northern California. Through collaboration, it bridges rural and urban interests, encourages entrepreneurship, and builds trust in sustainable natural resource management and utilization.

Others: http://www.aglink.org/industrynews/agresources.php

State Government Agencies

The Oregon Department of Agriculture’s mission is 1) to ensure food safety and provide consumer protection; 2) to protect the natural resource base for present and future generations of farmers and ranchers; and 3) to promote economic development and expand market opportunities for Oregon agricultural products.