Agriculture a major economic factor in Oregon

Nationally, Ag Week and Ag Day, celebrated Tuesday, encourage Americans to understand how food and fiber products are produced, to value the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy and to appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable products.

“Agriculture has a large economical impact in Douglas County,” said Shelby Filley, regional livestock and forage specialist for the Oregon State University Extension Service.

According to the latest report, the 2012 census data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there were 1,927 farms in the county, covering 382,386 acres. The total value of agricultural products sold in the county was $64,803,000, and Filley said most of that value comes from livestock, which is almost double the value of crops.

Cattle made up 29 percent of agricultural commodity sales while sheep and lambs only contributed to 3 percent and other animal products accounted for 8 percent.

The USDA conducts a census of agriculture every five years, so the next will come out in 2017. Filley noted that the numbers have probably increased since 2012, as the market for cattle has gone up since then.

“There are also other economic advantages of having agriculture in our county,” Filley said. “That is the multiplier effect of the money that the farmers spend locally, like fuel, fertilizer, food for their families and clothing, so that’s also added to the value of the farm products.”

But the value of agriculture to the community holds more than the economic impact.

“We have the value to all of Douglas County citizens who enjoy a rural lifestyle, enjoy seeing the green pastures, the cattle, sheep and lambing and corn growing. It’s just beautiful to see,” Filley said. Children also benefit from living on a farm, as they get to learn to take care of animals and the land and spend time outside in the fresh air.

“There’s no question that agriculture continues to be a major part of our economy and that farmers and ranchers make huge contributions to Oregon’s environmental quality,” said Katy Coba, director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

An Oregon State University study commissioned by ODA last year provides a numerical snapshot of agriculture’s importance to the state’s economy:

• Agriculture is directly and indirectly linked to about $50 billion in sales of goods and services, which is more than 13 percent of the statewide total of sales involving all industry sectors.

• Oregon agriculture directly or indirectly supports more than 326,000 full or part-time jobs, making up almost 14 percent of total jobs in the state.

• Oregon agriculture is responsible for $22.9 billion or 10.6 percent of the net state product.

A few additional statistics support the notion that agriculture is worth celebrating:

• More than 98 percent of Oregon’s farms are family operations – dispelling the notion that agriculture in the state is made up of big corporate farm factories.

• Oregon agriculture is a key traded sector, ranking first in volume of exported products and third in value of exported products.

• Nationally, one farmer supplies food for about 155 people in the U.S. and abroad.

In preparing for National Ag Week, Coba has developed key messages to a variety of audiences this year. She notes that Oregonians are very enamored with agriculture and especially like their food to come from a local grower whenever possible. Coba also commends farmers and ranchers for putting practices in place that minimize impacts on Oregon’s natural resources. They realize that if they don’t take care of the land and water, they are not going to be productive. In addition, agricultural producers provide habitat for wildlife in Oregon.

With so many positives associated with agriculture, Coba’s messages are designed to prompt all Oregonians into taking some action, not only this coming week, but 52 weeks a year.


“Go out and enjoy Oregon agricultural products, whether it is food, nursery or you name it. Spring is the time of year when we are re-energized. Farmers’ markets will be kicking into gear soon. So now is the time to look for Oregon products and support our farmers and ranchers as you make your retail purchases.”

For rural audience:

“We greatly appreciate what our rural communities contribute to our economy and our culture. We want to continue working with you to figure out more ways that agriculture can contribute to the economic benefit of rural Oregon.”

For families:

“There is so much you can do with your family that is centered around agriculture. Whether it’s going to a u-pick farm operation, planting your own garden or preparing a fantastic meal prepared with Oregon products, agriculture is a great way to connect with your kids and friends. Go out and celebrate family and friends with Oregon agriculture as the centerpiece.”

For young people who may want to consider a career in agriculture:

“There are so many great opportunities for a career in agriculture. The first thing you may think is that the only choice is to be a farmer. Certainly, you can work on a farm if you are interested. But you can also find a career in marketing Oregon products, financing or simply working with organizations and institutions that support agriculture. There is a great need for infrastructure – maybe it’s selling farm equipment or fertilizers. There is a huge and wide array of jobs that support agriculture and can use any expertise you might develop.”


“Thank you for your support of Oregon agriculture. We need that support moving forward. As we look for ways to continue to improve the economic, environmental and social contributions that agriculture makes to Oregon, legislative support is critical to achievement.”

And finally, to the agriculture community itself:

“Oregon would not be what it is without agriculture. Whether it’s small farms, large farms, whether you are marketing locally or internationally, you are all valued. Be proud of what you are doing.”

Read the original article in the New Review HERE

Purdue University Study: Eliminating GMOs Would Take Toll on Environment, Economies

February 29, 2016

Higher food prices, a significant boost in greenhouse gas emissions due to land use change and major loss of forest and pasture land would be some results if genetically modified organisms in the United States were banned, according to a Purdue University study.

Wally Tyner, James and Lois Ackerman Professor of Agricultural Economics; Farzad Taheripour, a research associate professor of agricultural economics; and Harry Mahaffey, an agricultural economics graduate student, wanted to know the significance of crop yield loss if genetically modified crops were banned from U.S. farm fields, as well as how that decision would trickle down to other parts of the economy. They presented their findings at the International Consortium on Applied Bioeconomy Research in Ravello, Italy, last year. The findings of the study, funded by the California Grain & Feed Association, will be published in the journal AgBioForum this spring.

“This is not an argument to keep or lose GMOs,” Tyner said. “It’s just a simple question: What happens if they go away?”

The economists gathered data and found that 18 million farmers in 28 countries planted about 181 million hectares of GMO crops in 2014, with about 40 percent of that in the United States.

They fed that data into the Purdue­-developed GTAP­BIO model, which has been used to examine economic consequences of changes to agricultural, energy, trade and environmental policies.

Eliminating all GMOs in the United States, the model shows corn yield declines of 11.2 percent on average. Soybeans lose 5.2 percent of their yields and cotton 18.6 percent. To make up for that loss, about 102,000 hectares of U.S. forest and pasture would have to be converted to cropland and 1.1 million hectares globally for the average case.

Greenhouse gas emissions increase significantly because with lower crop yields, more land is needed for agricultural production, and it must be converted from pasture and forest.

“In general, the land­use change, the pasture and forest you need to convert to cropland to produce the amount of food that you need is greater than all of the land­use change that we have previously estimated for the U.S. ethanol program,” Tyner said. In other words, the increase in greenhouse gas emissions that would come from banning GMOs in the United States would be greater than the amount needed to create enough land to meet federal mandates of about 15 billion gallons of biofuels.

“Some of the same groups that oppose GMOs want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to reduce the potential for global warming,” Tyner said. “The result we get is that you can’t have it both ways. If you want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture, an important tool to do that is with GMO traits.”

With lower crop yields without GMO traits, commodity prices rise. Corn prices would increase as much as 28 percent and soybeans as much as 22 percent, according to the study. Consumers could expect food prices to rise 1-2 percent, or $14 billion to $24 billion per year.

In the United States, GMOs make up almost all the corn (89 percent), soybeans (94 percent) and cotton (91 percent) planted each year. Some countries have already banned GMOs, have not adopted them as widely or are considering bans. Tyner and Taheripour said they will continue their research to understand how expansion of and reductions of GMO crops worldwide could affect economies and the environment.

“If in the future we ban GMOs at the global scale, we lose lots of potential yield,” Taheripour said. “If more countries adopt GMOs, their yields will be much higher.”