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