The Oregon Natural Resources Report - Agricultural News from Oregon

All but one Oregon county shows decrease in ag sales

February 23, 2010

Oregon Department of Agriculture,

1. Marion County $493 million
2. Umatilla County $369 million
3. Morrow County $345 million
4. Clackamas County $302 million
5. Klamath County $241 million
6. Washington County $238 million
7. Linn County $237 million
8. Malheur County $227 million
9. Yamhill County $222 million
10. Polk County $162 million

Agriculture’s economic downturn has swept across Oregon, negatively impacting all but one of the state’s 36 counties when it comes to agricultural sales in 2009. An overall drop of nearly 15 percent last year left very few commodities in good shape. Marion County remains the runaway leader in terms of agricultural sales, but still saw a reduction of $111 million in 2009. Only Hood River County recorded an increase last year, which clearly demonstrates the unprecedented difficulties facing a diverse Oregon agriculture industry.

“This is unusual,” says Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Katy Coba. “Typically, we’ll have one or two agricultural sectors struggling in an economic downturn. But this time, most of our top ag sectors are down. Usually, we’ll see some counties cope better than others. But across the board, with the exception of one county, agricultural sales are down.”

According to statistics released this month by Oregon State University, the state’s total agricultural sales for 2009 decreased 14.8 percent to about $4.1 billion with 23 counties recording double digit decreases this past year. Normally, there are winners and losers among various commodities. Last year, a majority of crops and livestock struggled. As agriculture suffered, so did county economies, reflecting the importance of farming, ranching, and fishing at the local level.

The top ten list contains the same names as before, but there has been a slight change in the rank order of counties when it comes to 2009 gross farm and ranch sales:

1. Marion County $493 million
2. Umatilla County $369 million
3. Morrow County $345 million
4. Clackamas County $302 million
5. Klamath County $241 million
6. Washington County $238 million
7. Linn County $237 million
8. Malheur County $227 million
9. Yamhill County $222 million
10. Polk County $162 million

For the first time in awhile, three of the top five counties are east of the Cascades. Compared to the rest of the state, Umatilla and Morrow counties had relatively small decreases in agricultural sales at 2 percent and 7 percent respectively and remained in the top three. It was just two years ago that Morrow County was ranked #7. Klamath County moved up from #6 to #5 changing places with Washington County. Klamath dropped 20 percent but Washington dropped 21 percent- just enough to move down in the rankings. Clackamas County, remaining at #4, saw ag sales decrease 17 percent while Linn County, still at #7, dropped 20 percent. Malheur County (-17 percent in ag sales) swapped positions with Yamhill County (-21 percent), moving up from #9 to #8. Polk County stayed at #10 with a slight drop of less than 2 percent in sales.

Marion County, which had been Oregon’s only county with more than a half billion dollars in agricultural sales, dropped under the half billion mark due to an 18 percent decrease in 2009. Still, six of the top 10 agricultural counties in Oregon are within an hour’s drive of Portland or Eugene, the state’s two largest cities.

In the past, it was easy to point to a specific commodity or two as being responsible for the ag sales decreases in individual counties. For 2009, it often didn’t matter where the production took place or what was being produced. So many commodities struggled. The state’s number one agricultural commodity- greenhouse and nursery products- dramatically dropped in value as the nation’s housing and construction industry stalled and there were fewer buyers for landscape materials. That hurt Willamette Valley counties. Other top commodities had similar difficulties. Hay prices were down in 2009 which affected Klamath County in particular. An oversupply of grass seed combined with less demand to also impact Willamette Valley growers. It was a terrible year for small fruits and berries- another key sector of agriculture west of the Cascades. Wheat prices also dropped but Umatilla and Morrow counties actually benefitted from a good year for potatoes.

After the top ten, the news is bleak for nearly all other counties. When the price paid for cranberries fell through the floor last year, Curry and Coos counties suffered, recording eye-popping ag sales decreases of 53 and 49 percent respectively. Other high sales reductions took place in Harney (-29 percent), Union (-27 percent), and Benton (-25 percent) counties. In fact, 15 counties statewide recorded decreases in agricultural sales of more than 20 percent last year.

The one bright spot in the entire state was Hood River County, showing an increase in sales of 9 percent. The rise is largely attributed to a relatively good year for pear production.

ODA Director Coba, normally optimistic about agriculture, doesn’t see a rapid turnaround.

“I think Oregon agriculture will still struggle in 2010. Hopefully we will hold steady or even see a little bit of an increase in some sectors. But I’m also hopeful we’ve bottomed out for the most part and we can start seeing a comeback no later than 2011.”

Coba says it remains to be seen if producers can weather a two or three year downturn without going out of business. The answer, hopefully for most if not all Oregon farmers and ranchers, is yes.

To view the OSU database containing county agricultural sales, go to the Oregon Agricultural Information Network home page and select “OAIN Databases.”

  
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Discuss this article

Bennie February 23, 2010

About right on schedule, driving all of business out of state. No burning, no chemicals, no fuel for tractors, no fuel for trucks to take the product to market. The farm land will make a lot of good space for solar panels and windmills though.

Green on!

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