Oregon Ag hits record high sales

By Oregon Department of Agriculture,

Oregon farmers, ranchers, and fishers enjoyed a record setting year in 2011 according to newly released statistics that show 34 of the state’s 36 counties increasing agricultural sales last year. In general, it appears that agriculture has bounced back much more strongly than other sectors of Oregon’s economy. All regions of the state can claim that 2011 was a better year for agricultural sales.

According to statistics released this week by Oregon State University, the state’s total agricultural sales for 2011 increased 19.1 percent to a record high $5.2 billion, eclipsing the previous high of $4.9 billion set in 2008. Of the 89 commodities identified in the OSU report, 66 increased in sales compared with 2010. As the numbers have improved, so have nearly all of Oregon’s county economies, reflecting the importance of farming, ranching, and fishing at the local level.

“You won’t find many Oregon industries that can say they grew by 19 percent last year,” says Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Katy Coba. “This growth comes on the heels of some challenging times and down years, but generally, 2011 was a great year for our producers.”

The top ten list contains the same names as the past several years, but there has been a slight change in the rank order of counties when it comes to 2011 gross farm and ranch sales:

1. Marion County – $616 million
2. Umatilla County – $503 million
3. Morrow County – $477 million
4. Clackamas County – $332 million
5. Malheur County – $296 million
6. Washington County – $284 million
7. Klamath County – $283 million
8. Linn County – $279 million
9. Yamhill County – $259 million
10. Polk County – $156 million

The order of the top five counties remains the same as the previous year, but Washington County is now at #6, up from #7. Klamath County moved from #8 to #7 while Linn County dropped from #6 to #8. Nine of the top ten counties recorded double digit growth in agricultural sales last year and both sides of the Cascades enjoyed a strong year in 2011.

“East, west, urban, rural- agriculture across the board did well,” says ODA land use specialist Jim Johnson. “The improvement was not focused on one area of the state like we’ve seen in the past.”

Marion County, with its diversity of crops and livestock, remains the powerhouse of Oregon agriculture. Marion increased 22 percent in sales to $616 million. The Eastern Oregon counties of Umatilla and Morrow both solidified their hold on the next two positions thanks to strong sales in cattle, grains, and irrigated agriculture crops, Umatilla County increased 27 percent while Morrow County increased 21 percent. Cattle sales grew nearly 13 percent while wheat jumped a whopping 47 percent, largely due to increased acreage and yields. Clackamas County, which again ranks #4 behind Marion, Umatilla, and Morrow, saw an increase of 12 percent in 2011. Overall, Willamette Valley counties benefitted from a wide variety of commodities with good years for small fruits and berries along with slightly better years for nursery products and grass seed. Even though Linn County dropped to #8, it still recorded a 16 percent increase in sales last year. It just couldn’t keep pace with the growth in Washington (+24 percent) and Klamath (+24 percent) counties. In the case of Klamath, cattle and hay had excellent sales in 2011. Yamhill (+20 percent) and Polk (+11 percent) round out the top ten.

Even after the top ten, the news is generally good for all other counties. Tillamook County, with its many dairy operations, solidified its position at #11 with continued sales increases in milk sales. Wasco County followed up its strong 2010 with a 27 percent sales increase, largely on the strength of sweet cherry sales, wheat, and cattle. Hood River County, with a 9 percent decrease in sales, was only one of two counties that did not see a rise in agricultural sales. Bad weather impacted some of the tree fruit last spring. Multnomah County (-3 percent), the state’s most urbanized county, had a slight decrease in sales.

Counties on the Oregon coast had terrific sales figures in 2011. A major reason was the inclusion by OSU of fisheries statistics for the first time. The percentage increases are phenomenal in some of the smaller counties- Lincoln (+330 percent), Clatsop (+168 percent), and Curry (+108 percent). Dairy product sales contributed to those increases. In the case of Curry and Coos (+93 percent) counties, a strong rebound in cranberry sales was also a major factor.

The OSU statistics also show a new leader among agricultural commodities, which may explain such strong increases for specific counties where livestock is prevalent.

“Nursery and greenhouse production has been number one for more than a dozen years, and it still plays a powerful role for Oregon agriculture,” says Johnson. “But cattle and calves is now the new number one.”

Last year’s sales numbers once again underscore the importance of agriculture to all 36 Oregon counties. They also show a resounding uptick in one of the state’s leading industries.

“Any sales growth over 5 percent from the previous year is good,” says Johnson. “The fact that in Oregon we saw 31 of 36 counties recording double digit growth is proof that agriculture is doing very well.”

OSU database containing county agricultural sales (Select “OAIN Databases”)

For more information, contact Bruce Pokarney at (503) 986-4559.

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