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Farmers, ranchers honored this week

Published March 24, 2004

This week is a good time to reflect on the contributions of more than 2 million farmers and ranchers throughout the United States as this is National Agriculture Week.

There are some 40,000 agricultural operators in the Oregon.

"I would ask that Oregonians pause for a moment from their busy schedule and realize that much of what they enjoy in Oregon often comes from our agriculture industry," says Katy Coba, director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

The week presents an opportunity for agriculture to do a little schooling when it comes to the consumer. Some basic facts may help tell the story:

n On average, each Oregon farmer produces enough food and fiber for about 130 people.

n Agriculture is responsible for more than $8 billion in economic activity when all directly related goods and activities are factored. That equates to roughly 9 percent of Oregon's gross state product.

n One in 12 jobs, with a payroll exceeding $2.8 billion, are connected to the agriculture industry.

n Agriculture is Oregon's second largest traded sector. Only the electronics industry ranks higher under valid and consistent definitions of economic activity.

n Oregon agricultural exports are largely responsible for port economic activity. By volume, agriculture and food products are Oregon's largest export out of the Port of Portland. By value, they rank second only to electronics at nearly $2 billion a year.

n More than 90 percent of Oregon farms are family owned.

n Oregon's agricultural value of production has increased 15 of the past 17 years, debunking the myth that the industry is in decline.

n Oregon boasts more than 225 different agricultural commodities, making it one of the most diverse ag states in the nation.

n Agriculture is bridging the urban-rural gap in Oregon. More farmers' markets than ever are flourishing all over the state.

n Farmers and ranchers manage 17.5 million acres of private property in Oregon, contributing substantially to wildlife habitat. As much as 70 percent of wildlife spends part of its life on private agricultural lands. 

This week is also a call to action.

"The first thing Oregonians can do to support agriculture is to buy Oregon agricultural products," says Coba. "I encourage consumers to ask grocers if they have Oregon products and, if so, ask that those products be labeled."

Coba strongly believes city dwellers and their country cousins can find common ground through the production of food and fiber. Much of that is already happening on a seasonal, if not daily basis.

"There has been an explosion in the number of farmers' markets and the number of consumers who purchase directly from the local grower," says Coba. " We have a growing farmer-chef connection in which chefs are purchasing directly from Oregon producers."

Coba also hopes this special week will highlight the positive things agriculture has done in environmental stewardship in Oregon.

- By Bruce Pokarney, Oregon

Department of Agriculture





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