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Oregon agriculture - not just a commodity

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Articles - November/December 2013
Monday, October 28, 2013
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Oregon agriculture - not just a commodity
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Higher prices for hay and feed grain have made it tougher for cattle ranchers to turn a profit, though the value of the beef industry has been rising. Cattle and calves were the No. 2 commodity in 2012 with a production value of $654 million per the ODA (OSU’s Extension Service estimated it quite higher, at $833 million). “It’s hard for the producers to pass the increased input costs on to the consumer,” Page says. “You have people liquidating herds because they’re not able to continue to produce what they were, and then you get tighter supplies, and prices go up.” Oregon’s No. 4 commodity, milk, is also facing the challenge of high input prices, adds Page, while enjoying climbing production value — $498 million in 2012.

While it doesn’t beat out other states for production of most of its larger commodities, Oregon ranked No. 1 for production of 14 smaller ag commodities. In 2012 it produced 100% of U.S. commercial hazelnuts, blackberries, boysenberries, loganberries and black raspberries. It was also No. 1 for five varieties of grass and clover seed, azaleas, peppermint and, of course, Christmas trees. It was in the top three for many more, including sweet cherries, strawberries, red raspberries, pears, cranberries, wine grapes, hops, dry storage onions, garlic and, believe it or not, mink pelts.

Hot off a consumer health craze and new fresh exports to Asia, blueberries, at No. 11, are on the verge of breaking into the state’s top 10 with a $108 million value in 2012. The state is the third-biggest producer of blueberries in the nation, part of its impressive berry and tree-fruit ag portfolio that supplies a booming fresh and processed-fruit industry. There are more than 38,000 farms in Oregon comprising 16.5 million acres. Eighty-five percent of them are owned by individuals, still mostly family farms. Quietly and with little fanfare, these agricultural producers and the industries that serve them or thrive on their products keep growing our food, seeding our lawns, shearing our wool and more. Equally important, these industries create hundreds of thousands of jobs, bringing in export revenue from abroad and driving a substantial part of the state economy.

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