County budget woes threaten Oregon agriculture

| Print |  Email
The Latest
Friday, May 31, 2013

BY ANGELA DECKER | ASHLAND CORRESPONDENT

05.31.13 Blog GrapeVineFarmers and vintners fear that looming cuts to Oregon State University’s Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center (SOREC) could undercut the region's pear, wine and agriculture/livestock industries, valued at over $80 million. SOREC, which supports agriculture in southern Oregon through education and research, may lose a major source of funding as longtime partner Jackson County grapples with a $6.8 million budget deficit. Housed in Medford, the center has been partially supported by the county for nearly 100 years.

Like several other Oregon counties, Jackson County is still reeling from the loss of federal timber payments. Funding for SOREC is on the chopping block along with funding for public libraries and other programs.

The Jackson County Budget Committee originally recommended eliminating all $204,000 of its annual support for SOREC beginning July 1. Such a large cut, so soon, could have been a death blow for SOREC, but county commissioners recently granted a temporary stay of execution by adopting a budget that funds SOREC about $102,000 through December 2013, but made no guarantee of future support.

Commissioner Doug Breidenthal voiced support for the program, but said it had to become less dependent on government funding. “I’d like OSU Extension to show more leadership and become more self-sufficient,” said Breidenthal.

Advocates say the county underestimates the Extension’s economic value to the region. The center offers classes in viticulture, gardening, pest management and woodland preservation. Its research scientists tackle issues like powdery mildew, invasive pests, and sustainability.

The center’s impact is far-reaching ,” says Philip Van Buskirk, Director of SOREC. The pear industry has reaped the benefits of the Extension,” “People invest in businesses in Jackson County in part because they have support from the Extension.” Van Buskirk points out that Jackson County has one of the fastest growing wine industries in the country. “If we have to leave this community, it’s going to have an impact on the industry here,” he says.

John Pratt, president of the Rogue Valley Wine Growers Association, echoes that sentiment “We need the support of the viticulture department at SOREC, Pratt remarked at a recent commissioner’s meeting. There’s a ripple effect. Our wines are high value, and with the wineries come tasting rooms and tourism and investment in the valley.”

Unless new revenue materializes, the budget cuts will take effect in January 2014. County Commissioners are considering a new fee to raise money and plan to put it on the ballot in November. If approved by voters, the fee would pay for the County Jail, freeing up General Fund dollars for programs like SOREC. If the County doesn’t continue funding SOREC, Van Buskirk says he hopes the Extension can become a service district supported by its own voter-approved tax. However, gaining service-district status takes about 18 months and SOREC may not survive that long.

“We’re working hard to find new resources and new partners,” he says.

Angela Decker is a freelance writer based in Ashland.

Photo courtesy of Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center

 

More Articles

Farm in a Box

July/August 2015
Friday, July 10, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Most of the food Americans consume is trucked in from hundreds of miles away. Eric Wilson, co-founder and CEO of Gro-volution, wants to change that. So this past spring, the Air Force veteran and former greenhouse manager started work on an alternative farming system he claims is more efficient than conventional agriculture, and also shortens the distance between the consumer and the farm.


Read more...

Reader Input: Road Work

March 2015
Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Oregon's roads are crumbling, and revenues from state and local gas taxes are not sufficient to pay for improvements. We asked readers if the private sector should help fund transportation maintenance and repairs. Research partner CFM Strategic Communications conducted the poll of 366 readers in February.

0315 input01 620px

 

Reader comments:

"I feel private enterprises are capable of operating at a higher efficiency than state government."

"This has been used in Oregon since the mid-1800s. It is not a new financing method. This form of financing may help Oregon close its infrastructure deficit by leveraging funds."


Read more...

Stemming the tide of money in politics

Linda Baker
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
 jeff-lang-2012-thumbBY LINDA BAKER

Jeff Lang and his wife Rae used to dole out campaign checks like candy.  “We were like alcoholics,” Lang says. ”We couldn’t just give a little.”


Read more...

Marijuana law ushers in new business age

The Latest
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
062315panelthumbBY KIM MOORE | RESEARCH EDITOR

Oregon’s new marijuana law is expected to lead to a bevy of new business opportunities for the state. And not just for growers. Law firms, HR consultants, energy efficiency companies and many others are expected to benefit from the decriminalization of pot, according to panelists at an Oregon Business breakfast meeting on Tuesday.


Read more...

The Private 150: From Strength to Strength

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY KIM MOORE

Revenues in Oregon's private, for profit sector maintained solid growth as the economy continued to rebound.


Read more...

The Backstory: Portland Youth Builders

The Latest
Wednesday, June 03, 2015
blog002 1BY JASON E. KAPLAN | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

As part of our green workplaces story, Oregon Business checked out a community service project undertaken by Portland Youth Builders, a nonprofit alternative high school. In partnership with Whole Foods, PYB built garden boxes for a Home Forward  housing site. Home Forward is a government agency that provides housing for low income residents and people with disabilities.


Read more...

Fixing Oregon’s broken roads

The Latest
Tuesday, June 09, 2015
RUCCostComparison rev4-30BY KIM MOORE | RESEARCH EDITOR

The technology at the center of Oregon’s road usage fee reform.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS