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

Money Troubles

September 2015
Thursday, August 20, 2015
BY DAN COOK

The state’s angel investing fund gets hammered in Salem.


Read more...

Is there life beyond Reed?

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
BY GARY THILL | PHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

A storied institution climbs down from the ivory tower.


Read more...

Reader Input: Energy Overload

June 2015
Wednesday, July 15, 2015

We asked readers to weigh in on the fossil fuel-green energy equation.


Read more...

Bendafornia: What’s driving the Northern California migration?

Contributed Blogs
Wednesday, August 05, 2015
bendiforniathumbBY KEN MAES

A huge migration from Northern California has contributed to average 16% growth per year since 1990.


Read more...

Brain Storm

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY CAMILLE GRIGSBY-ROCCA

Can the brave new world of neurotechnology help an OHSU surgeon find a cure for obesity?


Read more...

House of Clarity

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Holding a Power Lunch at Veritable Quandary in downtown Portland.


Read more...

Photo log: Murray's Pharmacy

The Latest
Friday, July 17, 2015
OBM-Heppner-Kaplan thumbBY JASON KAPLAN

Photographer Jason Kaplan takes a look at Murray's Pharmacy in Heppner.  The family owned business is run by John and Ann Murray, who were featured in our July/August cover story: 10 Innovators in Rural Health Care.


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