March 21, 2001 11:00 pm

Agriculture is one of Oregons leading industries. It accounts for 8 percent of the states employment with a payroll of $750 million. It contributes 10 percent to 12 percent of the gross state product when related activities are added in. But agriculture is facing some significant challenges in terms of prices, costs, markets and the support of consumers.

This is National Agriculture Week, a good time to consider the critical role the agriculture industry plays and the challenges it is facing in Oregon and around the nation.

Consider that, in


The value of agricultural production is $3.4 billion. Processing adds another $2 billion.

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

A majority of farms continue to be family owned.

Agricultural commodities number about 225, making it one of the most diverse agricultural states in the nation.

Keeping agriculture a viable industry should be a concern of every Oregonian. Net farm income in 2000 was the lowest in 13 years, according to the Oregon Department of Agriculture. At the same time, expenses hit an all-time high. In 1981, ag producers received 37 cents on the dollar of what consumers spent on food. Today, the average is 19 cents. Thats nearly a 50 percent reduction.

Phil Ward, director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, makes a good point when he says Oregonians need to observe the contributions of agriculture and appreciate its challenges.

Much of what can be done to help Oregon agriculture is out of consumers hands. Drought conditions, rising costs and declining markets are forces Oregonians cannot do much about. But we can make an effort to buy Oregon products when we have the opportunity to do so.

As Ward says, We grow some of the highest quality, most desirable food products in the world. We ought to be buying them and consuming them here at home.

Buying Oregon isnt just about buying trendy stuff. Its about supporting the industries that have helped make the state what it is. Agriculture has been and should remain a key industry in Oregon.

Even in a new economy, there has to be a place for agriculture.