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5:18 am PT, Monday, May 29, 2006
Oregon Counties Depend On Agriculture-29 Counties See Increase In Ag Sales


Salem, Oregon - Twenty-nine of Oregon's 36 counties reported an increase in agricultural sales last year according to preliminary statistics released this spring by Oregon State University. The latest figures underscore the importance of agriculture to both the local and state economy. Oregon's total agricultural sales figures for 2005 are up about five percent at $4.1 billion with several counties recording double digit increases this past year.

Once again, the diversity of agriculture in Oregon resulted in winners and losers among various commodities. The mixed bag of results continues to tweak the rank order of counties when it comes to 2005 gross farm and ranch sales. Still, the top ten list contains the same names:

  • Marion County $539.6 million
  • Clackamas County $361.9 million
  • Washington County $274.8 million
  • Umatilla County $274.7 million
  • Yamhill County $264.0 million
  • Linn County $248.8 million
  • Morrow County $233.3 million
  • Malheur County $206.4 million
  • Klamath County $200.7 million
  • Polk County $130.0 million

There were only a couple of changes in the ranking from the previous year. Umatilla County jumped from #5 to #4 while Yamhill moved down from #4 to #5. Also, Klamath and Malheur counties swapped positions with Malheur moving up to #8 while Klamath dropped to #9.

For the first time in three years, all top 10 counties saw increases in agricultural sales. Malheur and Umatilla counties recorded increases of 20 percent and 16 percent respectively. Also on the positive side were Washington (+9 percent), Morrow (+9 percent), Klamath (+9 percent), Yamhill (+8 percent), Linn (+8 percent), Marion (+4 percent), Polk (+4 percent), and Clackamas (+2 percent) counties.

Malheur County made a magnificent turnaround in 2005 after recording a decrease the previous year. A 66 percent increase in storage onion prices is largely responsible for the turnaround.

Umatilla County's increase continues the improvement from the two-year period of 2002-2003 when sales figures declined 29 percent. A significant $15 million increase was recorded by the tree fruit industry located in the Milton-Freewater area. A better price and yield for alfalfa hay also helped in 2005.

Willamette Valley counties continue to benefit from increased sales of Oregon's number one agricultural commodity- greenhouse and nursery products. Once again, five of the top six agricultural counties in Oregon are within an hour's drive of Portland or Eugene- the state's two largest cities. Washington and Yamhill counties both enjoyed an increase in agricultural sales of 9 percent and 8 percent respectively. In both cases, increased sales of nursery products and hay helped boost the overall picture.

Marion becomes remains the only county in Oregon to record more than a half billion dollars in agricultural sales in a single year, doing so for a second consecutive time. Its $22 million increase from 2004 is a modest four percent rise. Clackamas County remains the second biggest agricultural producer in Oregon, but its 2005 increase was relatively small at $8 million, only a two percent jump over 2004.

Besides Umatilla and Malheur, other counties east of the Cascades also showed strong increases in agricultural sales last year. A better price and yield for potatoes as well as better production of peppermint oil helped boost Morrow County ($21 million increase overall). Improved cattle and potato prices led to another productive year for Klamath County ($19 million increase overall).

Some of the smaller counties not in the top ten recorded significant agricultural sales increases last year. Wheeler (+76 percent) is still ranked at the bottom of the list, but got a boost in 2005 from a big jump in number of cattle. Josephine (+15 percent) saw a healthy increase in wine production. Much of the increase in Douglas County (+13 percent) can be attributed to a better year for Christmas trees and nursery products.

On the down side, only seven counties recorded a decrease in agricultural sales in 2005. The largest drop was recorded by Jefferson County (-15 percent) where a dramatic decrease in potato production and a drop in the price for garlic had a negative impact overall. Deschutes (-5 percent), Wasco (-2 percent), Lane, Benton, Coos, and Crook (all -1 percent) each saw minimal drops in price and production of various commodities.

Even though more than half of Oregon's agricultural production comes from the Willamette Valley counties, the impact of agriculture may be even greater in rural Oregon as farming and ranching represent a larger percentage of the local economy.

Overall, agricultural sales last year topped the four billion dollar mark for the first time in history. Economists say the year was generally good, but not great.

The statewide increase in agricultural sales for 2005 continues a recent trend that follows some tough years for the industry earlier this decade. For Oregon, that can only help the entire state economy.

To view the OSU database containing county agricultural sales, go to the Oregon Agricultural Information Network home page and select "OAIN Databases".

For more information, contact Bruce Pokarney at (503) 986-4559 or go to http://www.oregon.gov/ODA/about_us.shtml

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