In the next 20 years, 64% of Oregon’s farmland (up to 10.45 million acres) is expected to change hands, according to a recent research study by Oregon State University, Portland State University, and Rogue Farm Corps.
The study found that the average age of farmer in Oregon is edging towards 60 and the vast majority of Oregon farmers and ranchers likely do not have a thorough plan for passing on their farm business and assets to the next generation. Thus, it is unclear who will farm and steward this land into the future.
Moreover, beginning and young farmers find it harder and harder to access farmland, with dramatically increasing farmland prices – averaging $30,000 per acre in Clackamas County, for example. One reason that farmland prices might be escalating is increasing demand from non-farming farmland purchasers, including investment companies and “lifestyle” rural residents.
“With 84 percent of Oregon farms and ranches being sole proprietorships, we’re concerned that many farms do not have thorough succession plans. It begs the question of how this land will transition and the impact that will have on future generations,” said Nellie McAdams, farm preservation program director of Rogue Farm Corps.
There is no doubt that the stakes are high when it comes to the potential loss of Oregon’s farmland. Agriculture directly accounts for four percent of the state’s employment and indirectly accounts for 14 percent. Twenty percent of Oregon’s agricultural products remain in the state, supplying local food systems and providing food security. Agricultural business owners contribute to their rural economies and communities. And the open space and associated fish and wildlife habitat that agricultural lands provide support important environmental, scenic, and lifestyle benefits for the entire state.
“The Future of Oregon’s Agricultural Land” delves into issues of farmland tenure and the likely results for Oregon’s economy, food systems, and rural communities. The report also identifies important avenues for further research and also educational and policy tools that will help Oregon farmers with succession planning and assist beginning farmers in securing land. Examples include working lands easements, farming-savvy succession counselors, and other strategies. The report emphasizes that planning ahead for farmland transition, and focusing on access by diverse farmers, is key to making sure land remains used for agricultural purposes.
Researchers drew upon data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), interviews with several dozen farmers, realtors, and other stakeholders, and a pilot study of tax records in four Oregon counties to examine trends in farmland transfers.
Read the report and executive summary on OSU’s website for more information, and contact Nellie McAdams, Farm Preservation Program Director at Rogue Farm Corps, for more information: [email protected]