Future of Oregon farming in question

Gresham, Ore. (KATU/CNN Newsource) – There are concerns in Oregon about where the next generation of farmers will come from.

That’s why state lawmakers have introduced new legislation aimed at protecting the industry.

It was another another busy afternoon at Fuji Farms. Muffett Ricco explained, “I was here last week, And i was here yesterday with my mom.”

Ricco has actually been coming here for decades. She said, “I picked strawberries for both Jim and Cass Fuji.”

The farm has stayed in the Fuji family, but urban growth boundaries–making space for people and not fields–are swallowing up acres all around.

Ricco said, “If they keep developing, building houses, building businesses, where are we going to get our fresh strawberries?”

Backers of House bill 32-49 made that case for Oregon’s farms at the state capitol Thursday.

The bill would create what they call “succession planning,” financial incentives like grants and tax breaks for farm families and revamping other laws.

Representative Knute Buehler (R) said, “We need to get more tools and more options for families that own these ranches and farms, to keep them together, not to parcel them up, but to be able to pass them on to their heirs.”

Rod Park is a third generation farmer. His brothers and sister don’t want to be, and he doesn’t have any kids to hand the farm down to. He said, “It’s not just preserving the farmland. You have to preserve farming.”

That’s not his only challenge. New laws are too, because his farm is in the urban growth boundary, he has to keep up with higher minimum wage.

Park explained, “So there are a lot of laws with good intention, whether it be for environmental purposes, or labor, that have unintended consequences on the farming community.”

Park sees the future of farming as not going away, just looking much different. He said, “Large consolidations, corporate farmers, it’s no longer the farming family that owns the property but it’s a faceless corporation.”

Park says 90% of what’s grown in Oregon leaves the state, but that means revenue for Oregon.

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