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Agriculture helps grow county's economy


The importance of Oregon’s agriculture cannot be overstated. And Washington County derives tremendous benefit from agriculture production.

Agricultural production is critical for Oregon’s economic welfare. Because of unsurpassed quality, these products are in tremendous demand locally, across the country and around the world.

State figures show Washington County ranks fourth in the state for all crop production, and fifth overall for total sales. The most recently compiled statistics show that in 2011, agricultural sales in Washington County totaled nearly $285 million.

Farming has been a mainstay for Washington County for over a century, with farming records dating back as far as 1848. Oregon has a farming heritage program recognizing families that have farmed the same land for generations. Currently 1,100 Oregon farms have been designated Century Farms, as they have been farming under the same family ownership for over 100 years. In Washington County, there are 87 Century Farms.

The demand for land in the Willamette Valley is tremendous. Long ago, farmers and lawmakers recognized the need to protect high value farmland in Washington and other counties from urban sprawl as the metro areas continue to grow and expand their boundaries. Land use laws meant to protect farmland from urban development were put into place, but those protections had unintended consequences when they also restricted farmers’ rights to use their own land.

This session, Rep. Ben Unger (D-Hillsboro) introduced House Bill 2746 to modify land use laws relating to dwellings on farm land. This bill makes it easier for some farmers to replace structures on their farmland without compromising Oregon’s land use laws.

Housing on farmland is needed for efficient management of the farming operation, and HB 2746 will allow for restoring or replacing a lawfully established dwelling on land zoned for exclusive farm use. The bill also seeks to minimize adverse impacts on the resource use of the land, with the appropriate placement of structures.

This measure does not open the floodgates for housing development on farm land as these building rights cannot be sold or transferred except when the sale or transfer is to the spouse or child of the applicant.

The House of Representatives unanimously approved HB 2746, and the bill is now in the Senate Rural Communities and Economic Development Committee.

Recently, it was my pleasure to be able to participate in the Agricultural Town Hall meeting in Forest Grove with Rep. Unger, local farmer Dave Vanasche and Hillsboro Farmers’ Market Manager Laura Conroy.

It is wonderful to see the enthusiasm local community leaders have in strengthening the farming community, while providing fresh nutritious products to local consumers. The farmers’ market network is continuing to expand around the state, as people enjoy the quality of locally grown products made available from the growers and producers.

There are many good reasons to shop at a farmers’ market: you are supporting your local farmers and ranchers who are providing the highest quality produce harvested at its optimal ripeness; there are more choices and varieties available than in many stores; and oftentimes, it is a great place to meet and greet friends and neighbors. Farmers’ markets also help strengthen our communities and our food security network.

State Rep. Deborah Boone, a Democrat, represents Oregon’s 32nd House District, which stretches from the North Oregon coast into western Washington County, including Banks, Dilley and Gaston. She can be reached at 503-986-1432 and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..