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Doug Krahmer, a blueberry grower from St. Paul, was named to the newly formed commission

The Oregon Watershed Enhancement appointed 12 members to the new Oregon Agricultural Heritage Commission last week, including a St. Paul resident.

The commission is a program approved by the legislature in 2017 to help ensure well-managed working lands can be passed down to the next generation and kept in production.

Doug Krahmer, a blueberry grower from St. Paul, was recommended to the commission by the Board of Agriculture and will serve a four-year initial term.

OAHC had its first meeting in Prineville on Feb. 1.

"This commission is a shining example of Oregonians coming together around a common goal — to protect Oregon's rich natural resources and agricultural heritage," said Kelley Beamer, executive director of the Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts, in a press release. "We are conservationists. We are ranchers. We are farmers. We are fishermen. We are hunters. And we are Oregonians. And we all have the same goal: to see Oregon's resources sustained for future generations."

This new program will help Oregon farmers and ranchers access federal funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture specifically for agricultural easements on their working lands. A working land easement pays farmers in exchange for development rights, keeping the land in production while preventing development and fragmentation of the land. Twenty-eight other states have state programs that match this federal funding, and now, so does Oregon.

"With the average age of Oregon farmers and ranchers at 60 — higher than it's ever been — and a massive transfer of agricultural lands looming over the next two decades, we found it imperative to get ahead of the issue," said Mary Anne Cooper, of the Oregon Farm Bureau, in the release. "Without assistance in passing on that farmland, we might lose it from agriculture forever."

The Oregon legislature passed the Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program bill during its 2017 session, and Gov. Kate Brown signed it into law on Sept. 19. The bill was a collaborative effort by the Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts, Oregon Association of Conservation Districts, Oregon Cattlemen's Association, Oregon Farm Bureau, Sustainable Northwest and The Nature Conservancy.

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