By: Will Van Vactor
A recent study by Oregon State University’s Center for Small Farms & Community Food Systems, Portland State University’s Institute for Portland Metropolitan Studies, Portland State University’s Planning Oregon, and Rogue Farm Corps, focuses on the challenges farmers and communities face when trying to preserve farmland. The report highlights an interesting statistic in its Executive Summary: "Ten million acres—64 percent—of Oregon’s farmland will change ownership in the next two decades." What will happen to it? Will the farmland stay in farm use?
Of concern to the authors are the following trends (see page 6 of the study):
- the conversion of farmland to nonfarm use, development, or fragmentation into parcels that are too small to support most profitable farm businesses;
- the sale of farmland to investors who may hold the land for future development, consolidate farmland, or make less of a positive contribution to rural communities in which they do not live or work; and
- rapidly rising farmland prices, which make it increasingly difficult for beginning farmers, or any person who makes their living primarily from farming, to afford land.
For farmers and their families, succession planning is critical to ensure their farms or ranches stay in agricultural production. Rogue Farm Corps has a web page dedicated to resources to help farmers and ranchers do the necessary planning.
Although a small part of the study, as an Oregon land use attorney, I paid particular attention to the authors' comments on how land use policy can help preserve farmland (pg. 81). The authors suggest:
- greater protection and incentives for farming on non-EFU land, such as revisions of the tax structure and possibly anti-nuisance and right to farm legislation;
- stricter limits on non-agricultural uses allowed on EFU land; while balancing the need for farmers to diversify their income streams; and
- revision of the special tax assessment on EFU and non-EFU land to incentivize farming.
The authors also recommend looking at:
- conservation working land easements,
- transfer of development rights, and
- public purchase and leasing of farmland.
Finding solutions will be a challenge. Preserving productive agricultural land is important. As the saying goes, "no farms, no food."
The information on this blog is for general informational purposes only. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from an attorney licensed to practice law in your state.