To the Editor:
Continued fracturing of Oregon’s agricultural lands are on a track to have far-reaching consequences. These properties not only provide a stable economic platform for Oregon’s second-largest economic sector, but also sustain open space, protect natural resources and steward fish and wildlife habitats. For rural communities, these attributes are far more essential to preserving rural customs and financial vitality.
Even with a strong land use system, Oregon farms are increasingly challenged by land fragmentation, along with rising production and land costs, government regulations and complex estate laws. These obstacles further deter a younger generation from entering the profession, pressing the average age of Oregon farmers to 60 years. Over the next two decades, eventual retirements will subject an unprecedented 64 percent of Oregon’s agricultural land to further subdivision, as these lands change ownership. Looking to the future of agriculture and this looming land succession crisis, a more deliberate transition process will be necessary to achieve the most desirable outcomes for all Oregonians.
The Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program and House Bill 3249 offers a new set of voluntary tools that can assist landowners with technical and incentive resources, wishing to preserve the agricultural use of their properties. Technical assets would provide agricultural producers with access to estate planning guidance to improve the success of successions plans. Created incentives would additionally fulfill a much-needed niche by providing state grants to protect farmland with working lands conservation easements. These easements remove the development rights from the parcel, while preserving its agricultural use integrity and retaining positive ecological conditions. Such transactions also work to reduce the land value itself, to keep it more affordable for the next generation(s) of farmers.
For the preservation of Oregon’s working landscapes, the future of our next generation(s) of farmers and ranchers, and the long-term conservation of irreplaceable natural resources and continuous open space, the directors of the Grant Soil and Water Conservation District urge all residents of the state to endorse the activities of the OAHP and support HB 3249.
Grant Soil and Water Conservation District
Board of Directors