Agriculture is big business in Oregon. Statistics from the Oregon Department of Agriculture help build a picture of the scope:
The state has 37,200 farms and 16 million acres in farmland;
Oregon produces $1.8 billion in agricultural exports;
And Oregon is also the number one producer in the country of hazelnuts, many types of seed, Christmas trees, blueberries and rhubarb.
So what the Oregon Legislature will do in the 2020 legislative session that will alter agriculture is also a big deal. The Capital Press recently outlined some of the bills that are expected to change the agricultural economic outlook.
Chief among the changes will come in the proposed carbon cap legislation. Agriculture is almost always rural, which usually means added travel distances. And it also means machinery that runs on fuel is used to grow, tend and harvest crops. An increase in gasoline, diesel and natural gas prices mean an increase in the cost of doing business.
One proposal floating around the Legislature is that the carbon cap bill would gradually implement increased fuels costs in the state, starting first in the more metropolitan Portland area. In a few years, it would cover the whole state. That would give the rural parts of the state more time to adapt before price increases hit. But the price increases will still hit.
The state’s new corporate activity tax is another area of concern for agriculture. Basically companies bringing in more than $1 million in Oregon have to pay $250 plus 0.57% of those revenues in tax. The law gets tricky when it comes to crops taken to wholesalers. The crops that are sold out of state are not subject to the tax. The crops sold in state are. So once the grain is loaded into an elevator how is that to be tracked?
Water rights are always a concern for agriculture. The Oregon Farm Bureau is watching a possible change. Under the law, an order to stop the flow to a junior water rights holder can at least be delayed while it is appealed. Senior water rights holders and tribes want that changed. Legislators won’t have an easy time resolving that dispute or any of the other changes that will impact agriculture this session.