Oregon farm land has long-term value that includes economic, environmental, and social pluses that transcend the shorter term gains from developing and using those lands for other purposes, a new Oregon Ag use of land a good investment, researchers argue Department of Agriculture report declares.
The report, which focused on the costs of removing lands from ag use and the payoffs for keeping farmers on the acreage, notes that once crop production property is converted, it is usually lost forever as farm land.
"I've tried to give a big picture perspective on the value of agricultural lands in Oregon, and to recognize that one those lands are converted into development, they are pretty much gone for agricultural use," notes Brent Searle, special assistant to ODA Director Katy Coba, and author if the just-released A Comprehensive Valuation of Agricultural Lands: A Perpetual Investment in Oregon's Economy and Environment.
More than 16 million acres of land in Oregon are in agriculture, but much of it faces pressure to re-develop and convert it to non-ag use. Flat crop land with the highest capacity for production is in the forefront of the threat, says Searle.
ODA's report suggests that the best value of the land comes from keeping the farms. Although the document is careful not to argue against development, it promotes taking a "thoughtful approach" to development before converting lands to other use.
"People need places to live and they need services that require development," Searle says , "But the more we expand onto our agricultural land, it's like cannibalizing the hand that feeds us. We need to be very thoughtful and cautious about where and how we build."
ODA land use specialist Jim Johnson agrees: "You can only produce one crop of houses, but if that land remains in agriculture, you can produce a crop year after year," he points out. "You can even change the crop to react to world markets and changing situations. But once that land is developed, it's very hard to change it back to something else."