The 2010 Farmer and Rancher Delegation
The Farmer and Rancher Delegation

In 2009 and 2010, through our first Farmer and Rancher Listening Tour, hundreds of family farmers and ranchers helped Friends of Family Farmers identify seven major issues that socially responsible farmers and ranchers face as they work to get their goods to Oregon families. At the Farmer and Rancher Delegation in early 2010, farmers and ranchers from around the state identified priority actions to address each of these seven major issues. The resulting document is the Agricultural Reclamation Act (ARA) and it outlines a pathway forward so that Oregonians can work together to change barriers into opportunities and help reclaim our food and agricultural system.

Since that time, we have circled back every other year to hold dozens of additional Farmer and Rancher Listening Sessions across Oregon. This recurring opportunity for input has ensured that our policy objectives have stayed up to date and current. Periodically, we use this input to update the ARA. In 2018, we held 19 Farmer and Rancher Listening Sessions across the state and heard from over 200 producers. You can read the final report here!

Read the Agricultural Reclamation Act

Read the ARA Preamble

Meat & Poultry

In Oregon, where there were once many slaughter and processing facilities, processors are now larger and fewer in number. This has consolidated market power and impedes farmers’ and ranchers’ ability to get their products to retail markets. As such, marketplace demands for responsibly raised meats and poultry are not being met. In addition, food safety regulations for meat and poultry are based on an industrial model that often fails to address the needs of family-scale farms and ranches.  Find out more about this issue and the priority action items to address it.

Milk & Dairy

Unfettered access to a wide spectrum of local dairy products in Oregon is severely limited despite the recent groundswell in demand. Current regulations inhibit the face-to-face relationships consumers are asking for while limiting producers’ abilities to meet the dairy needs of their communities. Milk, because it is undervalued on the commodity market, creates economic instability for farmers and limits the potential for new producers to recoup the high costs of entrance into dairy production.

Rules, Regulations & Food Safety

In an effort to meet the food safety needs of the public, rules and regulations have largely been created based on a food system dominated by large-scale growers and processors. A one-size-fits-all system of rules and regulations for food safety policy threatens the viability of family-scale farms and ranches. Oregon agriculture needs a regulatory system that encourages entrepreneurial ingenuity and does not limit business start-up and expansion opportunities. While progress has been made with the passage of Oregon’s Farm Direct Bill and the 1000-bird exemption in 2011, removing additional roadblocks that hinder direct farmer/rancher-to-consumer relationships will lead to broader economic prosperity for producers who are creating healthy and clean products.

Regional Food System Infrastructure & Markets

Growing public interest in, and demand for, locally and responsibly produced food has encouraged many family farms to diversify their businesses and serve local markets. However, regional food systems look and function differently than the industrial models now in place. The consolidation of processing and distribution has decimated infrastructure and markets that once served independent farmers, ranchers and their communities. Support is needed to regenerate these vital pieces of our regional food system.

Farm & Land Viability

With the consolidation and industrialization of agriculture, the undervaluing of farm work, high prices for land, and ever increasing operating costs, the future of family-scale agriculture in Oregon is jeopardized. Urban and suburban development continues to eliminate valuable land resources devoted to cultivation. Water resources are becoming more scarce in many corners of the state. Lax oversight over genetically engineered seeds and crops has increased economic risk for many farmers. These and other dangerous components threaten to monopolize and outsource control of our food and seed supply while harming rural economies and putting the viability of family farms at risk.

New & Young Farmers

As the average age of farmers rapidly approaches 60, 25–50% of Oregon’s farmland is set to change hands in the next decade. Without appropriate steps taken, land currently in the hands of family farmers and ranchers could transfer to industrial agriculture or non-agricultural interests. This will severely affect how our food is produced, as well as the make-up of our rural communities and local economies. Immediate action is needed to ensure successful land transition and to assist new farmers and ranchers as they enter into agriculture.

Check the Oregon Farm Link website to see what we are doing to address this situation.

State Support, Clarity & Cooperation

Historically, the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) has focused the majority of their resources on commodity production and opening up export markets. To the extent they have focused on agriculture at all, state economic development agencies have followed suit. Until recently, farmers and ranchers have seen few resources put towards the development of local and regional food systems, even though agency officials acknowledge the value of small to mid-sized, diversified family farms/ranches and their contribution to the state’s economy, environment and social structure. Many smaller and mid-sized farmers and ranchers are asking for increased attention to their issues. They are asking ODA and the Oregon Business Development Department (OBDD) to shift more resources to match the unique needs of small and mid-sized farms and ranches that make up the majority of Oregon’s agricultural land ownership, and who are an integral part of Oregon’s agricultural community.