Ever since the economy took a down turn in 2008 I’ve been hearing the expressions “Agriculture is the backbone of Oregon” and “Small business is the engine that drives the economy”. The terms “backbone” and “engine” are both strong images. The spine or backbone is critical in assisting the nervous system and forming the foundation of our body’s frame. An engine’s power is measured in horsepower and torque and they are used to power anything from a family lawn mower to large articulated tractors that work many acres of ground.
The “Backbone of Oregon” metaphor always reminds me of the murals in the state Capitol dome painted by Barry Faulkner. I have seen these mural many times when I have been in the capitol to testify or meet with our elected representatives about agricultural issues. Depicted in the murals are strong and healthy woodsmen, explorers, and farmers toiling in tall-masted ships, cutting down trees, and working in the fields. There is still a great deal of back-breaking work that goes into the production of Oregon’s agricultural bounty and forestry products, but in this modern age, many of the hardest tasks that the pioneers had to deal with have been made much easier through new technology and mechanized equipment.
When Oregon became a state, one hundred and fifty-four years later there are far fewer farmers and loggers around, yet natural resource industries are still the backbone of our economy.
Recently, two local governments have shown their appreciation of the agricultural economic engine. The Marion County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution stating the value and importance of agriculture to Marion County’s economy and the need to be supportive of agriculture and agri-businesses. Salem Mayor Anna Peterson is researching the possibility of an Agribusiness Incubator, to foster growth among processors and other agriculture related businesses. It is a good day for the local agriculture industry when local governments recognize, are willing, and wanting to show their support. Now, if we can just get the State and Federal governments to recognize the importance of agriculture perhaps we could add some real horsepower to the economy.
John Zielinksi, President
Marion County Farm Bureau