$80,000 to Live on Your Own Farm?

Oregon is a leader in the “buy local food” movement, and buying fresh produce from local farmers’ markets and community supported agriculture (CSA) could become an even stronger trend in our state. People not only want to know where their food is coming from, but they also like the fact that they are supporting the local rural economy.

Unfortunately, Oregon’s onerous land-use regulations stand in our farmers’ way. Oregon has an arbitrary rule requiring a piece of property zoned as high-value farmland to generate $80,000 in annual sales before a dwelling can be built for the farmer. More than 83% of all farms in Oregon generate less than $50,000 in sales annually. Many farmers participating in farmers’ markets and CSA are small farmers who often have off-farm jobs in addition to farming. They produce perishable commodities like tomatoes and strawberries that must be watered and harvested daily, so it is an extreme burden on them and their families if they are not allowed to live on the property they farm. This hardship often results in farmers deciding to let the land sit fallow.

Oregonians need to demand that this $80,000 rule be repealed. People should have the right to live on the land they own and the opportunity to generate income for themselves and commerce for their local communities.

Karla Kay Edwards is Rural Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute. She has held positions of leadership in numerous organizations focusing on agricultural and rural industries and issues, including the Fresno (California) Farm Bureau, Washington Cattlemen’s Association and the Oregon Department of Agriculture.