$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Oregonians need to demand that this $80,000 rule be repealed.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.

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Posted by at 06:00 | Posted in Measure 37 | 14 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Jerry

    Typical lib garbage. Regulate, strangulate, obfuscate – great work if you can get it. And you can in Oregon, worker paradise!
    What a wonderful state with wonderful regulations.
    We are tall, proud, and strong. Very strong.
    I only wish I was as smart as the people who think this stuff up.
    Then I would feel like I could accomplish good things for the little peoples.

  • Anonymous

    What the farmers should do is enter into a money swapping agreement. Farmer A “buys” $80,000 worth of “produce” from Farmer B, and claims it as a business expense, such as “feed for livestock.” Farmer B then “buys” a similar $80,000 amount from Farmer A. No actual money changes hands. No actual produce changes hands. There is no additional profit to tax because the income equals the business expense. All that happens is that both farmers can report annual sales in excess of $80,000 and their land is freed.

    If the government can get away with anal rape, why shouldn’t the farmers?

    • Harry

      That is exactly what happened in the 80s and 90s during the Great Central Oregon Llama Mania. You bought a couple of llamas, and then bought and sold your neighbor’s llamas, either breeding studs or pregnant Mama Llamas. Do it every two months, and at $10K each, you are there pretty quickly. Works for Alpacas. But really, you could buy and sell a bunch of stuff, as long as you need land for that purposes (ie buying and selling $80K in Google stock ain’t gonna cut it).

  • v person

    The $80K level is not arbitrary. It is an amount that reflects what a full time farm operation would have to earn to stay viable. And if 83% of all farms in Oregon don’t meet that threshold then the burden must not be very onerous. The fact is that the purpose of the dollar threshold is to prohibit farms being cut up into smaller bits.

    Having said this, I’m in agreement with Ms Edwards that Oregon’s land use system needs some revision to take better account of smaller farm operations that provide valuable products, but below the $80K level. People should be able to make their case.

    • Steve Plunk

      I think the $80,000 is arbitrary since it has been that amount for over a decade, no adjustments to the figure at all. It was not arrived at rationally but politically.

      • v person

        It was arrived at rationally for its time, but was also a political compromise as all these things are. Just because it has not been updated does not mean the original level was arbitrary. The intent was to prevent martini farms and it worked, but also helped create the backlash that resulted in M37.

        • Harry

          “The intent was to prevent martini farms…”

          Well, there is a new Martini Farm that Jim Bendis is putting in right off Hwy 20 1 mile before the Tumalo grade. Yes, it will grow organic crap that gets distilled (you did know that Bendistillery was his, right? Cute little handcrafted vodkas and gins to be sold to liberal weasels who need something more chic than the average Cosmo, but I digress…) right on the farm. Yes, they will have a tasting room. He also has a Bend location Bend Martini Bar downtown.

          The turnover will be more than $80K. So now there is a new craze in Central Oregon to replace the Llamas and the Alpacas…. Martini Farms.

      • Jerry

        Agreed. Defenders of this nonsense are crazy.

  • KM

    I have a hard time believing the push to repeal this rule is *really* about CSA. If that were the case, there are plenty of other ways to modify the rule to accommodate for this without getting rid of the rule completely. Arguing for more property rights is fine. But at least you can be honest about it.

    I think the amount is higher than it needs to be, but I don’t like the idea of letting doctors and lawyers build expensive houses and then get tax breaks on “hobby” farms, or to use the words of the author “small farmers who often have off-farm jobs.” Again, honesty people; it’s really not that hard.

  • Rupert in Springfield

    Well, if you want to get rid of this law it is relatively simple.

    First, abandon the argument about farmer trying to make it, Small farmer, support local business, blah blah blah. It’s a non starter. You think when Salem is hell bent on raising taxes on businesses even if they suffered a loss that this carries any water? Not on your life. Salem hates business unless it is windmills or ridiculous solar cells so you have to approach it from that angle.

    Here’s how:

    If you can’t build a house on the land, do you think that increases the lands value or lowers it? Is an aspiring small farmer more likely to pay more for land he can build a house on and farm? Or is he more likely to pay less for land he can’t build a house on and has to drive equipment back and forth to get to?

    So, this law probably depresses the value of the farm land.

    Hmm, so who would buy this land that you can’t build a house on and has to be used for farming but isn’t enough to generate $80k?

    Would it be the guy down the road looking to start a hobby farm? Or would it be maybe a big neighbor adjoining farm where they already have a house?

    Uh Oh, see where this is going? The law keeps the price for small chunks of farm land, which are probably already near other farms at a lower price to buy or rent than they otherwise would be.

    No throw in a dish of liberal for good measure – that depression of prices amounts to nothing more than a subsidy to bigger adjoining farms.

    And there you have it, the law depresses land prices. Salem doesn’t give a rip about that. But those depressed prices, amount to a subsidy for neighboring farms who are already in business.

    My bet, if the argument were made that way, you might get the law repealed. Of course you might also do nothing more than have Salem pass a tax on larger farms to get back the “subsidy” on adjoining land rentals. It’s a crap shoot, but at least more certain than trying to make the case that the law hurts small local farmers trying to start a business. If it hurts business Salem will more likely favor the approach, that’s the only certainty in the game. Play to that.

  • Anonymous

    M37 was a good, yet minor, revison of Oregon’s land use system.

    Extremists like you put together a broad campaign of misinformation and overturned it.

    You were horribly wrong and dishonest.

    • Anonymous

      So you’re a real estate developer? Maybe the logging industry?

  • Anonymous

    No anon-Metro clone,

    A single family home/property owner.
    Like most of the M37 claims.
    But here you are again using these “developer”, “logging” labels to misrepresent.

    Yet in the face of real “developer” problems such as SoWa and the Beaverton round schemes and anti M37 liars are AWOL.
    They also obstruct the logging and replanting of billions of board feet of clear douglas fir left to rot in the Biscuit fire. Left to rot and produce massive CO2 whenlogging and replanting would have created a huge CO2 sink.

    anon,v,dean and all your unethical loons are wrong.

    • Anonymous

      Unethical? Is this the climate change wingnut again? How you doin’ old pal?!

      In all seriousness though, take a chill pill old man, I was just making a joke. Of course, that I was goofing around doesn’t change the fact that M37 was for the most part financed by real estate developers and timber companies.

      “State financial records, though, show that small family farmers contributed virtually nothing to the Family Farm Preservation political action committee that bankrolled Measure 37. Most of the money came from timber companies and real estate interests that stand to profit if, as many here expect, large tracts of forests and farmland are unlocked for development.”


      Who is unethical?

      “The city of Portland is facing $250 million worth of legal claims filed just before a key Measure 37 deadline…The biggest claim, filed by Zidell for his South Waterfront properties, is for about $120 million. He has put his claim on hold while he negotiates with the city over his development plans. Another claim, for about $4.4 million, involves property near Sellwood that had been targeted for a Wal-Mart.”


      But let’s move on with our lives, shall we?

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