Sherman County's fortunes in 2010, a follow up to its first place raking in 2008, didn't result from wind farm construction. Farm income and expenses were far more influential in Sherman County. Cash receipts from farming climbed to $21,727 per capita in 2010. Cash receipts for its closest rival, Morrow County, were actually higher on a per capita basis in 2010, at $36,550, but that county's farm production expenses were also much higher at $29,695 per capita.
Cutting through the chaff, the bottom line for farm income and expenses is represented by farm labor and proprietors' income or, more succinctly, farm earnings. Sherman County realized $16,387 per capita in total farm earnings, compared with Morrow County's $9,290. Oregon's total net farm income, at $309 per capita, more or less reflected the fact that 21 of Oregon's 36 counties produced negative net farm income in 2010. That might sound unusual but it's somewhat typical for BEA's farm income category. In a good year, like 2004, 27 counties were in the black with respect to net farm income. In 2009 and 2010, only 15 counties turned a profit.
Sherman County's net farm income represented 31 percent of its personal income total in 2010 and Morrow County ranked second at just over 30 percent. Only Sherman and Morrow counties credited such a large share of personal income to net farm income. In third position, Gilliam County's net farm income represented close to 9 percent of its total personal income, at $3,355 per capita.
BEA farm income estimates appear complex simply due to the amount of detail provided for income sources, expenses and inventory changes. Government payments are listed as an "other income" source, while "cash receipts" from marketing represent gross receipts from commercial market sales as well as net Commodity Credit Corporation loans. Sherman County's cash receipts represented the lion's share of farm income sources, bringing in $21,727 per capita in 2010 - but government payments were substantial, at $10,995 per capita.
Sherman County's closest rival for government farm payments per capita in 2010 was its neighbor, Gilliam County at $7,768, with Morrow County third at $2,293. Even on a nominal basis, Sherman County ranked third in Oregon with $19.5 million in government farm payments. Umatilla County cultivated $43.1 million in government farm payments, with Morrow County's $25.7 million ranking second.
|PCPI Rankings in Oregon|
|2001-2010 PCPI Cumulative||2010 PCPI|
|Clackamas, OR||1||Sherman, OR||1|
|Multnomah, OR||2||Clackamas, OR||2|
|Washington, OR||3||Washington, OR||3|
|Benton, OR||4||Multnomah, OR||4|
|Deschutes, OR||5||Gilliam, OR||5|
|Jackson, OR||6||Benton, OR||6|
|Lincoln, OR||7||Deschutes, OR||7|
|Lane, OR||8||Morrow, OR||8|
|Clatsop, OR||9||Jackson, OR||9|
|Columbia, OR||9||Hood River, OR||10|
|Marion, OR||11||Clatsop, OR||11|
|Sherman, OR||11||Lincoln, OR||12|
|Yamhill, OR||13||Wallowa, OR||13|
|Tillamook, OR||14||Marion, OR||14|
|Hood River, OR||15||Columbia, OR||15|
|Wallowa, OR||16||Lane, OR||16|
|Polk, OR||17||Wasco, OR||17|
|Wasco, OR||18||Tillamook, OR||18|
|Union, OR||19||Yamhill, OR||19|
|Curry, OR||20||Curry, OR||20|
|Morrow, OR||21||Coos, OR||21|
|Coos, OR||22||Union, OR||22|
|Douglas, OR||23||Polk, OR||23|
|Linn, OR||24||Baker, OR||24|
|Grant, OR||25||Crook, OR||25|
|Gilliam, OR||26||Douglas, OR||26|
|Klamath, OR||27||Josephine, OR||27|
|Lake, OR||28||Umatilla, OR||28|
|Josephine, OR||29||Grant, OR||29|
|Crook, OR||30||Lake, OR||30|
|Umatilla, OR||31||Klamath, OR||31|
|Baker, OR||32||Linn, OR||32|
|Harney, OR||33||Harney, OR||33|
|Wheeler, OR||34||Jefferson, OR||34|
|Jefferson, OR||35||Wheeler, OR||35|
|Malheur, OR||36||Malheur, OR||36|
|Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis|
Gilliam and Morrow counties joined the top tier in 2010 and Sherman County led the state largely due to the impact of farm income but Hood River County didn't exactly fit that profile. What Sherman County lacked in 2010 private earnings, Hood River County counted in spades, ranking sixth in Oregon at $18,740 - just behind Deschutes County and just ahead of Benton County. Hood River has enjoyed high private earnings for many years, ranking 10th or 11th in Oregon from 2001 to 2007, then rising to sixth position over 2008 to 2010. Gilliam County also fits that bill - rising from 16th position in 2005 to third in 2010 ($21,622), behind Multnomah County ($33,270) and Washington County ($29,773).
Oregon's private earnings certainly took a beating during the recession, falling from $84.7 billion in 2008 to $80.4 billion in 2010. Private earnings in 2010 actually increased by more than $2 billion from the 2009 level, but remained below the 2006 level when earnings reached $80.7 billion.
An emerging industry known as professional, scientific, and technical services stood out for its growth since 2005 in Hood River County, having more than doubled its earnings. In 2005, professional, scientific, and technical services produced earnings of nearly $22 million or $1,044 per capita. By 2010 its impact rose to nearly $46 million and $2,029 per capita. Hood River County ranked third in Oregon for its professional, scientific, and technical services per capita earnings, behind Multnomah County ($4,461) and Clackamas County ($2,165) and just ahead of Benton County ($1,944).
Health care and social assistance was also hard to ignore, producing about $55 million in 2005 earnings or $2,631 per capita and rising to nearly $83 million or $3,678 per capita in 2010. Hood River County borders Washington State and has taken on the role of health care provider for the Columbia Gorge's west end. Likewise, Boeing's subsidiary, INSITU - located in Bingen, Washington - has produced a thriving relationship with professional, scientific, and technical service providers in Hood River County.
It should also be mentioned that while Hood River County was pulling in all these high earnings it was also shipping earnings out of town. Its 2010 residency adjustment pulled over $19 million from the county's personal income, cutting $850 per capita. That's far less than Multnomah County lost in 2010, sending out $9,804 per capita but high enough to rank fifth. Gilliam County actually ranked second in 2010, shipping out $6,655 per capita, amounting to more than $12 million. The residency adjustment attempts to account for people who commute into the county to work.
Gilliam County had fewer than 2,000 residents in 2010, but its construction industry earnings totaled nearly $15 million or $7,859 per capita. In 2003 construction produced $822 per capita, failed to meet disclosure requirements in 2004 and 2005, then emerged in 2006 at $2,196 per capita. Transportation and warehousing is another group with high earnings, emerging from non disclosure in 2008 to reach $4,266 per capita in 2010. Perhaps the most important private industry in Gilliam County, administrative and waste management services didn't pass disclosure requirements in 2010 although its earnings in 2006 (the last year reported) reached $7,187 per capita, up from $6,671 in 2001.
Of the three industries identified above, only one, administrative and waste management services has a history in Gilliam County. Both construction and transportation and warehousing primarily represent activities associated with wind farm construction. These projects produced a big bubble - and while the expansion of wind energy in Oregon continues, construction and transportation activities in Gilliam County will wane as new projects emerge in other regions of Oregon.
Who knows what the future holds for agricultural sales. History suggests a correction is coming - but let's give credit where credit is due. It may be a little premature to reshuffle the PCPI deck, but earnings derived from farming in 2010 certainly looked more promising than private nonfarm earnings.
Sherman County has a backup plan thanks to federal government earnings, so its ranking in the top tier may change but it will remain a high income county. Hood River County is the one to watch, rising gradually over the past five years from the middle of the pack to rank in 10th position in 2010. A fast growing and high paying industry employing highly skilled engineering and technical workers is about as good as it gets in Oregon or anywhere in the country for that matter.
PCPI can be a difficult statistic to move upward. For most Oregon counties the makeup of personal incomes hasn't changed enough to boost per capita income rankings. There are exceptions of course - but volatile commodity prices and transitory construction projects represent the occasional blip on the screen and not a transformation likely to produce long-term results.