Diverging Employment Trends in Oregon’s Agriculture Industry

Diverging Employment Trends in Oregon’s Agriculture Industry

April 25, 2017

Since 2001, Oregon’s crop production and animal production industries have shown significantly different employment trends. Both industries have added jobs. Despite being a much smaller industry, animal production has added more jobs than crop production since 2001.
Crop Production

Oregon’s crop production employment has been a bit of a rollercoaster since 2001. Crop production employment grew from 25,700 in 2001 to 26,400 in 2016, adding roughly 700 jobs and growing less than 3 percent during that time. There have been significant ups and downs along the way. Crop production employment grew sharply from 2001 to 2004, adding 1,700 jobs and expanding  6.6 percent. Employment peaked in Oregon’s crop production industry in 2007, reaching 27,600.

Much of the growth in Oregon crop production from 2001 to 2007 was driven by strong demand for Oregon’s nursery products as residential construction in the U.S. boomed. When the nation’s housing bubble burst and housing starts came to a grinding halt, demand for Oregon’s nursery products fell as dramatically as it had grown during the housing boom. Employment declines in the nursery industry account for the sharp decline in crop production employment from 2008 to 2011.

Oregon’s nursery and floriculture production industry comprises more than one-third of the total employment within crop production. Employment in Oregon’s nursery industry peaked at 12,500 in 2007, before bottoming out at less than 9,000 jobs in 2012 in the wake of the housing slowdown. The nursery industry appears to have stabilized. It added more than 300 jobs from 2012 to 2016. In 2016, however, the nursery industry was still more than 3,200 jobs or 26 percent below its 2007 employment level.

An industry within crop production showing stable growth since 2001 is noncitrus fruit and tree nut farming. This industry includes Oregon’s apple, pear, and cherry growers. But it also includes growers of berries, grapes, and hazelnuts. With nearly 8,000 jobs in 2016, fruit and tree nut farming comprises nearly one-third (30%) of Oregon’s crop production employment. From 2001 to 2014, employment in fruit and tree nut farming grew nearly 1,500 jobs or 20 percent. However, that growth has been tempered in 2015 and 2016. Employment in fruit and tree nut farming dropped about 700 in 2015 and didn’t change significantly in 2016. 

Animal Production

Animal production employs far fewer workers in Oregon than crop production. In 2016, animal production employed 3,840 in Oregon. That compares with employment of 26,400 in crop production in 2016.

The second graph shows the healthy employment growth of Oregon’s animal production industry from 2001 to 2016, growing more than 1,200 jobs or 46 percent during that period of time.

Looking within the animal production industry, a majority of the industry’s employment growth since 2001 can be attributed to dairy cattle and milk production. Dairy cattle and milk production employment grew from 970 in 2001 to more than 1,600 in 2016, growing 66 percent.

Beef cattle ranching, farming, and feedlots are another industry within animal production that has shown healthy employment growth since 2001. The industry grew from roughly 930 jobs in 2001 to nearly 1,400 jobs in 2014. growing 48 percent during that time period.

A small industry within animal production that has buzzed with growth since 2001 is apiculture. This industry is comprised of businesses that raise bees. The businesses may collect and gather honey, bees’ wax, venom or other bee products. They may also sell the bees. Apiculture has grown from employing 20 in 2001 to employing 140 in 2016.

Oregon’s Agriculture Sector Continues to Grow

Oregon’s relatively small but fast-growing animal production industry has shown some of the fastest growth within agriculture since 2001.

Crop production in Oregon has shown slower growth since 2001 than animal production. There are industries within crop production, such as fruit and tree nut farming that have shown steady employment growth since 2001. However, nursery and floriculture production has had a bumpy road in Oregon. The popping of the U.S. housing bubble revealed how strongly employment in Oregon’s nursery industry was and is tied to new home construction in the U.S.

Oregon’s agriculture sector is projected to continue adding employment into the next decade. The Oregon Employment Department estimates employment in Oregon’s natural resources and mining sector will grow 11 percent from 2014 to 2024, a bit slower than the state’s overall employment growth of 14 percent during that time.