Down on the Farm – 2017 Census of Agriculture for Oregon

by Dallas Fridley

September 17, 2019

Oregon’s farm acreage totaled about 16 million in 2017, with 37,616 farms and 67,595 producers, of which 44 percent were female producers. These results and more are available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s report, 2017 Census of Agriculture. The Census of Agriculture is intended as “a complete count of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them.” Even small plots, where “$1,000 or more of such products were raised and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the Census year” are counted. Oregon agricultural product sales totaled $5.0 billion in 2017 and ranged from a high of $701.6 million in Marion County to $5.2 million in Lincoln County.

Agricultural Product Sales

Crop sales in 2017 raised $3.3 billion or about 66 percent of Oregon’s $5.0 billion agricultural product sales total. Livestock sales, at $1.7 billion, represented 34 percent of Oregon’s 2017 total. Oregon agricultural product sales ranked 28th out of 50 states in 2017, with crop sales in 19th position and livestock, poultry and their products placing 31st.
Graph showing 2017 market value of crops Grains, oilseeds, dry beans, and dry peas brought in $344 million in 2017, or about 10 percent of Oregon’s crop sales – ranking in 30th position nationally. The group’s sales were about 40 higher in 2012, at about $570 million. A drought in 2012 hit the Midwest especially hard, resulting in some record commodity prices. Umatilla County dominated this group, with $104 million in 2017 sales, around 30 percent of Oregon’s total. The top three counties, including Morrow County’s $66.3 million (19%) and Malheur County’s $40 million (12%), represented about 61 percent of Oregon’s grains, oilseeds, dry beans, and dry pea sales.

Oregon’s vegetables, melons, potatoes, and sweet potatoes ranked ninth nationally with $539 million in sales or about 16 percent of total crop sales. Umatilla County, with $96.3 million in sales, and Morrow County, at $97.3 million, represented about 39 percent of Oregon’s total. Umatilla and Morrow counties ranked in the top 1 percent nationally, in 26th and 33rd position, respectfully. Malheur County’s $75.7 million in sales (14% of Oregon’s total) ranked 44th nationally and Marion County’s $50 million (10%) ranked 48th, each in the top 2 percent of counties.

Fruits, tree nuts, and berries brought in $612 million in 2017 sales, about 19 percent of Oregon’s crop total, while ranking in fourth position nationally. Hood River County led Oregon with $123.2 million in 2017 sales, about 20 percent of the statewide total, and placing in the top 1 percent of counties, at 38th nationally. Marion County ranked second in Oregon, with $92.2 million or 15 percent of Oregon’s sales, good enough to rank in the top 2 percent of counties nationally, in 45th position. Wasco County’s $60.5 million in sales (10%), Yamhill County’s $58.6 million (10%), and Washington County’s $47 million (8%) rounded out Oregon’s top five fruits, tree nuts, and berries producers.

Oregon ag sales in nursery, greenhouse, floriculture, and sod totaled $887 million in 2012, about 27 percent of Oregon’s crop total, while ranking fourth nationally. Marion County’s $278 million represented 31 percent of Oregon’s sales, while ranking fourth nationally out of 2,678 counties. Clackamas County’s $184 million in sales ranked ninth nationally, while representing about 21 percent of Oregon’s total. Yamhill County’s $134 million (15%) and Washington County’s $112 million (13%) were also impressive, ranking at the national level in19th and 26th positions, respectively.

Other crops and hay, which in addition to hay includes the likes of grass seed, hay and grass silage, haylage, greenchop, hops, mint for oil, and sugarbeets, found a place to grow in Oregon, bringing in $780 million or nearly one out of four crop sales dollars statewide. Marion County’s $138 million led Oregon with 18 percent of other crops and hay sales, while ranking sixth nationally. Linn County’s $107 million ranked 10th nationally and claimed 14 percent of Oregon’s total. Around 59 percent of Linn County’s crop sales in 2017 came from the other crops and hay group. Malheur County’s sales reached nearly $53 million, representing around 7 percent of Oregon’s total. Yamhill County’s 2017 other crops and hay sales grew by about 25 percent between 2012 and 2017 to rank fourth in Oregon at about $46 million. Nearly all of Lake County’s crop sales, $44 million, came from the other crops and hay group. Based on 2017 sales, other crops and hay were the primary crops produced in Crook County (94%), Grant County (88%), Wheeler County (72%), Union County (68%), and Deschutes County (61%).

The market value of cattle and calves totaled $977 million in 2012, representing 57 percent of Oregon livestock sales while ranking 17th nationally. Morrow County led cattle and calve sales in 2017, bringing in $234 million or 24 percent of Oregon’s total while ranking in the top 2 percent of counties nationally, in 50th position. Malheur County’s sales totaled $169 million, representing about 17 percent of Oregon’s total. Malheur County’s 77th position nationally placed it in the top 3 percent of counties. Umatilla County, with $73 million in sales, represented about 7 percent of Oregon’s 2017 sales, followed by Klamath County, at $53 million and Harney County, with $52 million; each represented about 6 percent of Oregon’s cattle and calves total.
Graph showing 2017 market value of livestock, poultry, and products The market value of milk from cows totaled $507 million in 2017 or about 29 percent of Oregon’s livestock sales and ranked 17th nationally. Morrow County brought in about one-third of Oregon’s total, selling $169 million in milk from cows. Morrow County ranked 42nd nationally, in the top 2 percent of milk producing counties. Tillamook County’s sales totaled $96 million, representing 19 percent of Oregon’s total while ranking 89th nationally in the top 5 percent of counties. Marion County sold $48 million or 12 percent of Oregon’s milk from cows and Yamhill County pumped out $39 million or 8 percent.

Poultry and eggs totaled $126 million in 2017, representing about 7 percent of Oregon’s livestock sales and ranking 33rd nationally. Clackamas County led Oregon with $48 million in sales or about 38 percent of the statewide total. Clackamas County ranked in 261st position nationally in the top 8 percent of counties. Marion County’s poultry and egg sales totaled $30 million in 2017 to represent 23 percent of Oregon’s total. Linn County’s $23 million in sales represent 16 percent of the state’s total, while Yamhill County’s $13 million ranked fifth in Oregon, laying 10 percent.

Farm Production and Value

Farms with agricultural product sales of $500,000 or more represented just 5 percent (1,720) of Oregon’s farms in 2017. But with $4 billion in sales, these farms commanded 81 percent of all agricultural product sales. At the other end of the spectrum, farms selling less than $1,000 in agricultural products represented 31 percent (11,662) of Oregon‘s farms with $2.9 million in 2017 sales or just 0.1 percent. Operations with sales in the $100,000 but less than $500,000 range represented 8 percent of Oregon’s farms (2,844) and 13 percent of its 2017 sales, at $666 million.
Graph showing 2017 Census of Agriculture: Oregon Farms by Value of Sales The estimated market value of farm land and buildings reached $38.8 billion in 2017. That’s an increase of 26 percent over 2012’s $30.7 billion. Around 37 percent of Oregon’s farms were valued from $200,000 to $499,000 in 2017, followed by farms valued from $500,000 to $999,999, which represented 28 percent. Nearly one out of five farms (19%) were valued at $1 million or more in 2017, commanding 69 percent of Oregon’s farm land and buildings value.

Government Payments

Government payments were received by about 11 percent of Oregon’s farms in 2017. Payments totaled $92.4 million or an average of $22,918 per farm. More than $3 out of $4 in government payments (77%) were received by farms with $100,000 or more in 2017 farm sales. Of the 4,564 farms with $100,000 or more in farm sales, 44 percent received a government payment in 2017, which averaged $35,792.

In Gilliam County, 84 percent of farms received government payments in 2017, leading the state with a $60,000 average per farm. In neighboring Sherman County, 87 percent of farms received government payments, while its $59,533 average per farm ranked second. Together the two counties brought in 19 percent of Oregon’s government payments in 2017 or $17.5 million. An average farm in Gilliam County covered nearly 4,000 acres compared with 2,762 acres in Sherman County. The median size farm is still large, with Gilliam’s median sized farm covering 2,197 acres and Sherman County’s median a little lower at 1,778 acres. Wheat for grain covered 90 percent of the cropland harvested in Gilliam County and around 96 percent of Sherman’s, while together they represented one out of four of Oregon’s harvested wheat acres in 2017.

Farm Producer Characteristics & Hired Farm Labor

According to the 2017 Agricultural Census, the term producer designates a person who is involved in making decisions for the farm operation. Decisions may include planning about such things as planting, harvesting, livestock management, and marketing. The producer may be the owner, a member of the owner’s household, a hired manager, a tenant, a renter, or a sharecropper.

In 2017, Oregon’s farm producers numbered 67,595. Clackamas County’s 7,681 farm producers represented 11 percent of Oregon’s total, followed by Marion County’s 5,066 or 7 percent. Female operators totaled 29,868 in 2017, representing about 44 percent of Oregon’s farm operators.

A principal producer is a producer who indicated they were a principal operator. A farm can have multiple principal producers. Each farm has at least one principal producer. There were 54,450 principal producers in 2017 with a 60/40 split between males, numbering 32,903 and females, at 21,547. Principal producers were also asked whether their primary occupation was farming. The majority of principal producers, 57 percent, worked off the farm, spending less than 50 percent of his/her work time during 2017 farming or ranching. The remaining 43 percent of principal producers spent 50 percent or more of his/her work time during 2017 farming or ranching, making their primary occupation farming.
Graph showing 2017 principal farm producers in Oregon by age group The vast majority of principal producers, 47,595 or 87 percent, lived on the farm. Principal producers spend an average of 20.2 years at the same operation and an average of 22.5 years operating any farm. Principal producers in Gilliam County spent an average 24.1 years at the same farm, followed closely by Sherman County’s 23.3 years. Principal producers in Deschutes County, with an average tenure of 15.5 years, represented the new comers.

The age of an Oregon principal farm producer averaged 58.9 years in 2017. Wheeler County’s farm producers led the state, averaging 63.7 years of age, while Harney County’s represented the youngest, at 55.6 on average. By age group, producers ages 55 to 64 led Oregon in 2017, representing about 29 percent of all principal farm producers. The 65 to 74 age group followed closely, representing more than one out of four producers or 26 percent. Producers in the 75 years and over group totaled 6,511 to represent 12 percent of Oregon’s total. Together, farmers age 55 and older represented 66 percent of Oregon’s principal farm producers.

Oregon farms and ranches hired 86,240 farm laborers during 2017, paying out just over $1 billion in wages. Operations with 10 or more workers employed about 72 percent of Oregon’s hired farm laborers. Around 68 percent of Oregon farms employed hired farm laborers for fewer than 150 days during the year.

Where to Look for 2017 Census of Agriculture Publications

The 2017 Census of Agriculture provides far more information about farms and farm operators than can be presented in one article. County profiles are available for each of Oregon’s 36 counties, along with a statewide summary, at the USDA’s Census of Agriculture website at

Details by county include the number of farms, land in farms, market value of products sold, and government payments, along with economic and producer characteristics.

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