Ken Bailey, a third-geneation cherry grower in The Dalles, has been appointed to the Oregon Agricultural Heritage Commission, a 12-member group charged with protecting family farmlands.
The commission, formed by the Legislature last year, held its first meeting Feb. 1 in Prineville. Its members have been appointed by various agencies, including the Board of Agriculture, Fish and Wildlife Commission, Land Conservation and Development Commission and the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board.
Bailey’s family owns and operates Orchard View Farms, which was established by his great-grandparents in 1923. He will serve an initial one-year term on the commission.
“I’ve been involved in land use for many years and this is just a continuation of something I’ve been involved with before,” he said. “My family and I have always been involved in the community.”
OAHC’s main goal is to help preserve farmlands in the area by ensuring that agricultural properties are well-managed and kept in production.
“This commission is a shining example of Oregonians coming together around a common goal — to protect Oregon’s rich natural resources and agricultural heritage” said Kelley Beamer, executive director of the Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts, in a press release. “We are conservationists. We are ranchers. We are farmers. We are fishermen. We are hunters. And we are Oregonians. And we all have the same goal: to see Oregon’s resources sustained for future generations,” she said.
The biggest concern of the commission is a reduction in farmland over the next 20 years, as the current owners reach retirement age and pass the land onto their children, who may use properties for alternative uses.
Bailey is in the process of transferring responsibility of the family holding to the fourth generation. He said it’s time for him to retire and allow the next generation to make their mark.
“With the average age of Oregon farmers and ranchers at 60—higher than it’s ever been—and a massive transfer of agricultural lands looming over the next two decades, we found it imperative to get ahead of the issue,” said Mary Anne Cooper of the Oregon Farm Bureau in a press release. “Without assistance in passing on that farmland, we might lose it from agriculture forever.”
Last week’s meeting was a chance for the new commissioners to get to know each other before they dive into the issues at hand.
“We’re just barely getting started,” Bailey said.
The commission intends to come up with their legislative rules by the end of May, to be reviewed over the summer and adopted in the fall.
After that, the commission will be overseeing and managing the Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program, Bailey said.
The program is intended to connect Oregon’s farmers and ranchers to federal funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture set aside specifically for conservation land easements. A conservation easement is a voluntary legal and monetary agreement between a land trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect resources.
Applications for a conservation easement are available all-year round, but the next application deadline to apply in Oregon is March 1 and applications can be accessed at www.nrcs.usda.gov.