Ahead of the Heard
Oregon has a diverse agricultural economy claiming the production of over 200 commodities. That makes agriculture the second largest sector of their economy at $5.4 billion, although that contribution remains fairly invisible. The state government seems to want to portray itself as a destination for manufacturing, tourism and high tech businesses. That approach seems to have spawned a “green” state approach with the usual anti-chemical and anti-commercial farming attitude.
That means more regulations and aggravation for resource industries. Forestry has been hard hit with a 90% reduction in timber harvesting on federal lands. Yet the state remains a major producer of softwood lumber. With its vast volcanic basalt base it’s not big in mining – producing only pumice, sand, gravel and some precious metals and gemstones.
Much of Oregon agriculture is based on the large production of a few commodities like wheat, cattle, hay and commercial crops like onions. It’s fascinating to see dozens of semi-trailer loads of onions lining up at processing facilities. Much of that large-scale production is due to massive irrigation projects fed by the Columbia River. There seems to be more land available for such irrigation, but such intensive type commercial agriculture is probably not seen as desirable by “green” minded politically-correct urban-based politicians. There also seems to be a rivalry between Portland and Seattle as to which has the most high tech and research industries and which is the greenest. Such competition tends to see resource industries and agriculture getting lost in the process.
The state is a large producer of grass seed particularly fescue, interestingly the other large growing area for fescue is the Peace River district of Northern Alberta and BC -1,500 km away.
Oregon is the second largest producer of hops, which explains why the city of Portland has the largest per capita number of breweries in North America. To add to that, Oregon has the third largest number of vineyards in the country at over 300. All of that beer and wine production seems to have resulted in some of the most lenient liquor laws in the country. Many stores, including museum gift shops, have wine or other alcohol for sale. It’s not unusual to see $6 bottles of wine for sale. It’s hard to see how vineyards can be viable with such low wine prices.
The biggest sector of the Oregon economy seems to be the service industry particularly the tourism sector. That would include out of state retirees and vacation home owners. Much of the Oregon coast is covered with beach front homes owned by folks from less scenic and colder climate areas. What is astonishing in Oregon is the very high quality of the roads. It seems that potholes and gravel roads are illegal in the state. That may be an intentional and clever government policy, being it puts a positive perspective of the state in the minds of tourists and visitors. One dubious note is the inclusion of bicycle lanes on some busy main highways – that seems a rather dangerous development for bikers and drivers alike – just to appease a green lobby.
One of the unique geologic features of Oregon is the presence of the largest ocean-front sand dunes in North America. Much of it is open to public recreational use and is a big tourist attraction – but its future is in peril. A hundred years ago the dunes were wide-open, but now much of it is covered with grass, brush and trees. Insome area up to fifty percent of the dunes are lost to unwanted vegetation. It all started years ago with the introduction of European beach grass that has literally taken over beaches and dunes in the state. The government has admitted something needs to be done to halt the infestation, but doesn’t like the obvious control measures – that being herbicides, soil sterilants and fire. As befitting the green approach – endless studies have been initiated to find alternative control measures. Perhaps they should hire a few thousand hippies to mow the nuisance beach grass with wind powered grass cutters!
Curiously with all the emphasis on the green approach in Oregon – approvals have been given for pipelines and a port terminal for the export of vast quantities of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Asia. That would be in direct competition to proposed LNG export projects in BC. Most of that gas would be pipelined in from – you guessed it – Alberta. It all boggles the mind – Oregon is an interesting state indeed.