Save agricultural land for agriculture and support adequate and stable school funding for Oregon students

Help save land for agriculture

Twenty years ago, we started 47th Avenue Farm on a small double lot in Southeast Portland. Today, our 50-acre farm and CSA has grown to include farmland in Clackamas and Yamhill Counties too. We are lucky to live in a region that has a vibrant food system where buying local is a way of life. But our thriving food system isn't guaranteed forever. People come to Oregon for our livable cities, local food, and open spaces. These features have been safeguarded for over 40 years by the strongest state land use program in the nation. Created in 1973, this program has slowed the spread of development and the loss of our wild and working lands, but it is not perfect — we've lost half a million acres from agricultural use since the program began. Oregon's growing population has the potential to compromise the very qualities that make this a great place to live, like our local agriculture and wildlife. Flat land near rivers has the best soil for growing food — it is also the easiest land to develop. At the same time as development pressures are increasing, farmers are experiencing mounting challenges affording agricultural land and passing the farm to the next generation. The Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program (House Bill 3249) would offer some solutions.  Among other things, it establishes a match fund for working lands conservation easements, where the landowner is paid to forgo certain development rights. The land can still be farmed and is protected from development forever, while the farmer can use the payment to grow the business or pay estate taxes without having to sell the farm. We need to act now to protect one of our most valuable non-renewable resources — our soil.  Without it, we lose the food system, open space, and habitat Oregonians hold dear.

Laura Materson, Portland

Laura Materson works at Lusher Farms in West Linn

Time for revenue reform and cost containment

There is much to be grateful for in the West Linn-Wilsonville School District. Thank you to the community for your wonderful support of capital bond measures and local option levies, to families and staff for your commitment to education excellence and to departing Board members Keith Steele and Rob Fernandez for your service.

Statewide, there's work to do. Since the ballot measures of the 1990s, Oregon's public school funding has moved to reliance on the state General Fund, which is based largely on income taxes. State school funding is particularly susceptible to the economic downturns, to the detriment of students. Since the last recession we have seen teachers laid off by the thousands, we watched our school year shrink, and class sizes increase. While West Linn-Wilsonville's graduation rates are excellent, Oregon's graduation rate is one of the lowest in the country. 

A top priority of the Oregon School Boards Association is adequate and stable state school funding. The OSBA conducted a poll of Oregonians, which found that Oregonians care deeply about fully funding education, and would support changes to the state's revenue system to do so.

Legislators have tackled the tough revenue discussions to make sure the state income tax burden is shouldered fairly. For example, HB 2830 proposes corporate rates that are phased in, tiered among industries and intended to exempt Oregon small businesses. 

Cost containment measures are also proposed, and it's OSBA's hope they will generate enough revenue to benefit classroom education. 

It's crunch time at the Capitol. Please urge our legislators and our communities to support revenue fairness and cost containment so Oregon students can achieve and Oregon's economy can thrive. 

Betty Reynolds, West Linn

Betty Reynolds is President of Oregon School Boards Association.  She is also a member of the West Linn Wilsonville School Board.    

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