My passion for land use policy is born from a social justice perspective. This area of policy often pits those who have money and access to power against those who don't.
But besides the issues of social justice, good land use policy is also, in many cases, just good common sense. You don't build a nuclear power plant next to a school. You don't build a prison next to a playground. And hopefully, you don't pave over high value farmland to build strip malls and destination resorts.
That last one is surprisingly contentious. In reality, it shouldn't be.
Farming's direct economic impact in Oregon adds up to 10 percent of the state's sales, 12 percent of jobs and 7 percent of its value-added activity, according to a new report by the state Department of Agriculture.
Add the sales, services and professions that sprout from farming -- everything from fertilizer purchases and tractor repair to land-use lawyers -- and the impact is even greater. But dollar signs don't tell the full value of the 16 million acres devoted to farming and ranching in Oregon, according to department economist and policy analyst Brent Searle.
He maintains farmland provides ecological and even social benefits as well.
In addition to growing food and fiber and supporting livestock, farmland filters water, shelters wildlife, stores carbon dioxide, gives tourists something to look at and provides residents a sense of open space, Searle says in the report.
In addition, the state's farmland is adaptive, renewable, sustainable, efficient and primarily family-owned and operated. For those reasons, Searle concludes, it's crucial to avoid converting farmland to housing, industry, shopping or other business use.
It's unrealistic to try and preserve every scrap of land in Oregon for farming. But this report demonstrates that it's vital that we preserve as much as we possibly can. It's cheaper for taxpayers, it allows us to grow our food and other crops locally and it provides a stable, long term economic engine for the state.
And the gravy? We keep this beautiful, scenic, liveable place.