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Nurseries on comeback trail

Jeff Stone, head of the Oregon Association of Nurseries see a bright future for his industry.


Capital Press

Published on September 6, 2013 6:19PM

Courtesy of Oregon Association of Nurseries regon Association of Nureries Executive Director Jeff Stone talks with Jerry Simnitt, co-owner of Simnitt Farms, Canby Ore., and a past president of OAN.

Courtesy of Oregon Association of Nurseries regon Association of Nureries Executive Director Jeff Stone talks with Jerry Simnitt, co-owner of Simnitt Farms, Canby Ore., and a past president of OAN.

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Oregon Association of Nurseries Executive Director Jeff Stone said that although the state has fewer nurseries now than at the beginning of the economic downturn five years ago, things are looking up for the industry.

This recession, he said, has lasted longer than others that Oregon nurseries have weathered, but positive indicators that the industry is bouncing back, like shortages in plant materials, are starting to appear.

Shortages can indicate buyers are purchasing in greater bulk and with more confidence, he said.

“Oregon is primed to shore up those shortages because of our ability to grow things faster with higher quality. We’ll once again shine in the minds of those buying plants and trees,” Stone said.

But despite the uptick in business, Stone said the recession has changed the marketplace and growers are now more cautious in forecasting sales and planting stock.

“It’s changed the mentality of the industry, that you can’t just plant it and sell it,” he said.

He pointed out that Oregon is the second largest nursery state in the U.S.

“We are seeing improvement out there,” Stone said. “Oregon will lag the rest of the country; we’re usually one of the first ones in a recession and one of the last ones out.

“Is it going to be the rocketship growth that they experienced during the heyday? Probably not, but it will be growth. I think those that survived will find themselves fortified and have a great possibility for success.”

As part of a long-term protection for Oregon growers, this year OAN backed Senate Bill 839, which the Legislature passed in July and created the Water Supply Development Fund. The investment fund is a new way to help the Oregon Water Resources Department fund water development projects and underscores the need for securing future water resources.

Stone said the decision for the OAN to support the bill came from the realization that climate change is occurring and could decrease the state’s future water resources.

“Without reliable water storage and balance, there will be a long-term impact on the survivability of this industry,” he said.

The fund is designed to evaluate projects that don’t favor one sector or the other — economy or the environment — but approach development and resource allocation from a holistic perspective. Funds will be allotted to competitive projects that are judged based on a combination of environmental, social and economic benefits, Stone said.

“If you need state funds, then you really need to balance your approach. We think that’s in the long-term health of fish, families and farms,” he said.

Another success for the OAN this year was the passage of Senate Bill 833, which allows undocumented workers in Oregon to obtain a driver’s card.

“It was our number one legislative priority. We believe folks in the agriculture community should be able to get to work,” Stone said.

The cards will be issued to applicants who fulfill minimum state requirements and have lived in Oregon for more than one year. The cards must be renewed every four years, unlike state driver’s licenses, which are renewed every eight years. Cards can only be used to provide evidence of driving privileges.

“(A driver’s card) is solely for the ability to understand the rules of the road and make our roads more safe. It’s not just an undocumented worker issue with people being unlicensed and uninsured — we want to try to reduce any barrier, regardless if you are an undocumented immigrant, someone who is elderly, or someone who is homeless,” Stone said.

The law will go into effect Jan. 1.


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