The Coos-Curry County Farm Bureau has won a national award for its work to oppose land purchases that would convert southern Oregon farmland to wetlands.
The bureau won a County Activities of Excellence award from the American Farm Bureau. The award acknowledges “exceptional grassroots” work. Only 24 county bureaus earned the honor this year.
The Coos-Curry bureau opposed land purchases planned in the Coquille Valley by state and federal wildlife agencies and by non-profit organizations. The purchases of farmland were part of a wetlands restoration project.
Bureau members, worried about losing productive farmland, launched a public education campaign that included putting up about 200 road signs reading “Save family farms, no wetlands.”
“What’s converted to wetlands will never be converted again,” said Sharon Waterman, who with her husband, Charlie, raises sheep and cattle in the area. “Where are you going to get your food? We have to protect our agricultural land base.”
Members also held a community meeting, which was aired on public television, and testified before the Oregon Legislature about the issue.
The land purchases are on hold for now. Waterman believes agricultural land conversion will continue to be an issue that bears monitoring.
“If our farmers and ranchers do not bond together to fight these acquisitions, where will the next generation have land for production agriculture?” she wrote in the bureau’s award application. “These wetland restoration projects are permanent and most will have perpetual conservation easements on them to ensure they will never returned to agriculture production.”
Waterman will represent the bureau at an awards ceremony to be held in January in San Antonio, Texas.