Coba: Ag interest grows
Water investment 'pales in comparison' to Washington state
By MITCH LIES
SALEM -- Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Katy Coba said she is seeing an increase in support for Oregon agriculture from people outside the industry.
"In the last couple of weeks, there have been quite a few things that have hit home for me just how wonderful Oregon agriculture is, and ... from my perspective, more and more people outside of the industry are recognizing that fact," Coba said.
Coba made her comments Dec. 5 to participants in the Oregon Farm Bureau's annual convention.
Coba said she encountered "a lot of interest in Oregon agriculture" during the 10th annual Oregon business leadership summit, held Dec. 3 in Portland.
"People just generally like Oregon food, and they want agriculture to stay in this state," she said.
"This is something we can take advantage of. It is an exciting time and I've seen this trend probably over the last five years, and I would say it's more prevalent now than I have seen in a long time," Coba said.
Also, Coba said, Gov. John Kitzhaber is showing a strong commitment to enhancing water development in the state in a way that can benefit farmers and fish.
"This has been an issue that we in agriculture know we have needed for quite some time," Coba said.
"The good news is I think folks outside of agriculture are now recognizing that fact. Certainly, the governor is committed to it," she said.
Coba said the governor put around $22 million in bond capacity in his recommended budget for water development projects.
"That pales in comparison to the investment that Washington state has made," she said. "However, it clearly is a step in the right direction and I think it is incumbent on all of us to take advantage of this opportunity."
Coba ended her remarks by congratulating Oregon farmers for breaking the $5 billion mark in farm gate sales for the first time in 2011.
"After that horrible, horrible recession that we all struggled through, that rebound ... is just incredible," she said.