Writings and observations

ridenbaugh Northwest
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A piece from the Oregon Department of Agriculture on the bright colors of spring in Oregon, and their economic effect.

A sudden burst of warm sunny weather in late April has hastened the bloom of many flowering plants in Oregon that help bring color and cash to the state. With the blossoms come sales of floricultural production, which remains a key sector of Oregon agriculture. A new report shows cut flowers, potted flowering plants, and bedding plants are still important components of the state’s $744 million greenhouse and nursery industry, even though the numbers are down slightly.

“Floriculture is very important to Oregon’s economy,” says Gary McAninch, supervisor of the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s Nursery and Christmas Tree Programs. “Of course, it’s a smaller subsection of the nursery industry, but floriculture’s sales and production value would by itself make it a top ten agricultural commodity in Oregon.”

Motorists don’t even have to stop or get off the freeway to see the splendor of Oregon floriculture in the spring.

“All you have to do is travel I-5 to see all the flowers that are blooming,” says McAninch. “The tulips and daffodils are already out, the irises will start blooming soon, and the dahlias will follow. It’s a beautiful time of the year to be driving in the Willamette Valley.”

The US Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) has released its annual floriculture survey. Nationally, the 2012 wholesale value of floriculture crops increased one percent to an estimated $4.13 billion, which is the same figure recorded in 2010. California continues to account for about 24 percent of the nation’s production followed by Florida, Michigan, Texas, and North Carolina. California and Florida combine to produce about 44 percent of the US floriculture production. Notably, both states saw a slight drop in production value last year despite the overall increase nationally.

Oregon ranks 11th in the nation in value of floriculture, with 213 growers responsible for about $129 million in wholesale value– about a 2 percent decrease from 2011. The number of growers in Oregon has dropped from 250 three years ago. The statistics show bedding and garden plants with a wholesale value of $50 million, potted flowering plants at $18 million, propagative materials, such as bulbs, at $9 million, and cut flowers at $12 million. All categories are down from three years ago with the exception of cut flowers, which has increased in wholesale value about 17 percent since 2010.

A significant slump in the nursery industry as a whole caused by the national recession the past few years has impacted floriculture.

“The overall economy has been slow to recover and we’ve seen the results on Oregon’s nursery industry,” says McAninch. “I’m not surprised that it has affected floriculture as well.”

Still, the nursery industry is bouncing back and McAninch expects the same for floriculture.

People have already enjoyed some of the state’s floricultural bounty, and there is more to come.

Easter would have a different look without Oregon. Easter lilies are raised in greenhouses and sold at retail outlets throughout North America, but virtually all of the bulbs that give rise to the lovely white flowers come from Curry County on the south coast and its California neighbor, Del Norte County.

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