We were No. 2 and now we're No. 1 - and we're darned proud of it.

For the sixth consecutive year, Oregon's farmers and ranchers have experienced positive sales growth, grossing an estimated $4.9 billion in 2008 - the largest total in the state's history, according to a new report just released by Oregon State University.

Cattle are Oregon's No. 1 agricultural commodity with $664 million in sales, surpassing nursery crops (when excluding greenhouse crops) for the first time in recent history and ahead of dairy, wheat and farm forest products. The 1,900-member Oregon Cattlemen's Association is proud of what our cattle industry has accomplished, but we have lots of challenging issues ahead of us to work on in 2009.

During this Oregon Legislative session and with the folks in Washington, D.C., we are closely monitoring issues that are important to all Oregonians. These issues include mandatory country of origin labeling, protection of grazing rights on public land, statute language changes relating to wolves, renewal of state meat and meat plant inspection in Oregon, and support of legislation relating to climate change only if it is scientifically founded and not detrimental to the agricultural and natural resources communities.

That's a handful for a bunch of hard-working cattle ranching families, so we need the support of all Oregonians - those living in both rural and urban areas of our state. We have three main messages we want to communicate about Oregon cattle ranchers:

1. We provide a positive economic impact for Oregon

2. We are good stewards of the land

3. We are passionate protectors of wildlife

A Positive Economic Impact

Did you know that every $1 invested in Oregon's cattle industry returns $7 to the state's economy? Now that's what we like to call a sustainable economic impact. And as the state's No. 1 cash commodity, sales of cattle and calves represent about 15 percent of Oregon's entire agricultural sector. When you add farming, our sector contributes 10 percent of the entire state's economy. Because we are well-managed and use renewable resources, Oregon cattle ranchers ensure the economic viability of communities, the strength of businesses and the sustainability of families across the state.

Good Stewards of the Land

Cattle ranchers are Oregon's first true environmentalists. Why? Because our livelihood depends on the land. Oregon's cattle ranchers have a long history of preserving their property and we believe in leaving a light footprint upon the land to sustain that land for future generations. What you want Oregon to be is what we're all about - protecting our state's open spaces, streams and meadows; providing wholesome food; and providing habitat for fish and wildlife. We have 100-year goals to preserve what is best for Oregon - and some of our cattle ranching families have been doing this for more than 150 years.

Protectors of Fish and Wildlife in Oregon

Did you know that most of Oregon's wildlife spends some or all of their lives on working ranchland? Birds and mammals find sanctuary, good feed, reliable sources of water and the isolation they need to survive. Species like elk, deer, sage grouse and salmon benefit from the habitat improvement efforts of Oregon's cattle ranchers. During times of drought and extreme winters, ranchers provide feed for wildlife. And many of Oregon's ranchers have partnered directly with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife on preservation and restoration projects.

Oregon's cattle ranchers help provide what Oregonians value in quality of life, and we are on the front lines of everything that is important to our state. As Katy Coba, director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, recently said, "If we don't have ranchers out taking care of the land, who is going to take care of it and what is going to be the cost to the public of doing that?"

Bill Moore is president of Oregon Cattlemen's Association. He was born in 1955 in Ontario. He graduated from Oregon State University with a bachelor's degree in wildlife management and worked briefly for the state of Oregon before working for Athlantic Richfield. His family runs cattle in Malheur and Baker counties with its headquarters near Unity on a combination of deeded and rented private and public ground.

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