Economically, we are what we eat
By Bob Wise, Cogan Owens Cogan LLC
Cogan Owens Cogan LLC
Bob Wise is an Associate Principal with Cogan Owens Cogan LLC. This is the second installment of a series on import substitution.
This is the second installment in a series about the concept of import substitution by Bob Wise. Read the introduction, "Should we build Apples or should we harvest them," here.
Have you ever asked where your food comes from? Sometimes I ask at food markets: “Can I buy something grown in Oregon?” I usually get a blank stare because there is so little from Oregon in these markets, particularly in the off-season.
If we are sitting in the midst of one of the world’s most food-abundant places why is it so difficult to buy food grown here? The answer is that we import most of the food we eat.
We currently import at least 90 percent of the food we purchase from outside the Portland region. Research sponsored by the USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program found that the total food and related inputs purchased outside the Portland region is about $4.7 billion a year.
If we can substitute 10 percent to 20 percent of the food currently imported from outside the region with food produced regionally — import substitution — we can increase regional wealth by between $470 million and $940 million annually. It is also important that such import substitution be pursued while still supporting exports.
How can we change this significant “leakage” dynamic? Summarized below are findings from several recent research projects conducted by Cogan Owens Cogan and regional partners that attempt to answer some of these questions.
1. What does the food economy look like? The food economic cluster includes production (growing), processing, distribution and consumption industries. It is a significant economic engine, with 16,150 firms, 155,903 employees and a 2008 payroll of $2.97 billion in the Portland region alone.
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