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Side Notes 3/23-3/30 

Farm Subsidies Affect Land Value

Crop insurance subsidies help mega-farmers to outbid smaller farmers on farmland, according to the Center for Rural Affairs. On Wednesday, the non-profit released a new report exploring the impact that subsidized crop insurance places on land values.

"These findings demonstrate that subsidies have value to producers, and some of those subsidies get bid into land costs. When those subsidies also serve to reduce risk, they have an even greater value than the subsidy alone," explained Traci Bruckner, Senior Policy Associate with the Center for Rural Affairs.

Crop insurance premiums subsidized by the government reduce the risks associated with crop failure or loss of revenue. The amount of the subsidy varies by crop, by state and by year. Oregon received $2.1 billion in U.S. Department of Agriculture farm subsidies between 1995 and 2014. Of that amount, $262 million were crop insurance subsidies.

Tough Choices at the MPO

Bend's Metropolitan Planning Organization met for the first time since the failure of the fuel tax ballot measure on March 8. The outlook was in stark contrast to claims by the anti-fuel tax political action committee that growth pays for itself.

"Right now, every department in the city must look for ways to make cuts," said MPO Policy Board member and Bend City Councilor Doug Knight.

The MPO policy board, chaired by Tony Debone of Deschutes County, examined Surface Transportation Program (STP) funds, considering ways to help solve the nightmare of the $80 million needed for road repair in Bend. STP funds are federal and based on population, which means Bend receives four percent of the amount distributed to Oregon annually. In 2016, this is $1.01 million.

The annual budget to keep Bend roads in the current condition (rating a 68) is $4.3 million. One lane mile (12. ft wide)costs a minimum of $20,000 to maintain. The MPO left no stone unturned, reviewing line items such as bike lane striping, curbs and bus stops for cost-savings. Ultimately, it was apparent that competing needs may require consideration of less than 100 percent funding of essential services, including police and fire.

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