New Research Details Skyrocketing Emissions and Water Use of Oregon’s 11 Mega-Dairies

Research finds yearly methane emissions of Oregon’s mega-dairies equal pollution from 318,000 passenger cars.


Food System

For Immediate Release

Salem, OR – New research from national advocacy group Food & Water Watch tracks the emissions of Oregon’s 11 dairy CAFOs, or mega-dairies, and reveals their profound impact on climate change and public health. According to Food & Water Watch’s findings, the yearly methane emissions of Oregon’s mega-dairies produce the equivalent CO2 emissions of 318,000 cars — more than all of Marion County’s registered passenger vehicles

Like the rest of the Western U.S., Oregon is experiencing the worst drought the region has seen in 1,200 years and is increasingly vulnerable to year-round wildfires. Morrow County holds the highest concentrations of Oregon’s mega-dairies despite the region’s dry, arid landscape, and is home to a large Hispanic/Latinx population, who are disproportionately impacted by the harms from mega-dairies. The research highlights the area as a key example of a population already overburdened from decades of industrial agricultural pollution. As weather trends reflect a warming planet and wildfires and drought become regular occurrences, the vulnerability of communities across Oregon to the health and environmental hazards of these facilities will grow. The report likewise refers to the expanding dairy digesters and resulting factory farm gas pipelines as dangerous for surrounding communities.

“Oregon needs an immediate moratorium on new and expanding mega-dairies,” said Mackenzie Aime, Oregon Organizer with Food & Water Watch. “For years we have known that with mega-dairy expansion comes pollution and water scarcity. This new research makes clear that the emissions and water use of these industrial facilities will soon be felt by Oregonians all over the state. We need to reevaluate this flawed system instead of expanding or propping it up with scams like factory farm gas that will only entrench mega-dairies and dirty energy. ”

The report also flags the heavy emissions produced by the anaerobic digesters frequently used by industrial mega-dairies to capture methane. Burning the gas produced by the anaerobic digestion process releases carbon dioxide and other pollutants like smog-forming nitrogen oxides, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, creating hazards for surrounding communities.

Other key statistics highlighted by the report:

  • Oregon’s 11 mega-dairies consume 8.2 million gallons of water a day just for drinking water and washing cows and buildings, enough to meet the average indoor daily water needs of over 124,000 Oregonians.
  • The yearly methane emissions of Oregon’s mega-dairies produce the equivalent CO2 emissions of 318,000 cars — more than all of Marion County’s registered passenger vehicles. 
  • Those emissions fuel mega-fires, which also fuel climate change. Oregon’s wildfires during the summer of 2021 produced 17 million tons of carbon dioxide — the warming equivalent of driving 3.7 million passenger cars for one year.

For years, the Stand Up to Factory Farms Coalition, of which Food & Water Watch is a member, has called for a moratorium on new and expanding mega-dairies and bold action to curtail the emissions and health hazards of unsustainable factory farming.



Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]