OR Public Hearing Shows Nearly 3:1 Support For Factory Farm Moratorium Bill 

Former Governor Kulongoski and ODA CAFO program developer among written comments in support of SB-85-1

Published Mar 13, 2023


Food System

Former Governor Kulongoski and ODA CAFO program developer among written comments in support of SB-85-1

Former Governor Kulongoski and ODA CAFO program developer among written comments in support of SB-85-1

Salem, OR — Today, the Senate Natural Resources Committee public hearing on the Factory Farm Moratorium Bill (S.B. 85-1) concluded. The continuation of the public hearing was scheduled to accommodate the mass turnout of speakers signed up to testify on the popular legislation, which would enact a moratorium on the largest new and expanding factory farms. The deadline for written testimony was also extended until March 15. To date, written testimony in support of the bill outnumbers that in opposition by a factor of nearly 3:1. As of Monday, 460 comments had been submitted in support of the bill.

“The numbers are clear: Oregonians want a time out on industrial factory farms in our state,” said Food & Water Watch Legal Director Tarah Heinzen. “After years of lax regulation, our food system is at a tipping point. It’s time to press pause on the unchecked proliferation of this unsustainable industry. Oregon legislators must side with our family-scale farmers and environment, and pass the Factory Farm Moratorium Bill now.”

Among the comments in favor of the legislation were those of former Governor Kulongoski, whose administration created a joint task force to study factory farm emissions; and Alan Youse, a retired Oregon Department of Agriculture employee responsible for developing the agency’s CAFO program.

“I believe that the public would have been better served in 2007 if there had been a moratorium provision in SB 235 that would’ve prevented more damage to the environment and to public health while the study of the program was ongoing,” wrote former Governor Kulongoski, of a factory farm task force bill passed under his administration. “The issues of water quantity and quality are critical concerns to me and to the citizens of Oregon regarding the siting of CAFOs because those issues affect both public health and the livelihoods of Oregonians. Without a moratorium on the government’s licensing and siting of CAFOs as defined in SB 85-1, the issues of water quantity and quality will remain unaddressed.”

“The Department of Agriculture’s current CAFO program is inadequate for addressing the impacts of Large Tier 2 CAFOs,” wrote Alan Youse, a retired ODA employee and one of the developers of the program in question. “The agency staff responsible for enforcing regulations are significantly under-resourced, and this hampers the program’s effectiveness. Additionally, the program does not adequately address environmental concerns. As a former agency official, I urge the Department of Agriculture to address these resource constraints and reevaluate and strengthen its program to ensure that CAFOs are held accountable, and that public health and the environment are protected.”

Factory farms are driving family farmers in Oregon out of business and polluting the environment with abandon. Only 2.5% of Oregon’s farms make up 70% of the state’s total agricultural sales. This market consolidation concentrates profits for the largest factory farms, while pushing family-scale farms off the land. Food & Water Watch research found that in the eight years after the state’s biggest dairy factory farm, Threemile Canyon, began operations, Oregon lost more than 600 family-scale dairies.

Unsustainable and inhumane farming practices allow factory farms to outcompete sustainable, family-scale farms. Oregon’s dozens of factory farms are rife with repeat environmental violations, from breaking state air pollution laws and waste spills into state waterways, to contaminating drinking water with cancer-causing nitrates, and driving an ongoing public health crisis in Morrow and Umatilla Counties. Proposals to bring multiple new corporate poultry factory farms into the Willamette Valley have raised additional concerns, including ammonia pollution linked to premature death and degraded waterways.

“We are already seeing the health problems and environmental impacts caused by the largest factory farms. Polluted wells and dry water sources should make everyone uncomfortable. This is not how we work to achieve a healthier Oregon,” said Jayesh Palshikar RN, chair of the Oregon Nurses Association cabinet on health policy. “The studies show: your health is at risk with a large factory farm as your neighbor. Oregon’s largest nurse professional association and union joins a chorus of public health voices in asking for this moratorium on factory farms.”

“Despite agreement by policy makers and community members that we need to limit the climate and local air pollution from industrial CAFOs, Oregon has no controls on these air pollutants,” said Center for Food Safety senior attorney Amy van Saun. “We must put a time out on new industrial CAFOs to put rules in place that protect community health and reduce the livestock industry’s contribution to the climate crisis already plaguing Oregon.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

Press Contact: Phoebe Galt [email protected]