50 Groups Send Letter to Oregon Lawmakers to Urge Passage of SB85-1

As Oregon Senate debates gutting bill, new data finds vast majority of Oregonians support factory farm moratorium

Published Mar 21, 2023


Food System

As Oregon Senate debates gutting bill, new data finds vast majority of Oregonians support factory farm moratorium

As Oregon Senate debates gutting bill, new data finds vast majority of Oregonians support factory farm moratorium

SALEM, OR — Today, the Stand Up to Factory Farms coalition sent a letter from 50 organizations to Oregon lawmakers urging passage of SB85-1, which would pause factory farm permitting to better address the operations’ pollution risks. 

The public support for the bill comes one day before a Senate public hearing is scheduled to debate an amendment that would gut the legislation, and on the heels of new ASPCA data that confirms the vast majority of Oregonians (83 percent) support a moratorium on new and expanding factory farms.

Despite nearly 3-to-1 public support for SB85-1 at a public hearing earlier this month, a new proposed amendment would limit the provisions of the Factory Farm Moratorium Bill to apply only to poultry factory farms. And it would shrink the moratorium from eight to only two years, not nearly enough time to make the necessary changes to Oregon’s laws and regulations. 

For decades, mega-dairies have harmed Oregon’s family-scale farmers, and polluted the air and water of neighboring communities. The Easterday family also has a proposal before state regulators to bring a new dairy factory farm to the site of the former Lost Valley Dairy in North-Central Oregon.

The coalition’s letter cites problems caused by current mega-dairy operations that would be unaddressed by the proposed amendment, including:

  • The 11 mega-dairy facilities operating in the state produce over 17 million kilograms of planet-warming methane every year. 
  • The Lower Umatilla Basin, home to some of the largest operating and proposed mega-dairies in Oregon, suffers from depleted and degraded groundwater with widespread nitrate contamination. 
  • Forty years ago, Oregon was home to more than 4,000 dairies, mostly small, family-owned businesses. As factory dairy farms have come to dominate state milk production, just over 200 family-scale dairies remain. 

“Legislators’ foolhardy crusade to gut the Factory Farm Moratorium Bill have not gone unnoticed. Hitting pause on destructive factory farms of all types is a necessary prerequisite to rebuilding a food system that prioritizes sustainability and family-scale farming. It’s also popular policy,” said Food & Water Watch Legal Director Tarah Heinzen. “An overwhelming majority of Oregonians support a moratorium on factory farms — it’s time to pass SB85-1 with no loopholes and no caveats.”

“It’s clear there is widespread support among Oregonians for a full factory farm moratorium,” said Adam Mason, senior manager of farm animal welfare and environmental policy for the ASPCA. “Industrial agribusiness operations are causing immense suffering for animals while polluting the air and water, all while pushing smaller, independent farmers out of business. Oregon lawmakers must act to prioritize higher-welfare farming by reining in large factory farms.” 

“We cannot ignore the ongoing health harms to communities surrounding mega-dairies, particularly in Hispanic and Latinx communities in the Lower Umatilla Basin,” said Amy van Saun, senior attorney with the Center for Food Safety. “A bill that only stops the proposed mega chicken factories in the Willamette Valley will leave these already-burdened communities out in the cold and that is not environmental justice.”

“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 of all kinds.”

“Supporters and opponents are both concerned that farms in Oregon are being forced to get big or get out. The difference is that on the side of support for SB 85-1, we are taking action to protect the small and midsize farms instead of resigning to the industrialization of agriculture in our state,” said Alice Morrison, Friends of Family Farmers Co-Director. “The current system is a problem for land and water use, our rural economies, land accessibility and the resilience of our food system. We are so lucky to have a thriving small and midsize farm community, it’s time to take action to protect them — that means passing SB85-1.”

“The largest proposed and expanding CAFOs threaten air quality in the Gorge and Oregon at large. These extremely large CAFOs produce nitrogen oxides, ammonia and particulate matter, endangering workers, nearby communities and the environment. A moratorium on the largest proposed and expanding CAFOs of all kinds is a necessary step in the right direction,” said Steve McCoy, attorney at Friends of the Columbia Gorge.

“Oregon’s waterways and the endangered salmon and steelhead that depend on them are suffocating under huge loads of waste from the state’s factory farms,” said Quinn Read, Oregon policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Legislators’ last-second push to prioritize protecting polluting mega-dairies over the health of our environment ignores the voices of the majority of Oregonians who overwhelmingly want clean water.”

Press Contact: Phoebe Galt [email protected]