Salem, OR — This afternoon, SB 85-7, legislation to impose new restrictions on some Oregon factory farms, passed unanimously out of the Senate Rules Committee. The legislation will temporarily limit new factory farms’ exploitation of a groundwater use loophole and will enable — but not require — local governments to impose setbacks from residences. The bill now goes to the Joint Ways & Means Committee.
Food & Water Watch Legal Director Tarah Heinzen issued the following statement:
“Factory farms pose an unequivocal threat to Oregon. For months, as polluting profiteers try to drive more of these dirty operations into our communities, Oregonians have been unrelenting in our demands of state legislators to press pause on this destructive industry’s expansion. Passage of SB 85-7 would not go nearly far enough in protecting Oregon from factory farms. Oregon legislators must take stronger action to protect our communities and environment from the factory farm threat — we will not stop until they do.”
As multiple proposals for new and expanding factory farms sit before the state, farmers, activists and rural residents have turned out en masse in support of an earlier version of the legislation, SB 85-1, which would have enacted a factory farm moratorium. A March hearing on SB 85-1 drew nearly 3-to-1 support, and later that month, 50 organizations sent a letter to Oregon lawmakers urging its passage.
Factory farms pose an urgent threat to Oregon communities and the environment, and disproportionately harm environmental justice communities, yet this afternoon’s work session ignored these well-documented harms. The state’s largest factory farm and another proposed mega-dairy have repeatedly violated state air and water pollution permits, respectively. Meanwhile, nitrate pollution from factory farms and agricultural fields have plagued the surrounding Lower Umatilla Basin community with unsafe drinking water for decades. SB 85-7 would not address this drinking water crisis, after key provisions to regulate existing and expanding factory farm pollution were removed from the bill.