Defining Our Terms
We are often asked what mean when we use certain terms. To clear up any confusion we have put together a list of our definitions of certain terms we find ourselves using on a regular basis.
What we consider a “Family Farm”
One way of looking at it that we’ve used for a number of years is “A family farm is one where the family unit makes the majority decisions for the farm, provides the majority of the labor and assumes all of the risk.” During the creation of the Agricultural Reclamation Act in 2010, the farmers and ranchers felt that this wasn’t as representative as they would like, and decided that a better way to define themselves was by listing the values and attributes that define them.
- They are actively farming or ranching at a scale that is appropriate to their land and family unit.
- The primary producer is, or working towards, obtaining the majority of their livelihood from the land, while taking on the majority of the financial risk.
- The family unit is making all of the management and operational decisions and the primary farmer is involved in the daily running of the business.
- The family unit is providing the majority of the labor; if outside labor is needed, the farm provides fair wages and good working conditions.
- The farm, ranch, and related business are embedded in their community.
- The farm/ranch is substantially contributing to their local and regional economies.
- The agricultural practices performed on their land are humane and ecologically sound, providing animals with a high quality of life while enhancing the soil, air, water and wildlife.
- A family farming operation evolves to accomodate each new generation of farmers.
- Diversity and resilience are represented through a variety of plant/animal genetics, farm products and the agricultural ecosystem.
What we mean by “Socially Responsible”
We believe socially responsible agriculture is an approach to farming that respects the land, treats animals humanely, sustains local communities and provides a viable livelihood for family farmers.
Socially responsible family farmers and ranchers exhibit all of these characteristics and more>>
What we mean by “Factory Farms”
It is our belief that it is neither natural, smart nor sustainable to confine hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of animals in one location without access to fresh air or vegetation. We consider this standardization of agriculture to be factory farming. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calls these operations animal feeding operations (AFOs) or concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).
AFOs are agricultural operations where animals are kept and raised in confined situations. AFOs generally congregate animals, feed, manure, dead animals, and production operations on a small land area. Feed is brought to the animals rather than the animals grazing or otherwise seeking feed in pastures. Animal waste and wastewater can enter water bodies from spills or breaks of waste storage structures (due to accidents or excessive rain), and non-agricultural application of manure to crop land.
Our primary concern is with large federal CAFOs, which meet the above definition of an AFO and confine at least 1,000 animal units. Animal units vary by species, but the operations that we have concern about have 1,000 or more beef cattle, 700 or more dairy cattle, 2,500 or more pigs, 30,000 or more laying hens or 125,000 or more chickens. Read more about the EPA’s CAFO program here.
Oregon “CAFOs” and Why it’s so Confusing
A facility is an Oregon confined animal feeding operation or “CAFO” if it meets the following:
(a) The concentrated feeding or holding of animals or poultry, including but not limited to horse, cattle, sheep, or swine feeding areas, dairy confinement areas, slaughterhouse or shipping terminal holding pens, poultry and egg production facilities and fur farms;
(A) in buildings or in pens or lots where the surface has been prepared with concrete, rock or fibrous material to support animals in wet weather; or
(B) that have wastewater treatment works; or
(C) that discharge any wastes into the waters of the state
This means that the majority of farms with animals on premise are considered to be an Oregon CAFO and are required to have a state issued permit, as are are all Oregon Dairies that are licensed by the state. We are not concerned or fighting against Oregon family farmers that hold CAFOs permits as the law requires. Our concern lies with the large, federal CAFOs that are moving into our state and threatening rural communities. It is unfortunate that the the Oregon Department of Agriculture chose to use the same acronym as the Environmental Protection Agency and we continue to urge the department to find an alternative name for the state permit. Read more about the state’s CAFO program.
A system in the farming sector where the goal is to increase yield (such as bushels per acre) and decrease costs of production, usually by exploiting economies of scale. This has resulted in decreasing farm numbers and has forced the remaining farms to become appreciably larger, more mechanized, chemical-intensive and dependent. They now specialize in a few commodities and may have to enter into contractual relationships with processors because of vertical integration.
Local and Regional Food Systems
Denotes a food system where food is produced, processed, distributed and sold within a certain geographical area. These systems are based on deep relationships between farmers and consumers, and aim to circulate money and create jobs within the region as well.