Statement on Appointment of Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Katy Coba to Lead the Oregon Department of Administrative Services from Ivan Maluski, Policy Director, Friends of Family Farmers
“We wish Katy Coba the best in her new role with the Department of Administrative Services. Her long background in state government should serve her well. But we also believe that a change in leadership at the Oregon Department of Agriculture is needed and hope that Governor Brown will use this opportunity to proactively shift the agency in a direction that better represents the strong commitment that Oregonians have to supporting sustainable, family-scale farms and agriculture.”
“Over the last several years at ODA, we’ve seen a growing shift towards promoting large, corporate, factory-scale farming operations in Oregon even as the state has been losing small and mid-sized family farms in large numbers. We’ve also seen an unwillingness by ODA to support common-sense state-level regulations to protect Oregon farmers from the significant economic risks and harms associated with poorly regulated genetically engineered crops. Whether it’s the growth of factory farms or the agency’s unwillingness to regulate genetically engineered crops to protect at-risk farmers, all too often ODA has stood with out-of-state agri-business interests.”
“In recent years, the ODA has also embarked on controversial efforts to open the long-standing Willamette Valley Protected District’s world-class seed producing region to genetically engineered canola, putting hundreds of family farms that are part of our valuable seed, fresh market vegetable and organic industries at risk. Friends of Family Farmers and a number of family-owned Oregon seed companies were forced to sue the agency over its 2012 decision to use a ‘temporary’ rule for such a significant decision, with the Oregon Court of Appeals calling the ODA’s justification ‘legally incorrect’ and ‘unreasonable.’”
“While we have not always agreed with Coba’s decisions or the stances of the Oregon Department of Agriculture during her tenure, we’ve appreciated being able to raise issues of importance to sustainable, family-scale farmers in Oregon and wish her well in this new position. We look forward to engaging Governor Brown and her staff as they search for a new Director for the Oregon Department of Agriculture and believe this appointment presents a key opportunity for the Governor to leave a legacy that reflects the importance of supporting sustainable, small and mid-sized family-scale farms and agriculture in our state.”
Groups File Comments Seeking Rejection of Oregon Mega-Livestock Operation
Cite Significant Impacts to Water, Air and Public Health
Salem, OR – This week, a wide range of environmental, family farm, public health and animal welfare organizations jointly submitted comments urging the State of Oregon to reject a proposed 30,000-head confinement dairy operation near the Columbia River. The facility would be one of the nation’s largest dairy confined animal feeding operations and poses a major threat to ground and surface water, air quality and public health in the region.
The facility, Lost Valley Ranch, is seeking a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit from the Oregon Departments of Agriculture and Environmental Quality. Though the facility would produce more biological waste than most Oregon cities, it is proposed for the Lower Umatilla Basin Groundwater Management Area, which is impacted by elevated nitrate concentrations in groundwater that in many areas exceed federal safe drinking water standards, or which contain excess pathogens from manure and bio-solids.
“We are concerned about the potential human health problems of adding more nitrogen and pathogens into the Lower Umatilla Basin aquifer,” said Kelly Campbell, executive director of Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility.
In addition to water quality concerns, the facility would be a significant new source of air pollution in a region already impacted by emissions from several nearby large confined animal feeding operations and industrial sources. The Oregon Dairy Air Quality Task Force in 2008 found that dairies and other animal feeding operations emit a wide range of pollutants including ammonia, nitrogen oxides, methane, volatile organic compounds, hydrogen sulfide and particulate matter, all of which pose public health risks in a region with declining air quality.
Despite this, the state has no plan to regulate, or even monitor, air emissions from the facility. “By ignoring the air pollution impacts of these kinds of mega-livestock operations altogether, Oregon is in effect subsidizing factory-scale livestock production,” said Ivan Maluski, policy director with Friends of Family Farmers, a small and mid-size farm advocacy group that served on the state’s Dairy Air Quality Task Force.
The proposal would produce roughly 187 million gallons of manure each year and use over 320 million gallons of water annually, raising questions on long-term impacts to the Umatilla basin and Columbia River as water becomes more scarce due to drought and climate change.
“The Oregon Department of Agriculture is tasked with both promoting and regulating agribusiness, and its conflict of interest is apparent in this proposal to permit a massive factory dairy, despite threats to water quality and public health,” said Tarah Heinzen, an attorney with Food & Water Watch.
“We urge the Oregon Department of Agriculture to deny this project,” said Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This factory farm would use over 320 million gallons of water each year, taking water from endangered species like salmon and putting drinking water at risk.”
“The establishment of this factory farm would take a harmful toll on farm animal welfare, the environment and public health, and it would also be a step toward putting more of Oregon’s family farmers out of business. The Oregon Department of Agriculture should reject this proposal,” said Scott Beckstead, director of rural outreach for The Humane Society of the United States.
The organizations submitting the comments are Food & Water Watch, Columbia Riverkeeper, Friends of Family Farmers, Northwest Environmental Defense Center, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, Sierra Club Oregon Chapter, Friends of the Columbia River Gorge, The Humane Society of the United States and Center for Biological Diversity.
When envisioning Naked Acres Farm, one might imagine empty fields or uniform row crops. This farm is nothing of the sort. It is a wonderful specimen of diversity, a bouquet of heritage animals and heirloom vegetables, a lovely juxtaposition of the plant and animal kingdoms. Seeing as how the farm is so full of life and colors and characters, my guess is the adornment missing from this naked farm scene is a veil of synthetic chemicals and confinement infrastructure for their animals.
Naked Acres Farm is the result of dedication, long days, and tenacity. Farmers Gus and Margo manage the 3 ½ acres every day while juggling two farmers markets and off-farm jobs. Having an off-farm income is critical for many, if not most, beginning farmers. The high cost of land and water, particularly urban land and water, equipment and amendment costs, and the inherent risk of working at the whim of Mother Nature makes farming a high investment, low return sort of profession. Naked Acres accounts for this precarious formula by growing the farm incrementally as to avoid debt, even if it means the physical growth is slower than their reveries.
FoFF’s Urban Outreach program recently teamed up with IRCO (Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization) to organize a farm tour for parents enrolled in the Seed to Supper programs at Gilbert Park and Lent Elementary. Most of the folks who attended the field trip had never experienced a commercial farm setting nor met a farmer producing food in their own community.
Naturally, the tour kicked off with the most amusing feature, the animals. Gus described the process of raising animals humanely and why they concede extra labor and additional space in order to ensure their animals receive the highest welfare possible. It shows. The chickens, hogs, goats, sheep, and even a llama all exhibit their natural behaviors, outside in fresh air, with plenty of space to scratch and jump and root around for hidden treasures in the dirt. Due to their commitment to humane and ecologically responsible animal husbandry, Naked Acres Farm serves on the advisory board of Friends of Family Farmers’ Oregon Pasture Network.
Livestock animals are not the only creatures tended to on the farm. Beneficial insects, the kinds that feed on pests like aphids and mites and pollinate crops, are catered to with hedgerows, spray-free management practices, and forage abundance. Their vegetable production is an arduous one because, like everything else on the farm, Gus and Margo opt to take time to hand-weed rather than using herbicides. Thanks to the additional time, labor, and love they devote to the land, farm visitors are free to touch and taste with ease and enjoyment.
Naked Acres hosts an open farm a couple of times per year. If you are itching to witness hilarious goats and happy hogs, email Gus to receive notifications.
Sunday, March 6th
Living Learning Center South, Performance Hall
(1455 East 15th Avenue
University of Oregon, Eugene) 4-7 pm
Come learn how simple it is to make your own kraut, kimchi and other fermented delicacies. Learn about the healing qualities and nutritional importance of live-culture ferments, as well as their illustrious history and integral role in human cultural evolution. Empower yourself with simple techniques for fermenting these healthful foods in your home. Be part of the fermentation revival!
We will begin by hearing from Sandor about just what is so artful about fermentation. He will then lead a hands-on workshop where you can learn how to ferment your favorite (or winter appropriate) veggie!
This is a group fermentation workshop. You will be working with a handful of other fermentation enthusiasts to create a tasty, microbial rich concoction.
Please bring the following items to this workshop: 1-2 lbs. of veggies to ferment, cutting board, knife, hand grater, hand towel, and a wide-mouth mason jar with a ring. Home Fermenter in Eugene is generously donating lids with grommet holes and plastic airlocks to help your fermentation process.
Sandor Ellix Katz is a fermentation revivalist. His books Wild Fermentation (2003) and the Art of Fermentation (2012), along with the hundreds of fermentation workshops he has taught around the world, have helped to catalyze a broad revival of the fermentation arts. A self-taught experimentalist who lives in rural Tennessee, the New York Times calls him “one of the unlikely rock stars of the American food scene.” The Art of Fermentation received a James Beard award, and Sandor was honored with the Craig Claiborne Lifetime Achievement Award from the Southern Foodways Alliance in 2014.
Here is a map of the building and where you can find parking!
In late 2015, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finalized the long-awaited Food Safety Modernization Act ‘Produce Rule,’ which sets sweeping new standards for growing, packing, harvesting and holding produce for human consumption.
Friends of Family Farmers joined sustainable and family farm advocates from across the nation to submit comments and provide feedback on the proposed rules during comment periods in 2014 and in face-to-face meetings with FDA staff in 2015. Our message was clear: smaller farms either need to be exempt from onerous new requirements under the rules, or must be able to comply without facing unreasonable costs. The farmers we work with already strive to provide the highest quality, healthiest produce available, and any requirements in the new Produce Rule should be based in science and not put responsible farmers at risk of going out of business.
While the rules were finalized late last year, many provisions will take time to go into effect, and some farms are exempt all together. So, here’s some things you need to know in the near term:
When do the regulations go into effect? The earliest deadlines for compliance with the Produce Rule are in January 2018, and this deadline applies only to the very largest farms. For farms classified as ‘small businesses’ – meaning they gross less than $500,000 per year on a rolling three year average – compliance begins in January 2019. Additionally, farms of this size can secure a ‘qualified exemption’ if more than 50% of their sales are direct-to-consumer or to restaurants and retail establishments within the same state and not more than 275 miles from the farm. Compliance begins in January 2020 for farms that gross less than $250,000 per year from produce sales on a rolling three year average – these are ‘very small businesses’ as defined by FDA. Farms that gross under $25,000 per year are exempt completely. A full list of exemptions and ‘qualified exemptions’ from FDA, including what crops are covered, can be found here.
That sounds really vague, what can I be doing now? If you believe your farm qualifies as a ‘small business’, ‘very small business’, or may even be exempt, begin documenting that now and keep good records. The FDA is ultimately going to need you to show them documentation dating back to 2016 to demonstrate how the rule will affect you.
In Oregon, the Oregon Department of Agriculture Food Safety Division ultimately expects there to be ‘thousands’ of farms in the state that have never previously experienced the level of inspection that FSMA will bring. In addition to documenting gross income to assess how the rules apply, many farmers who irrigate will have to test water for pathogens and may have to add filtration systems if their water quality is compromised.
Through our involvement in the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Task Force, Friends of Family Farmers is in a unique position to help provide feedback to ODA on how they approach their responsibilities for FSMA inspections, enforcement, etc. If you have any questions you’d like us to convey to ODA, please email our Policy Director, Ivan Maluski firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call.
2015 – A Year of Progress and Change for Friends of Family Farmers
We rang in 2015 moving at full speed and our strong and successful advocacy on behalf of Oregon’s socially responsible family farmers continued all year long, with growth in policy advocacy, program development, and community events.
As the 2015 Oregon Legislative Session began, we moved our new office to downtown Salem, just blocks from the State Capitol and state administrative office buildings to allow for more frequent visits to key legislators and decision-makers.
On March 30th, we hosted our most successful Family Farmer and Rancher Day at the State Capitol yet, advancing key food and farm priorities to our elected decision-makers and demonstrating the power of the local farm and food movement. We rallied on the Capitol steps and met with nearly all of Oregon’s 90 legislators over the course of the day.
This event was key in helping pass new legislation to support Oregon’s family farmers and a strong local food system. We tracked dozens of bills in Salem in 2015, winning key victories in expanding access to Oregon’s beginning farmer loan program (Aggie Bonds), limiting legal liability for farms engaging in value-added agri-tourism activities, making historic investments in Extension and Agricultural Research programs, and expanding Oregon’s Farm to School program.
We also testified and rallied the public around the growing threats from irresponsible antibiotic use on factory farms, the need for safeguards for farmers threatened with contamination from genetically engineered crops, efforts to promote urban agriculture, and the need for reform of Oregon’s Board of Agriculture.
Over the course of 2015, nearly 1500 FoFF supporters called and sent letters to the Governor and your state legislators throughout the year.
In 2015, we continued our six-year run of monthly InFARMation (and Beer!) educational events in Portland, reaching hundreds of urban residents to talk about how they can support socially responsible family farmers and ranchers in Oregon. We brought several of these events to Bend as well.
We also launched our first ever Portland Fill Your Pantry event, featuring 14 local farms who sold over 1,711 pounds of winter squash, 1,380 pounds of grains and beans, 3,851 pounds of storage veggies, and 840 pounds of pasture-raised meats. More than 160 customers made nearly $24,000 in advance bulk purchases from sustainable producers.
Finally, a summary of our 2015 wouldn’t be complete without mention of new staff joining our team.
Sarah Peters joined us as our new Executive Director. Kelly Crane came on board in a new position of Rural Organizer. We also hired a new Next Generation Program Organizer Molly Notarianni and Office Manager Katie Engelman.
Ivan Maluski remains on staff as our Policy Director and Erinn Criswell transitioned into our new Urban Organizer position to round out our new team.
Looking ahead to 2016, we are organizing another round of our farmer listening sessions, starting in the mid-Willamette Valley this year, and visiting all corners of the state early next year. Be sure to check our website for dates in your neck of the woods!
While we expect the short Legislative session in February 2016 to be less action-packed than 2015’s six-month session, we are poised to advocate for small and mid-sized farmers as the Legislature considers what bills to pass.
Our Urban Outreach program is also busy planning events in Bend, Eugene, Salem, McMinnville, and more in 2016. The Next Generation program is covering a lot of territory as well, with events and trainings for new and young farmers around the state, and a launch of our redesigned Oregon Land Link database, iFarm, scheduled for early April.
We look forward to continuing to expand access to and opportunities for local, socially responsible agriculture in Oregon!
Thank you to all of the participating farmers, eaters, volunteers, and community organizations for contributing love, labor, and support.
Thousands of pounds of food were carted off to happy homes. Just during the pre-sale, local farmers sold over 1,711 pounds of winter squash, 1,380 pounds of grains and beans, 3,851 pounds of storage veggies, and 840 pounds of pasture raised meats!
Of the nearly $24,000 in pre-order sales, $1,700 were paid using SNAP benefits.
Knowing that food insecure populations abound throughout the world, our nation, and within our immediate communities, we are ever grateful for the opportunity to engage in the abundance of responsibly raised sustenance. To fill your pantry is a blessing and a celebration, but it is also a choice that merits recognition.
We look forward to expanding this event in the future, to reaching new communities with the remarkably diverse and healthful bounty Oregon farmers work so hard to offer.
Thank you again, and keep an eye out for FoFF communications regarding 2016 events!
Online orders have closed, but you can still come out on to the market November 8th to find stock up on local goodies. Online pre-orders open between Oct 17-31
We are excited to bring this event to the Portland metro area on Sunday, November 8th from 11:00 am-2:00 pm at Rigler Elementary – 5401 NE Prescott St.
Fill Your Pantry provides an excellent opportunity for community members to purchase bulk quantities of staple and storage crops directly from farmers. Stock those pantry shelves for the winter with dry beans, grains, nuts, honey, root veggies, garlic, onions, winter squash and pasture raised meats.
Support your local farmers, stock your shelves, and strengthen the food system all in one go!
The average age of farmers in the state of Oregon is nearly 60 and the Oregon Department of Agriculture predicts that 25%-50% of Oregon’s farmland may change hands within the next decade. In response to these trends, FoFF created iFarm Oregon, the state’s only land linking service. iFarm offers listings for landowners looking to sell or lease farmland, and farmers looking for land, partnerships, or investment opportunities. Since 2009, over 900 land listings have been posted on iFarm, and more than 60 participants have connected through the service to find land!
FoFF is currently looking for an experienced web developer to redesign the iFarm database. We’ve recently made some changes to the original RPF. Please click herefor the new, updated RFP. The deadline for submissions is November 9th, 2015.
Friends of Family Farmers, Oregon’s largest sustainable agriculture organization, received confirmation this week of Governor Kate Brown’s intent to appoint the general manager of Oregon’s largest factory farm to Oregon’s Board of Agriculture. Through this appointment, Governor Brown is showing significant disregard for small and mid-sized family farms that make up the vast majority of Oregon’s agricultural community.
Marty Myers, Brown’s pick, is the general manager of Threemile Canyon Farms, a factory-scale dairy operation with corporate headquarters in North Dakota. Threemile houses over 50,000 dairy cows in confinement in Eastern Oregon, but has state-issued permits to expand to over 90,000 dairy cows. The factory farm, located near Boardman, produces twice the biological waste of a city the size of Salem, is one of the nation’s largest factory dairy operations, and likely Oregon’s single largest source of agricultural air pollution.
“This pick for Oregon’s Board of Agriculture is a slap in the face to family farmers across Oregon and is a statement that, when given a choice, Governor Kate Brown and Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Katy Coba will stand with corporate agribusiness, not Oregon family farmers.” said Ivan Maluski, Friends of Family Farmers’ Policy Director. “Not only is Threemile Canyon Farms a huge source of air pollution, but many family-scale dairies have gone out of business since Threemile set up their factory farm in our state.”
In contrast to the vast majority of farms in Oregon, nearly 85% of which are family owned and operated, Threemile Canyon Farms is owned by an out-of-state corporation, R.D. Offutt. Also in contrast to more typical Oregon farming operations, open manure cesspools at Threemile exceed 40 acres in size and release up to 2850 tons of ammonia gas each year. A US Forest Service study in 2005 found these manure cesspools were a contributing source to acid rain and haze in the Columbia River Gorge.
Additionally, the factory dairy at Threemile is a major source of methane emissions, a potent greenhouse gas. After years of polluting unabated, a taxpayer-subsidized methane digester was recently added (with current tax credits paying on average $130 per cow) that captures methane from fewer than half of the more than 50,000 manure producing cows on site. In addition, odors from the factory dairy operation have made life difficult for long-time rural eastern Oregon residents who live nearby.
“The appointment of Marty Myers of Threemile Canyon Farms to the Oregon Board of Agriculture is concerning for a number of reasons,” said Jeanette Logan an eastern Oregon wheat farmer and former neighbor to the operation. “Mr. Myers represents one of the biggest, if the not the biggest, industrial scale farming operations in the state. It is of great concern that he will represent the perspective of huge-scale corporate farms rather than the family farms that make up the backbone of Oregon agriculture.”
In Oregon, the Threemile mega-dairy has been at the forefront of a troubling trend in the industrialization of agriculture and the loss of the family farm. According to Oregon’s Employment Department, between 2002 and 2007, at a time when Threemile was expanding, Oregon lost an average of 9 dairy farms each month and nearly half of our dairy farms shut down, while cow numbers increased.
In making the appointment of Myers to the Board of Agriculture, Governor Brown dismissed Oregon dairy producer Jon Bansen, who also applied for the position. Bansen, owner of Double J Jerseys in Monmouth Oregon, raises 300 dairy cows on pasture and produces organic milk for the cooperative Organic Valley. Myers, whose role with Threemile Canyon Farms is one of corporate executive, lives in the Portland area and is not involved in the day-to-day dirty-work at the sprawling operation, while Bansen lives and works on his farm with his family. Letters of support for Bansen were submitted to the Governor by Friends of Family Farmers, Oregon Tilth, Oregon Rural Action, Organically Grown Company, Organic Valley, and others.
The Board of Agriculture directly advises Oregon’s Department of Agriculture on a wide range of policy issues and budget priorities. However, unlike many other boards and commissions, the Board of Agriculture is currently exempt from oversight by the Oregon Government Ethics Commission. In addition, its members are selected by the Governor, but are not confirmed by the Oregon Senate, which raises significant questions about transparency and conflicts of interest. In 2015, Friends of Family Farmers sought legislation (HB 2595) to bring common sense reforms to the Board of Agriculture, but the bill did not pass.
Information about Jon Bansen and Double J Dairy can be found at http://www.organicvalley.coop/who-is-your-farmer/northwest/jon-bansen/
 Associated Press; July 30, 2005; Coal plant, daily blamed for rising Gorge pollution [sic] – http://tdn.com/business/local/coal-plant-daily-blamed-for-rising-gorge-pollution/article_f1c4e955-492d-5758-a283-39c9f6c26262.html
 Oregon Employment Department; August 15, 2013 – https://www.qualityinfo.org/-/oregon-dairy-industry-seeing-milk-prices-rise-aga-1