As the eyes and ears of small and mid-sized producers and those who support them, Friends of Family Farmers tracks food and farm issues in the legislature, government agencies, and various boards and committees. We do this important but otherwise boring work on your behalf so you don’t have to!
We have been following the CAFO Advisory Committee (Confined Animal Feeding Operations) which was created to provide feedback to the Oregon Department of Agriculture about Oregon’s CAFO Program. The committee is made up of people including permitted CAFO operators, technical advisors, stakeholder representatives, and the public. There are different sizes when it comes to CAFOs and the term in and of itself does not imply bad farming practices. In fact, some producers in the Oregon Pasture Network are required to hold CAFO permits even as they raise their animals to the highest standards on pasture. However, the largest CAFOs in Oregon are permitted for orders of magnitude more than the majority of those holding CAFO permits. We’re talking a couple hundred versus tens of thousands of animals. Of particular concern to FoFF, the presence of more larger operations results in fewer family-scale, socially responsible ones. Additionally, where this many animals are confined in one place there are groundwater and animal welfare concerns. Finally, there is a huge issue of manure management. Put simply, when you have thousands of animals confined in one location, what do you do with all the poop?
These are just some of the reasons why we spent significant effort opposing the permit for facilities like Lost Valley. This is also why we continue to monitor the CAFO permitting program and apply pressure when needed with your help.
After multiple egregious violations (over 200!), the owner of Lost Valley Farm declared bankruptcy in 2018. At that time, the state and the facility’s trustee entered into an agreement to clean up the manure lagoons and wastewater, and close the facility. According to the Capital Press, “As of Jan. 3, 2019 there were approximately 47 million gallons of liquid manure at the dairy, enough to fill roughly 71 Olympic swimming pools.” At the CAFO Advisory Committee meeting we attended on Oct. 10, 2019 ODA staff stated the facility had been cleaned and the multiple relevant agencies are poised to sign off on a Letter of Satisfaction.
Now, much to our dismay Easterday Farms based in Pasco, WA has purchased the facility and filed for a permit to open a mega-dairy in the exact same location. We will, once again, actively oppose a new CAFO permit until our demands for much stronger oversight have been met. For one thing, we want the State to consider how any new mega-dairies will impact the economic viability of existing small and medium-sized dairy farms in Oregon. Nationwide, the number of dairy farms dropped by more than 17% in the last five years even as milk production and sales increased. For more details, see our testimony to the Board of Agriculture and the Environmental Quality Commission earlier this year. We do not need another industrial scale mega-dairy in our state.
FoFF will continue to be an active member in the Stand Up To Factory Farms coalition with over a dozen organizations that are calling for a moratorium on issuing any new permits to dairies over a certain size until the state closes the many enormous loopholes and creates stronger environmental and air regulations on CAFOs in the largest size tier.