At Public Hearing, Oregonians Urge Passage of Factory Farm Moratorium Bill
On Monday, dozens of Oregonians attended a Senate Natural Resources Committee public hearing to urge passage of the Factory Farm Moratorium Bill (S.B. 85-1), which would enact a moratorium on all new and expanding factory farms. Due to mass turnout, a second public hearing was announced for March 13. At a press conference following this morning’s hearing, groups urged swift passage of the Factory Farm Moratorium Bill to safeguard family-scale farming, the environment, climate, animal welfare, health and quality of life in Oregon.
Factory farms are driving farmers out of business, and polluting the environment with abandon. Only 2.5% of Oregon’s farms make up 70% of the state’s total agricultural sales. This market consolidation concentrates profits for the largest factory farms, while pushing family-scale farms out of business. Food & Water Watch research found that in the eight years after the state’s biggest dairy factory farm began operations, more than 600 family-scale dairies went out of business.
Unsustainable and inhumane farming practices allow factory farms to outcompete small-scale farmers. Oregon’s dozens of factory farms are rife with repeat environmental violations, from breaking state air pollution laws and waste spills into state waterways, to contaminating drinking water with cancer-causing nitrates, driving an ongoing public health crisis in Morrow County. Proposals to bring multiple new corporate poultry factory farms into the Willamette Valley bring additional concerns including heightened ammonia levels linked to premature death.
“Air, water, and climate pollution are factory farms’ bread and butter. It is precisely due to their dirty practices that these operations are running Oregon’s family farmers into the ground. Right now, Oregon’s family-scale farms are under threat as multiple factory farms propose to set up shop in our state,” said Tarah Heinzen, Food & Water Watch Legal Director. “Factory farming is unsustainable for Oregon’s farmers and our environment. The legislature must pass a factory farm moratorium now.”
“The hearing today showed that 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.”
“We have known for a long time that Oregon’s laws are flawed when it comes to adequately protecting family farmers and rural communities from the impacts of industrial-scale livestock operations,” said Kendra Kimbirauskas, a farmer from Scio. “However, nothing could underscore just how problematic our existing regulatory scheme is than the experience of our citizens having less rights than that of a multinational corporation proposing to site millions of birds right next to our farms and homes, next to a rural Scio school, in the middle of a rural neighborhoods, on the banks of the North Santiam River and on top of Thomas Creek’s most popular swimming hole.”
“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 is a necessary step in the right direction,” said Steve McCoy, attorney at Friends of the Columbia Gorge.
“We need a time-out on the largest of the large industrial CAFOs to give Oregon time to protect our climate and communities,” said Amy van Saun, senior attorney with the Center for Food Safety. “The greenhouse gas emissions of industrial CAFOs are totally unregulated at the federal or state level, despite the increasing methane emissions of factory farms. Oregon must be a leader in protecting the climate that our farmers and all of us rely on to survive.”
“It is difficult to overstate the breadth and scale of the harms that factory farms cause to animals, rural communities, the environment and public health, but they also harm Oregon’s independent, higher welfare farmers,” said Adam Mason, senior manager of farm animal welfare and environmental policy for the ASPCA. “The Factory Farm Moratorium Bill is a commonsense action that would halt the expansion of these industrial facilities, rather than allowing them to continue to spread unchecked throughout Oregon.
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