Oregon would have the toughest dairy laws in the nation if two bills up for Legislative consideration next year are adopted
Oregon would have the toughest dairy laws in the nation if two bills up for Legislative consideration next year are adopted.
The legislation was proposed in response to a regulatory disaster at Lost Valley Farm, a mega-dairy in Eastern Oregon that was allowed to open before completing construction, and was subsequently cited and fined for more than 200 environmental violations.
Critics say that situation showed the state’s permitting process, environmental oversight and enforcement powers are inadequate.
“Lost Valley showed us how horribly wrong things can go given our current laws,” said Amy van Saun, staff attorney at the Center for Food Safety in Portland.
Tami Kerr, executive director of the Oregon Dairy Farmers Association, said she could not comment until she had more time to examine the bills. But she said that the situation at Lost Valley was not representative of dairies across Oregon.
The proposals would apply to large dairies, defined as those with at least 2,500 cows, or those with at least 700 mature cows that do not get seasonal access to pasture.
Lost Valley is permitted to have 30,000 cows. It’s close to Threemile Canyon Farms'three dairies, which together have 70,000 cows. All supply the nearby Tillamook Cheese factory.
Both bills declare large dairies to be industrial, rather than agricultural or farming operations. Under such a scenario, those farms wouldn’t qualify for regulatory exemptions available to farmers under the state’s right-to-farm and other laws.
That would allow local communities to have input into siting decisions and enact health and safety ordinances restricting or prohibiting air and water emissions.
“In terms of the size and impact of these facilities, it just makes sense that they be treated accordingly, with the amount of pollution they create and the liabilities they create,” van Saun said. “We need to rethink what we consider farming and whether we want to have this loophole.”
Photo from Pixabay.