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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.
Statement from Ivan Maluski, Policy Director, Friends of Family Farmers, on the March 31 decision by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and Oregon Department of Agriculture to issue a permit approving a controversial new 30,000-cow mega-dairy in Eastern Oregon
“The state’s decision to grant the water pollution permit for a new 30,000 head mega-dairy in eastern Oregon is disappointing but not surprising. Two state agencies have now spent countless hours and public dollars to be able to permit this operation, which improperly began construction last fall because it assumed today’s outcome was inevitable.”
“We are particularly disappointed that the state did not conduct an economic analysis to look at the impact to small and mid-sized dairy farms in Oregon should this operation be built. Oregon has lost over 75% of its dairy farms, mostly small and mid-sized, since the first mega-dairy came to Oregon in 2002. These huge operations create an economic climate of boom and bust milk prices that have made it harder and harder for family dairy farms to survive.”
“This decision also exposes Oregon’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ approach for air pollution from mega-dairies. We would expect this kind of approach to major sources of air pollution from the Trump Administration, not Governor Kate Brown. A consensus proposal the dairy industry signed on to a decade ago would require air pollution monitoring and regulation for this operation, but to date, no such program exists. We urge the Legislature to move forward with SB 197 to address the significant air pollution issues this operation is likely to create.”
Photo from Flickr.