News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Residents organize against industrial chicken farms

Reporter for The Canyon Weekly

By Stephen Floyd

Three large-scale poultry ranches have prompted concern from residents in rural Marion and Linn counties, who are advocating for stronger regulations on industrialized agriculture and broader government transparency.

Farmers Against Foster Farms (FAFF) held its first official meeting Feb. 23 in Scio to encourage opposition to proposed poultry ranches near Scio, Stayton and Jordan. The group wants the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) to reconsider how such farms impact their local environment, and how residents are notified of permit applications.

A representative of Foster Farms could not be reached for comment prior to press time.

12.4 million chickens

FAFF first came together on social media in March 2021 in response to J-S Ranch on Jefferson-Scio Drive, west of Scio. Owners Eric and Brandie Simon, of Brownsville, plan to produce an estimated 3.4 million broiler chickens annually for Foster Farms, who would transport the chickens to a separate processing facility after they mature.

FAFF co-organizer Kendra Kimbirauskas said local residents would not have been aware of the proposed farm if a neighbor had not noticed excavation equipment and asked what was being built. She said this is because ODA is not required to notify neighbors directly of permit applications for industrial-style livestock operations, even on the scale of J-S Ranch.

Two other proposed chicken ranches later came to light, both with the capacity for 4.5 million chickens per year: a farm on Porter Road SE, west of Stayton, owned by Randy Hiday, of Brownsville, and Evergreen Ranch on Thomas Drive, east of Jordan, owned by Southeast Ag Investments, LLC, of North Carolina.

All three farms, with a combined capacity of 12.4 million chickens, are still awaiting state permit approval related to large-scale livestock farming.

Kimbirauskas said this lack of broader transparency could mean other industrial farms are in development locally and residents are unaware.

“If we have a colony of these chicken operations all around, who’s going to want to live in our community?” she said. “Who’s going to want to recreate in this community and spend their money out here?”

Environmental concerns

In addition to more robust public outreach, Kimbirauskas said a significant concern among local residents is the impact industrialized farms will have on the local water table. She said a farm that raises 4.5 million chickens annually would require close to 10 million gallons of water for the birds to reach butchering age, in addition to water used for cleaning, cooling, manure processing or other tasks.

Kimbirauskas said, though the Pacific Northwest is known for its rain, it’s groundwater is far more limited.

“In June, July, and August, when we get those super hot, long days, our groundwater doesn’t replenish itself,” she said.

Kimbirauskas said FAFF wants ODA to consider groundwater usage when permitting large-scale farms, particularly if multiple such farms will draw from the same aquifer. She said the current regulatory process only allows ODA to consider whether or not the proposed use fits the definition of agricultural zoning, and said in her opinion the chicken ranches at issue are better suited for industrial land.

“They’re not putting farms up, they’re putting warehouses up on prime farmland,” she said.

FAFF also hopes ODA takes into account the potential pollution created by industrialized chicken ranches. Kimbirauskas said chicken farms produce significant amounts of ammonia that could be a danger to residents with breathing problems.

“People are going to be breathing this stuff, and that’s a concern for everyone that I’ve spoken to,” she said.

Of specific concern are an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife habitat and the Santiam River near J-S Ranch; and Broken Dam swimming hole, Lourdes Elementary School, Lourdes Catholic Church and Thomas Creek near Evergreen Ranch.

Calling on legislators

Though FAFF is prepared to lobby state legislators to consider these changes, Kimbirauskas said the deadline has already passed for a bill to be submitted during the current short session. 

Kimbirauskas said FAFF will encourage residents in the meantime to contact their local legislators and ask for support, as well as reach out to county and city officials who can help press the state for changes. 

Once the next legislative session begins in 2023, Kimbirauskas said they plan to have serious policy conversations with lawmakers, whether or not permits for the three chicken ranches have gone through.

“I guarantee that we’ll be gearing up for a fight should these operations move forward,” she said.

For additional information on FAFF and it’s activities, visit farmersagainstfosterfarms.com.

“If we have a colony of these chicken operations all around, who’s going to  want to live in our community?” – FAFF co-organizer Kendra Kimbirauskas

Previous Article

The Groom Room offers mobile custom pet service

Next Article

Santiam to play 9-man football next season

You might be interested in …

Studded tire season ends March 31

Spring is here and it’s time to take off the studded tires. Oregon drivers have until Thursday, March 31 to remove them.  “Drivers are encouraged to not wait until the March 31 deadline to remove […]

Suspect sought in armed robbery

The Linn County Sheriff’s Office is seeking information on a March 30 armed robbery in Lyons. Around 10:20 p.m., a male entered Lyons Market with a gun, took a cash register and got into the […]