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

Lawmakers discuss CAFOs amid potential moratorium

Reporter for The Canyon Weekly

State lawmakers plan to meet at the end of February to discuss current limits on large-scale agriculture amid broader talks to rein-in the industry.

An informational meeting was scheduled for Feb. 28 of the Senate Committee On Natural Resources, which has taken up two of a trio of bills to tighten regulations on confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

Senate Bill 85 would direct the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) to study CAFOs and submit a report identifying potential opportunities for legislation. Senate Bill 399 would cap stock-water exemptions and require large farms to acquire water permits. 

House Bill 2667 would declare a moratorium on new CAFO permits, and has been assigned to the House Committee On Agriculture, Land Use, Natural Resources, and Water. This committee’s members were invited to the Feb. 28 meeting. 

Scheduled to present during the meeting are administrators with ODA, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, and Oregon Water Resources Department. Though the public is welcome to attend the virtual meeting, there is not time set aside for public comment.

These bills came about partly from the outcry of local residents who have organized against three industrial-scale chicken farms in the area: one in operation near Jordan and two proposed near Stayton and Scio. These poultry CAFOs would generate 12.5 million broiler chickens annually for Foster Farms. Critics said they pose hazards to local air and water quality.

Opponents have organized Farmers Against Foster Farms (FAFF), which held a community meeting in Scio Feb. 15 encouraging residents to speak in support of proposed bills. FAFF has also put forward a petition supporting HB 2667, saying a moratorium would give lawmakers time to enact changes protecting “our family farmers, rural communities, and our water, air and soil.”

Industry advocates, including the Northwest Chicken Council (NCC), have said the proposed moratorium would stall the creation of working-class jobs. It would also not stop the consumption of CAFO-raise poultry, said NCC, and would simply result in chicken being shipped to Oregon from out-of-state. 

They said Oregon already has regulatory barriers in place for building and operating CAFOs, and the industry itself is successful at regulating its own emissions. NCC President Bill Mattos said a well-planned poultry CAFO is a “sophisticated operation” with effective internal controls for regulatory compliance.

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