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

Industrial farm bill scaled back in proposed amendment

Reporter for The Canyon Weekly

A bill that would impose a moratorium on new industrial agriculture in Oregon is being scaled back to focus only on poultry farms for a limited time, causing concern for some local activists.

House Bill 2667 originally proposed a moratorium on new and renewed permits for confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) as lawmakers considered the need for tighter regulations.

The bill was not progressing through committee and on March 6 lawmakers proposed combining it with Senate Bill 85, which would direct state regulators to study the impacts of CAFOs.

A proposed amendment to SB 85, submitted March 20 by Sen. Jeff Golden (D-Ashland), would limit the moratorium to chicken, turkey and duck farms, and the restrictions would sunset June 30, 2025. The amendment was the subject of a public hearing March 22 before the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and is expected to be discussed March 27 during a committee work session.

HB 2667 died in committee after no action was taken by a March 17 deadline to advance the bill. Related Senate Bill 399, which would have limited stock water exemptions for large farms, also did not advance.

Farmers Against Foster Farms (FAFF), a community activist group based out of Scio, said the amendment would not go far enough to mitigate the alleged public health risks of CAFOs. The group was organized in 2021 in opposition to three proposed chicken ranches in the area that would generate a combined 12.5 million broiler chickens annually for Foster Farms.

In an email to supporters March 21, FAFF said a 2025 sunset on the moratorium would not give lawmakers enough time to consider appropriate regulations. They also expressed concerns that the moratorium would apply only to “Tier 2” farms, representing only the largest poultry CAFOs in Oregon.

A Tier 2 broiler farm would raise at least 350,000 chickens at a time. The three local ranches would raise six flocks per year ranging between 550,000 and 750,000 birds per flock.

FAFF encouraged supporters to speak in favor of the March 6 amendment to SB 85, which had a sunset date of June 30, 2031, and would apply to all varieties of livestock. This first amendment would still only apply to Tier 2 CAFOs.

“Should the (March 20) amendments be moved forward instead of the (March 6), we have every reason to believe that the poultry operations in our community could break ground as soon as they have their permits and build facilities to house up to 350,000 birds and then wait out the moratorium to expire and continue to expand,” said FAFF. “If passed, this moratorium would only be for about 18 months when all is said and done, which does not allow for the state to pass adequate rules. This is not enough protection for our community.”

Though the March 20 amendment would tone down the impacts of SB 85, opponents of the bill say this does not address their concerns and the entire legislation should be scrapped. Rep. Jami Cate (R-Lebanon), whose district includes Scio, told The Canyon Weekly that concerns about the health risks of poultry CAFOs are baseless.

“We have had chicken farms each raising millions of chickens a year for decades in the PNW,” said Cate. “This scale of operations is not new, but has been completely unnoticed by our communities for generations – because they haven’t caused problems. There are no facts to indicate that track record will be changed by the proposed chicken farms in the Scio area.”

Cate said SB 85 stands to cripple agriculture and the proposed amendments do not change this overall impact, so she remains opposed to the bill. 

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