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

Farm bill odds improve in Rules Committee

Reporter for The Canyon Weekly

A state bill that could place a moratorium on new industrial-scale farms was reassigned to the Senate Rules Committee, increasing its chances of being heard on the Senate floor.

On April 3, Senate Bill 85 was referred by the Senate Committee On Natural Resources to the Rules Committee, with no recommendation on the bill’s passage or its pending amendments.

The Rules Committee is not bound by worksession deadlines in order for bills to progress, with the next such deadline on May 5. While assigned to the committee, SB 85 has until the end of the current legislative session on June 25 to be considered by both chambers, though lawmakers hope to wrap up the session by June 15.

As of press time, SB 85 was not scheduled for an upcoming hearing or work session by the Rules Committee.

As introduced, SB 85 would direct the Oregon Department of Agriculture to study the impacts of confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and suggest potential regulations by Sept. 15, 2024. A proposed amendment would include language from House Bill 2667 imposing an eight-year moratorium on new and renewed CAFO permits, allowing the state breathing room to study and regulate such facilities.

HB 2667 died in committee after it was not scheduled for a work session by a March 17 deadline.

This amendment has since been subject to its own proposed changes, pulling the focus to chicken, turkey and duck farms, and sunsetting the moratorium June 30, 2025. 

Neither amendment has come up for a vote.

Supporters of the bill, including Scio-based Farmers Against Foster Farms, argue tighter regulations are needed to prevent water and air pollution by CAFOs, especially those concentrated in a region. They have urged lawmakers to support the initial amendment and to reject the second on the basis it would have too little impact.

Opponents of the bill argue a moratorium is not necessary, much less tighter regulations, and would punish CAFO farmers who have been operating unnoticed for decades. 

Opponents include Eric Simon, owner of J-S Ranch, a chicken CAFO near Jordan, Sen. Fred Girod (R-Stayton), who voted against referral as a Committee On Natural Resources member, and Rep. Jami Cate (R-Salem).

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