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

Farm bill amendment would rewrite regulations

State lawmakers have proposed an overhaul of regulations on industrial-scale farms, with changes focused on environmental permits for large livestock operations.

On May 4, Sen. Michael Dembrow (D-Portland) proposed an amendment to Senate Bill 85 that would revise how the state issues permits for concentrated animal feeding operations.

Examples of CAFOs include one current and two proposed chicken ranches near Scio, Jordan and Stayton that collectively could produce 12.5 million broiler chickens annually for Foster Farms.

SB 85 would direct the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) to study CAFOs and present legislators with recommended changes. Previous amendments would create a moratorium on new and renewed CAFO permits while the issue was being studied, though these are still pending.

Dembrow made the case to the Senate Rules Committee that the state already has enough information to move forward with regulations. He specifically cited the environmental disaster caused by Lost Valley Farm, near Hermiston. 

This now-defunct mega-dairy received a CAFO permit in 2017 through the current process but failed to manage millions of gallons of animal waste.

Dembrow’s proposed amendment would create a new water quality permit for CAFOs and limit how animal waste is disposed of on Groundwater Management Areas.

Applicants must also submit a water supply plan that would identify adequate and legal sources of water for livestock, and may require new or expanding CAFOs to meter their water. New CAFOs using more than 12,000 gallons per day would no longer be exempt from the need for a water permit.

The proposed amendment would also allow cities and counties to reject a CAFO proposal if the facility would be within 100 yards of an adjacent parcel with a residential structure, or within half-a-mile of a school. Cities and schools could also require a CAFO applicant to send individual notices to all property owners within half-a-mile of the proposed operation.

The amendment would also direct the DEQ to issue a report by the end of 2023 on a national air emissions study currency undertaken by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This report will include any recommended policy changes for CAFO permitting.

ODA would convene a workgroup to study how management of CAFOs affects livestock welfare, and report any recommended policy changes.

As of press time, no new hearings to consider SB 85 or its amendments were scheduled.

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