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

State lawmakers amend agriculture bill

State lawmakers have amended a bill on industrial-scale agriculture, adding new provisions that would overhaul regulations for large livestock farms if the bill succeeds.

On May 23, the Senate Rules Committee voted unanimously to amend Senate Bill 85, adding proposed limits on permits issued for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs).

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

SB 85 originally directed the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) to study CAFOs and present legislators with recommended changes. Sen. Michael Dembrow (D-Portland), who proposed the amendment, argued lawmakers did not need to wait for a study in light of the environmental disaster caused by Lost Valley Farm. This now-defunct mega-dairy near Hermiston received a CAFO permit in 2017 through the current process but failed to manage millions of gallons of animal waste. Aggressive efforts by regulators to mandate the cleanup of manure had little-to-no effect, and Dembrow was part of efforts to overhaul CAFO regulations in the immediate aftermath.

No new regulations were passed at that time, though ODA adopted new rules requiring waste management measures to be complete before a CAFO can operate.

The amendment to SB 85 would codify these changes and establish a new permitting process emphasizing environmental precautions.

The amendment would require CAFO applicants to submit a water supply plan describing the water sources they intend to use. 

Stock water exemptions would also be capped at 12,000 gallons per day, while water meters would be required at new and expanding CAFOs. If this limit is exceeded, farms would need to acquire additional water through a water right permit or lease, or other legal means. This stock water cap would sunset Sept. 15, 2027.

The new process would also require CAFO applicants to obtain a land use compatibility statement from local governments confirming the proposed farm complies with local zoning and land use laws. Cities and counties may also require that new large CAFOs next to a residential structure build a berm, setback, vegetative barrier or other buffer to block potential pollution from the production area.

The adopted amendment would also direct the Department of Environmental Quality to develop an air quality permitting process based on the results of a pending Environmental Protection Agency report. 

SB 85 has been referred to the Joint Ways and Means Committee. As of press time, no new hearings were scheduled. The current legislative session is scheduled to conclude June 25.

Previous Article

Shellburg Falls remains closed – The popular hiking spot might not reopen until 2024

Next Article

PacifiCorp wildfire lawsuit heads to jury

You might be interested in …

Letter to the Editor: Scholarship banquet a success

Saturday, May 6, 2023, the annual Santiam High School Scholarship Committee – led by teacher Madeline Wilson and a large contingent of teachers, students, volunteers, businesses, parents and administrators – conducted a fundraiser at Stayton’s […]

Reservoir contractor sued for $15M

An Aumsville construction company who submitted a bid to rebuild a reservoir at Detroit Lake State Park has been sued by its former CEO for $15 million, claiming he was forced out while investigating racial […]

Linn County IT staff receives kudos from commissioners

Linn County Commissioners Roger Nyquist, Sherrie Sprenger and Will Tucker gave the county’s Information Technology (IT) staff a standing ovation Tuesday morning, thanking them for their handling of a ransomware incident the morning of Jan. […]