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

Farm bill passes House, on to Kotek’s office

A bill regulating industrial agriculture has passed the Oregon House of Representatives and is headed to the desk of Gov. Tina Kotek, where the Democratic executive is expected to sign it.

In a party-line vote Wednesday, June 21, Senate Bill 85 passed 31-19, with Democrats in favor and Republicans against. This mirrored the bill’s passage in the Senate the day before in a 17-8 vote.

Senate President Bob Wagner (D-Lake Oswego) signed the bill Friday, June 23. If signed by Kotek, the bill would become law immediately.

SB 85 would limit the environmental impacts of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) by increasing the requirements necessary to issue permits for such large farms. The bill also limits the water that can be used for livestock without a permit, and strengthens local government’s ability to impose land use restrictions on CAFOs.

Two proposed chicken CAFOs near Scio and Stayton would be required to abide by the new regulations. An existing CAFO near Jordan, which received its state permit last year, would be unaffected unless the facility expanded or sought to renew its permit.

These ranches, which could produce a combined 12.5 million broiler chickens annually for Foster Farms, were among the industrial farms that inspired the bill. Also at issue was an environmental disaster in 2017 at a megadairy near Hermiston which saw the mishandling of millions of gallons of manure, despite regulatory approval of the operation.

Opponents of the bill said the 2017 disaster is the exception and most CAFOs have operated unnoticed for decades. Local advocates such as Farmers Against Foster Farms, based in Scio, argue state law needs to adapt to changes in industrial agriculture and account for the broader impacts of CAFOs.

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