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

SB85 clears Senate in partisan vote

A bill regulating industrial agriculture has reached the Oregon House of Representatives after being approved in a party-line vote in the Senate.

On Tuesday, June 20, Senate Bill 85 passed 17-8, with all Democrats in favor and only Republicans opposed.

It is now before the House Ways and Means Committee and lawmakers have until Sunday, June 25, to pass the bill by the end of the legislative session.

SB 85 would place additional limits on the permitting process for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO). Local CAFOs include one active and two proposed chicken ranches near Scio, Jordan and Stayton which together could produce 12.5 million broiler chickens annually for Foster Farms.

The bill seeks to prevent potential environmental hazards such as in 2017 when a mega-dairy near Hermiston failed to manage millions of gallons of manure and polluted local groundwater. Changes would include limits on the amount of water allowed for livestock consumption without a permit, and increased local control over land use decisions related to CAFOs.

Opponents of the bill have said environmental disasters such as in 2017 are 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.

SB 85 passed the Senate just days after the conclusion of a six-week Republican-led walkout that denied the chamber a necessary quorum to pass bills.

Conservative senators boycotted the capitol May 3 over a bill broadening access to abortions and gender-affirming care. The walkout ended June 15 after Democrats agreed to water down the bill.

Ten Republican senators became ineligible to run for re-election during the walkout because of a new law prohibiting campaigns for lawmakers with more than 10 unexcused absences. Local Sen. Fred Girod (R-Stayton) was absent during the walkout but was previously excused due to medical reasons.

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