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

FAFF comes full circle after advocacy

In September of last year, local community activists as well as commercial farmers concluded their service on a state workgroup to consider regulations on industrial-scale agriculture.

On Sept. 27 of this year, a signing ceremony for a bill that grew out of that workgroup was held by Gov. Tina Kotek with activists on hand from Farmers Against Foster Farms (FAFF).

“It was wonderful,” said FAFF co-organizer Kendra Kimbirauskas of Scio. “The governor was incredibly gracious. She expressed her gratitude to us for the work we’ve been doing to protect our communities.”

The new law, Senate Bill 85, increased the requirement for new concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) permits and also limited how much water can be used for livestock without a water right.

Groups such as FAFF, Center for Food Safety, Willamette River Keeper and Friends of Family Farmers advocated for the bill and were present during the signing ceremony. Kimbirauskas told The Canyon Weekly the success of the bill would not have been possible without the many supporters who pushed for the regulations.

“This has been many hands,” she said. “Hundreds and hundreds of people should be celebrating this victory.”

Kimbirauskas said FAFF plans to continue pushing back against industrial agriculture “until all the tools in our toolbox are expended.” She said their plans do not include fielding political candidates or expanding beyond the Mid-Willamette Valley, but rather mobilizing local communities to project natural resources.

The bill was passed by Democrats along party lines, while conservatives argued it attempts to solve nonexistent problems and places unnecessary burdens on farmers. After the bill was officially signed into law July 27, the sites for two proposed chicken ranches near Aumsville and Scio were put up for sale, which FAFF hailed as a victory.

One local farmer impacted by FAFF’s efforts is Eric Simon of J-S Ranch, a Scio chicken farm with the capacity for 3.5 million broiler chickens annually. He received his CAFO permit in 2022 so was not impacted by the new restrictions, however, FAFF appealed the permit and the matter is still pending in Linn County Circuit Court.

Simon also served on the 2022 workgroup as an industry representative and supported Republican state lawmakers in their push against SB 85. He said the new law is “a real embarrassment to Oregon” and makes it harder for farms like his to supply meat and dairy for Northwest stores.

“(Democratic lawmakers) didn’t want to know the truth, they wanted to know what the animal activists were telling them and these not-in-my-back-yard people,” Simon told The Canyon Weekly.

Simon said, once his operation is up and running, he hopes critics will want to come see how a chicken ranch actually operates. He said his ultimate goal is to move beyond the criticism in the community and “be a good neighbor like we always have been.”

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