Governor Kate Brown Turns Back on Family Farms, Plans Appointment for Representative of Massive, Polluting Factory Farm to Oregon’s Board of Agriculture
Friends of Family Farmers, Oregon’s largest sustainable agriculture organization, received confirmation this week of Governor Kate Brown’s intent to appoint the general manager of Oregon’s largest factory farm to Oregon’s Board of Agriculture. Through this appointment, Governor Brown is showing significant disregard for small and mid-sized family farms that make up the vast majority of Oregon’s agricultural community.
Marty Myers, Brown’s pick, is the general manager of Threemile Canyon Farms, a factory-scale dairy operation with corporate headquarters in North Dakota. Threemile houses over 50,000 dairy cows in confinement in Eastern Oregon, but has state-issued permits to expand to over 90,000 dairy cows. The factory farm, located near Boardman, produces twice the biological waste of a city the size of Salem, is one of the nation’s largest factory dairy operations, and likely Oregon’s single largest source of agricultural air pollution.
“This pick for Oregon’s Board of Agriculture is a slap in the face to family farmers across Oregon and is a statement that, when given a choice, Governor Kate Brown and Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Katy Coba will stand with corporate agribusiness, not Oregon family farmers.” said Ivan Maluski, Friends of Family Farmers’ Policy Director. “Not only is Threemile Canyon Farms a huge source of air pollution, but many family-scale dairies have gone out of business since Threemile set up their factory farm in our state.”
In contrast to the vast majority of farms in Oregon, nearly 85% of which are family owned and operated, Threemile Canyon Farms is owned by an out-of-state corporation, R.D. Offutt. Also in contrast to more typical Oregon farming operations, open manure cesspools at Threemile exceed 40 acres in size and release up to 2850 tons of ammonia gas each year. A US Forest Service study in 2005 found these manure cesspools were a contributing source to acid rain and haze in the Columbia River Gorge.
Additionally, the factory dairy at Threemile is a major source of methane emissions, a potent greenhouse gas. After years of polluting unabated, a taxpayer-subsidized methane digester was recently added (with current tax credits paying on average $130 per cow) that captures methane from fewer than half of the more than 50,000 manure producing cows on site. In addition, odors from the factory dairy operation have made life difficult for long-time rural eastern Oregon residents who live nearby.
“The appointment of Marty Myers of Threemile Canyon Farms to the Oregon Board of Agriculture is concerning for a number of reasons,” said Jeanette Logan an eastern Oregon wheat farmer and former neighbor to the operation. “Mr. Myers represents one of the biggest, if the not the biggest, industrial scale farming operations in the state. It is of great concern that he will represent the perspective of huge-scale corporate farms rather than the family farms that make up the backbone of Oregon agriculture.”
In Oregon, the Threemile mega-dairy has been at the forefront of a troubling trend in the industrialization of agriculture and the loss of the family farm. According to Oregon’s Employment Department, between 2002 and 2007, at a time when Threemile was expanding, Oregon lost an average of 9 dairy farms each month and nearly half of our dairy farms shut down, while cow numbers increased.
In making the appointment of Myers to the Board of Agriculture, Governor Brown dismissed Oregon dairy producer Jon Bansen, who also applied for the position. Bansen, owner of Double J Jerseys in Monmouth Oregon, raises 300 dairy cows on pasture and produces organic milk for the cooperative Organic Valley. Myers, whose role with Threemile Canyon Farms is one of corporate executive, lives in the Portland area and is not involved in the day-to-day dirty-work at the sprawling operation, while Bansen lives and works on his farm with his family. Letters of support for Bansen were submitted to the Governor by Friends of Family Farmers, Oregon Tilth, Oregon Rural Action, Organically Grown Company, Organic Valley, and others.
The Board of Agriculture directly advises Oregon’s Department of Agriculture on a wide range of policy issues and budget priorities. However, unlike many other boards and commissions, the Board of Agriculture is currently exempt from oversight by the Oregon Government Ethics Commission. In addition, its members are selected by the Governor, but are not confirmed by the Oregon Senate, which raises significant questions about transparency and conflicts of interest. In 2015, Friends of Family Farmers sought legislation (HB 2595) to bring common sense reforms to the Board of Agriculture, but the bill did not pass.
Information about Jon Bansen and Double J Dairy can be found at http://www.organicvalley.coop/who-is-your-farmer/northwest/jon-bansen/
 Associated Press; July 30, 2005; Coal plant, daily blamed for rising Gorge pollution [sic] – http://tdn.com/business/local/coal-plant-daily-blamed-for-rising-gorge-pollution/article_f1c4e955-492d-5758-a283-39c9f6c26262.html
 Oregon Employment Department; August 15, 2013 – https://www.qualityinfo.org/-/oregon-dairy-industry-seeing-milk-prices-rise-aga-1
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Public comment page: http://www.oregon.gov/gov/Pages/share-your-opinion.aspx