UPDATE: CALL TO ACTION –
PUBLIC COMMENT DUE OCTOBER 23rd!
*See Next Steps below for details on how to submit public comment…
The majority of our work at FoFF is about creating opportunities for small and mid-size, socially and ecologically responsible farmers to thrive. Sometimes it is also necessary for us to hold industrial agribusiness and the standards of conventional farming accountable for the harm that system creates. The Stand Up to Factory Farms Coalition (FoFF is on the steering committee) submitted a petition to the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) on August 17, 2022 to impose permitting structures and restrictions on the air emissions from large dairies in Oregon.
Why is this petition necessary?
In 2008, the Oregon Legislature convened the Dairy Air Quality Task Force which recommended the exact action we are asking DEQ to take. The task force’s recommendations were based on the health impacts of the ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and particulate matter generated by confinement dairies (read more about the health effects in this recent study) and the climate change implications of the amount of methane released by these facilities under current management practices. Since the recommendations were ignored in 2008, more mega-dairies have come into our state (in part because of the lack of strong CAFO regulation) and it has also become clear that these impacts are an environmental justice concern.
Over one third of Oregon’s dairy cows live in Morrow and Umatilla Counties, which have the state’s highest percentage of Latinx residents. The level of concentrated waste from the hundreds of thousands of cows creates an undue burden of air pollution on already overburdened communities. Nearly three fourths of all Oregon’s mega-dairies are in Morrow County, placing an undue burden on communities there.
No farmer wants to have a negative impact on the health of their land or their neighbors. There is simply no incentive to implement pollution reduction practices as things stand, in fact the system discourages it. It is time for us to catch up with our neighbors California and Idaho, and implement some limitations on the air pollution of these facilities to protect our health and help mitigate climate change.
Basics of the Petition:
The petition urges the Environmental Quality Commission to adopt rules that Oregon’s DEQ can implement to finally start holding this polluting industry accountable under state and federal air quality laws. The proposed rule would create a permit program that will rein in Large Dairy air emissions by requiring these operations to implement best management practices capable of controlling and reducing emissions from various sources throughout their facilities. The rule focuses on the largest, most industrial operations; as proposed, the program would apply to 15% of Grade A dairy operations in the state (37 facilities), yet would control emissions from 56% of the states’ dairy cows.
There are two possible categories that a facility requiring these permits may fall into. Based on the scale of the operation, existing practices and emissions management, some of the 37 dairies that would be subject to this permit would have few changes to their operations and fall into a low priority category. Others, that are currently emitting dangerous quantities of the toxins discussed above, would be required to adhere to best management practices that would reduce their environmental impact.
Why FoFF is in Support:
According to our 2022 survey, the farmers that FoFF represents agree that climate change is the largest challenge facing farming today. We have heard from our community that none of our farmers begrudge others trying to make a living, but it is time to change the status quo when it comes to caring for the natural resources and communities surrounding their farms. We believe that there is only so much that voluntary programs can do at this time. The farmers we represent have often sacrificed profits in favor of converting to a more sustainable system that enhances the quality of their soils, watersheds, and healthy air for future generations. But in a system that urges farms to get big or get out, there is little incentive to prioritize anything over the bottom line. No farmer wants to be responsible for compromising the health of their community, we support responsible regulation and a path to lift farmers off that conveyor belt.
FoFF supports any efforts to shift the baseline toward a more climate resilient future. Agriculture has been exempt from many emissions regulations too long, while also bearing the brunt of the impact of climate change. It is time for our community to move forward and create a system that will work for farmers and communities for generations to come. We understand there will be up front costs in converting to the new best practices for a small portion of the farmers in this more rigorous category of regulation. We fully support any assistance that the state government or Department of Agriculture would make available to help folks move in this direction. In the age of climate change, unfortunately this is simply the cost of doing business. Farming groups like FoFF have the responsibility to support and assist in improving practices to help farmers stay afloat while we figure out how to farm in this new reality. Any effort to stop regulations like this (instead of supporting farmers through the transition) is just kicking the climate resilience and public health “can” down the road and gives the agricultural sector a bad name.
DEQ will accept written public comments on the petition until 4 p.m. on Oct. 23, 2022. DEQ will summarize in a written report to EQC all comments received by that time.
To view the Notice Document and the Petition, and to submit written comment:
EQC is scheduled to act on the petition at a special session to be scheduled prior to Nov. 15, 2022. If EQC directs DEQ to conduct rulemaking, that process will include an opportunity for public comment on the rule language amendments proposed by the petition.
NOTE: If you want to receive future email notices about the petition and any rulemaking that may follow, you must sign up at: GovDelivery – Air Quality. Select “Agricultural Air Emissions” from the topics list.
You can also obtain more information about this rulemaking by contacting: