FoFF Supports SB 85-1
Friends of Family Farmers is in support of a moratorium of new permits for Large Tier 2 CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations) for the sake of Oregon Agriculture. This topic has become divisive because opponents claim this is policy would pick winners and losers in farming based on size, but the reality is we as a sector need to be conscious of the paradigm we are encouraging and the market and environment we are creating for Oregon’s agricultural future. To be clear, this only impacts the BIGGEST farms in our state, of which there are currently only 55 across Oregon. Here is the current ODA fee schedule that shows the number of animals present at the farms we are talking about in the General Permit Large Tier 2 column.
More Info on an all species moratorium – https://drive.google.com/file/d/18yg5RsSB-Q352ow_T4Vq7-bup2dS8R9G/view
Animal numbers of Large Tier 2 CAFOs – https://www.oregon.gov/oda/programs/NaturalResources/Documents/CAFOPublicNotices/CAFOFeeTable.pdf
RESOURCES AND TALKING POINTS
- All Oregonians have a right to clean air, water, and food.
- This scale of industrial production takes more than its fair share of water resources. (If you have stories about your irrigation water being limited, share them here)
- Climate change is already impacting my farm in XYZ way and these facilities are making the problem worse.
- We envision Oregon as a place where small family farms enhance rural economic stability and provide the basis for thriving and vibrant rural communities.
- Oregonians know that a healthy food system is integral to the wellbeing of our communities, our agriculture, and our state.
- Oregonians want community-based agriculture that delivers safe food to all Oregonians. Emphasize the demand that you have for your products.
- Factory farms monopolize meat processing infrastructure and make it harder for independent farmers to find processing. They also attract more contract only processing facilities to the state not open to other farmers. I have to make my appointment # months in advance and drive # miles for processing. These facilities disincentivize plants from working with small farmers like me, limiting my options even more.
- Economic development for rural communities e.g.: “I pay taxes, employ people, and buy my inputs locally. These gigantic facilities are often owned by out of state folks who don’t invest in my community.” or “ My rural community is held back by these facilities. The environmental impacts limit who wants to live and do business in my town”
- Land Use: e.g.: “These facilities come in with a lot of money and take up EFU zoned land and designated High Value Soils. They outbid local, small and midsize farmers and then don’t use the land for its intended purpose. You don’t need High Value Soils to build a warehouse full of 125,000 chickens, and the compaction/damage to the soil will take decades to undo.”
Our Position Statement
Because Oregon has fewer regulations around these facilities than California and Washington, we are becoming a target for these types of facilities and taking a pause on issuing new permits will help Oregon prioritize the agricultural legacy we want for our state. Here are the factors we considered when coming to this opinion:
These types of facilities by definition use confinement as a means to produce more animals in less space. This does not require prime agricultural land, but in order to make sure they get the most tax incentives and can take advantage of right to farm laws, these businesses target EFU zoned land and are often located on designated High Value Soils (as is the case with the controversial Foster Farms affiliated chicken CAFOs in the Willamette Valley). This first and foremost means these lands and soils are not available to the farmers who would actually use them to grow crops or pasture forage for their animals. We work with livestock farmers through our program The Oregon Pasture Network to help folks make the most of their natural resources for livestock production. These practices degrade the land for future generations of farmers through compaction and poor nutrient management, and make it harder for that land to support agriculture in the future.
Land is a finite resource and it is essential to agriculture. Allowing these types of facilities to continue to use our prime agricultural lands takes away from opportunities for other farmers who actually need these resources for their operation. It also drives up the cost of our farmland by encouraging corporate investment. Facilities this size require immense up front investment to build. This means that the companies that are working to build them have the resources to outbid and overshadow other working farmers trying to achieve land security. In our 2022 Family Farm Survey, access to affordable and appropriate land was identified as one of the top 3 concerns for small and midsize farmers in Oregon. American Farmland Trust’s data also shows that farmland in Oregon increased in price per acre on average just over 10% between 2020 and 2021. That is the highest rate of increase on the West Coast. Corporate agribusiness exacerbates this problem and makes land less affordable for the everyday farmer.
Consolidation of Crucial Infrastructure
Farmers have to rely on some farm adjacent industries to legally bring their products to market. Meat producers need to have access to USDA or State inspected processing facilities to sell their meat in the retail market. Dairy farmers have to have transporters and processors to support them if they want to sell into the Grade A milk system. Both of these industries are victims of vertical integration by the corporate agribusinesses who often build this type of CAFO. When these facilities are either purpose built to serve these factory farms or have all of their processing slots occupied by these facilities, there is not fair competition in the market and smaller producers will be driven out. This has already happened in large part in the dairy industry. According to the US Census of agriculture data in Oregon in 1992 there were 1,541 dairy farms with any number of cows in Oregon. In 2017 there were only 645. In 15 years that industry shrunk to almost a third of its size. Of course there are other factors to farm success, but without access to processing infrastructure a farmer cannot sell their product.
Meat processing is a similar situation. The state has taken strides to address this bottleneck, but the reality right now is that there are less than 20 facilities in the entire state that can process a meat animal for sale by the cut. The state meat inspection program ODA has gotten authorized by USDA and the State Meat Processing Infrastructure grant fund are steps in the right direction, but it is not enough without addressing the root of the problem. These industrial facilities will always have the ability to reduce competition for themselves in the market by fully occupying this crucial part of our food system infrastructure. There is no possibility of equitable access to these resources for Oregon’s diversity of farmers if these types of facilities become the norm here.
Natural resource use for any farm is proportional to the number of animals that are present or the number of crops produced. When you concentrate this many animals in a small space, the resource use will be outsized. While many crop farmers struggle to even get their allotted water through their water right, these farmers abuse the stock water exemption and take millions of gallons of water out of our rivers and aquifers without having to account for their impact on the system as a whole. The stock water exemption is a crucial provision that was added to Oregon Law a century ago to help make sure folks could give their herds life sustaining water. When this was put into place, there was not a severe drought (like we’ve been experiencing for years), climate change was not already hitting Oregon farms (as it is now) and facilities with tens of thousands of animals under one roof were not in the realm of possibility. These facilities have an outsized impact on the limited water resources of our state and other farmers are left to pick up the pieces.
In our Family Farm Survey in 2022, the number one concern of our farmers was the impact of climate change on farming in Oregon. Farmers are constantly on the front lines of the climate crisis. They are hit by the shifts of seasons, the onset of problems like drought, and the impact of extreme weather like wind, ice, and hail storms and disasters like wildfires. All these problems are tied to climate change. It is no longer up for debate that climate change has been hurting Oregon farmers. The farmers we represent want to stand up and hold the rest of their sector to account for the impact of bad practices. No more will we rely on the false promises of methane digesters to prop up a system we know produces too many greenhouse gasses. It is time for the state of Oregon to prioritize climate friendly agriculture and that means finding ways to better regulate the practices that put us further behind. We need to stop the new and expanded permitting of these facilities in order to listen to the environmentally and socially responsible farmers of Oregon and re-align our standards with what’s best for all the farmers in our state and those in the next generations.
Rural Economic Development
Small farmers who sell their products where they live have a more positive impact on their communities than farms whose products are sold out of state. According to this OSU study locally focused producers create more jobs, put more money into their local economies and have a greater multiplier effect than commodity focused growers whose products are often shipped out of state. Locally focused farms employ local people, pay taxes locally, are more likely to give back to their communities in charity and mutual aid, and tend to buy more of their inputs locally. It is not always up to the farmer. In fact many contract growers report they are obligated by their agribusiness contract holders to use certain types of feed or inputs. This is another reason why disrupting this system now is better for Oregon’s communities. FoFF’s farmers live and work in Oregon’s rural towns and places. We want our work to bring life and vibrancy to the places we live, something that these industrial facilities simply don’t do.
No farmer that FoFF represents would ever begrudge another farmer trying to make a living. These facilities are a symptom of a system that we have set up here in Oregon to favor the biggest of the big agribusinesses at the expense of the small and midsize operations that breathe life into our rural communities and produce the high quality, nutritious and delicious food Oregon is known for. The paradigm will not shift without acknowledging the problem and deciding to go in a different direction. Let’s prioritize Oregon Agriculture and make it possible for family farms to thrive by putting a moratorium on new Large Tier 2 CAFO permits in our state.
Small Farms and CAFO Permits
SB 85-1 only impacts only the largest of the large CAFO’s in our state! Again FoFF is not against all CAFOs. Some of the small farms in our networks are CAFO permit holders. There are a lot of nuances to how a farm is determined to require a CAFO permit.
- How many animals you have.
- How long the animals are confined for in a prepared area (e.g. in a barn, lot, pen).
- How the manure and wastewater generated by the farm is stored (e.g. do you collect your manure in a tank or do you stack it in a pile).
- Many pasture based farms with several hundred animals may have to apply for a CAFO permit because they employ a technique called a “sacrifice area” which means during the rainiest part of the year (where grass isn’t growing), there is a certain portion of the pasture which is “sacrificed” to hold the animals (also sometimes a pole barn with open sides) so that the rest of the pastures are not degraded from animals stomping through while the ground is softest.
- Some farms with really high predator pressure bring their animals in at night, which could also trigger an evaluation for a CAFO permit because animals would be confined in a barn during the night and their waste would need to be managed.
- ODA makes a case that any dairy farm should be evaluated for a CAFO permit because the animals are technically confined during milking. After evaluation, not everyone is required.
- Also if a farm has a slaughter and processing facility on site, it is very likely they will need to apply for a CAFO permit. We are lucky to have some amazing pastured producers with state inspected, community oriented, poultry slaughter and processing facilities on farms like Marion Acres (their butchery is called Helvetia). They raise their birds 100% on pasture, but because they slaughter and process on site (as opposed to trucking their animals many hours to another facility), they have to have a CAFO permit.