What is a Factory Farm?

FoFF has been asking for a pause on the proliferation of factory farms for many years. The risks to the community food systems, processing infrastructure, contamination of our working lands, improper water use in times of growing scarcity, and community concerns made it clear that we needed to speak up for the future of farming in Oregon.

FoFF is not against all CAFOs. Some of the small farms in our networks are small and medium size CAFO permit holders. We are an organization by and for farmers, and we understand the realities of livestock production. These size designations that we discuss come from the ODA permitting structure, which you can see here. Large Tier 2 CAFO’s have huge impacts on the environment and communities and should be regulated differently.

There are a lot of nuances to how a farm is determined to require a CAFO permit. 

  1. How many animals you have.
  2. How long the animals are confined for in a prepared area (e.g. in a barn, lot, pen).
  3. 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).
A farm with less than: 200 dairy cows, 37,500 broiler chickens, etc could be required to have a CAFO permit if their waste management poses a risk. Farms in the small category have a large diversity of management practices and many are mostly pastured, but may fall into this category because of a portion of their management plan. 
Here are some examples of a small farm that might need to apply for a CAFO permit:
  • 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. They can 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.
So it is a nuanced discussion at a smaller scale. When it gets to the Large Tier 2 scale, the practices are widely homogenous. It is impossible to have that many animals on so little land without adhering to a total confinement model. This is why the risk is different at a larger scale and FoFF supports stricter regulation on the biggest farms in the state.