Thursday, December 20, 2018

Mega-Dairy Moratorium Demanded by Farm & Consumer Groups

A coalition of more than a dozen local, state and national organizations, including Friends of Family Farmers (FoFF), the Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS) and the Center for Food Safety (CFS) have called on state legislators in Salem to stop any further expansion of new or existing mega-dairies in Oregon until the state can guarantee protections for its people, animals, and the environment from the industrial-scale impacts of factory farm mega-dairies.

Waste from a mega-dairy can equal that of a small city.

According to the coalition's press release, "Oregon’s inadequate oversight of mega-dairies has become clear over the past two years, since the state ignored red flags and widespread public opposition to authorize operation of Lost Valley Farm, which was permitted to confine 30,000 cows. Lost Valley has since racked up nearly 200 permit violations and has had problems ranging from overflowing mortality and waste management facilities to a lack of clean water and restrooms for workers. As a result, the state is now fighting to shut the mega-dairy down. However, Oregon’s insufficient laws do not protect the state’s air and water, setting a standard so low that thousands of animals are raised in extreme confinement and family-scale dairies are forced out of business."

Cow laying in waste at Lost Valley Farm.

As documented extensively on Good Stuff NW, Lost Valley Farm has ignored or flagrantly violated permit regulations from the start, beginning construction on the massive facility without the required permits from the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA). Instead of shutting down the industrial facility until it went through proper permitting channels, the ODA gave Lost Valley the go-ahead to develop the facility. This is despite the facility—which is sited on a federally designated Groundwater Management Area (GWMA)—never completing construction of the required manure lagoons to protect the area's groundwater.

Cow standing in waste at Threemile Canyon Farms.

The legislature's track record on setting limits for these facilities has been lax at best, negligent at worst. Last year the legislature's Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources killed a bill, SB 197, that would have begun the process of setting up basic regulations on air contaminant emissions (like ammonia) from these  mega-dairies. Contaminants are not monitored or regulated due to a loophole in Oregon law that exempts these factory farms from any requirement to monitor, report or reduce air pollution associated with the manure from the tens of thousands of animals they keep.

Waste at mega-dairies is often kept in large open-air lagoons.

On its Facebook page, the Center for Animal Law Studies posted that, speaking on behalf of Humane Voters Oregon, Lewis & Clark Law School Professor Rajesh Reddy joined the growing chorus calling for a moratorium on new and expanded mega-dairies in the state. As quoted in the Statesman Journal newspaper, Professor Reddy addressed the documented cruelty at such farms: “The cows are more often subject to extreme confinement, without access to pasture, and are more likely to be treated like machines instead of living things. The pictures from Lost Valley Farm, of highly confined cows standing knee-deep in manure, show us where that can lead.”

Ivan Maluski, Policy Director of FoFF, is quoted in the coalition release as saying: “The state’s inadequate handling of the Lost Valley debacle, along with the catastrophic decline in Oregon’s small and mid-sized dairy farms, make clear that we need a time-out from new or expanded mega-dairies until it we have stronger environmental, animal welfare, public health, and family farm protections in place.”

For more information on mega-dairies in Oregon, read my article for Civil Eats, "Big Milk Brings Big Issues for Local Communities" as well as my post on Tillamook Cheese's connection to these factory farms, "Why I'm Quitting Tillamook Cheese." Read my full reporting on Threemile Canyon and Lost Valley mega-dairies.

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