Oregon Rural Communities Win with CAFO Reform Bill
In a major win for rural communities in 2023, Oregon became the first state in decades to regulate large-scale concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) with the passage of Senate Bill 85 during the 2023 long session. In Summer 2023, SB 85 was signed into law by Oregon Governor Tina Kotek.
SB 85 reforms and modernizes Oregon’s regulatory rules regarding the way large-scale concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are permitted and operated in the state including:
- Paused the controversial livestock water exemption for five years that allows for factory farms to withdraw unlimited groundwater for watering livestock,
- Allowed counties to issue setbacks from adjacent residences,
- Laid the groundwork for the state to establish air regulations for livestock operations.
The bill was backed by a broad coalition of rural Oregon farmers, ranchers, foresters, advocates, and rural community members working alongside and in partnership with state legislators. The coalition was formed after a section of the Willamette Valley came under threat from four proposed Foster Farms chicken CAFO operations that were looking to house over 13 million chickens a year. The community under threat by the proposed chicken CAFOs also collaborated with advocates who were working to rein in drinking water pollution from mega dairies in the eastern part of the state emphasizing that pollution from large scale CAFOs was a statewide issue.
SiX worked with community members to host a tour of state legislators in impacted locations and learn directly from rural community members about their concerns. The tour resulted in a legislative workgroup hosted by Oregon Senators Michael Dembrow and Jeff Golden to examine the impact of massive livestock operations on rural communities and the environment, with the findings ultimately leading to the reforms crafted in SB 85.
When the community first received notice of the impending chicken CAFOs, they quickly realized that Oregon’s existing CAFO rules were not adequate to protect the community. Oregon’s Right to Farm laws preempted local control and prevented counties from having any say in the CAFO permitting process – even for mega livestock operations that were looking to site millions of animals (and their waste) next to homes, schools, churches and rivers. Knowing that the rules needed to change, community members decided to work in partnership with state legislators and advocates to make the necessary changes.
Thanks to the new law, one of Oregon’s rural counties has already used the new law to establish setbacks for new CAFOs from property lines.
In December 2023, The Linn County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a one mile setback requirement from adjacent property lines for the siting of new CAFOs protecting local farmers, community members, and schools from these industrial operations and setting a precedent for the ability of other rural communities to self-determine what regulations work best for them.
Learn more about working to Regulate Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOS) and check out our new communications toolkit Promoting Environmental Stewardship.