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OR Lawmakers Could Freeze Mega-Polluting Dairy Farms

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Friday, January 29, 2021   

SALEM, Ore. - Critics say big dairy farms produce a massive amount of waste and pollution, and bills in the Oregon Legislature would hit pause on these facilities.

The measures place a moratorium on licenses for dairy operations with more than 2,500 cows. Emma Newton is the Oregon organizer for Food and Water Watch and also organizes the Stand Up to Factory Farms Coalition.

She said in 2019, Oregon's mega-dairies produced 6.5 billion pounds of manure - more than twice the waste from the Portland metro area.

"This is really an issue that's happening now," said Newton. "We've been dealing with it for a while. We have one of the largest in the country, and these bills would really just give us a time out and allow us to address the issues from these facilities."

Dairy is a $1 billion industry in Oregon, and the industry says the moratorium threatens jobs.

Lauren Goldberg, legal and program director with Columbia Riverkeeper, said the lax regulations for mega-dairies is attracting more massive operations to the state.

"The state treats large-scale industrial operations as though they're small-time family farms," said Goldberg, "when in fact they are massive polluters of both groundwater and surface water."

In 2017, a 30,000 cow operation in Boardman racked up more than 200 environmental violations before being shut down in 2018. Now, Easterday Farms is proposing a mega-dairy, the second-largest in the state, on the same site.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reports the same family behind these plans is being sued for allegedly defrauding Tyson Meats in Washington state.

Newton said her coalition has heard from communities directly impacted by mega-dairies. They say they shouldn't have to choose between jobs and a healthy environment.

"The burden of mega-dairy pollution and where these facilities are sited is in communities that are often communities of color," said Newton. "Black, indigenous, communities of color - and the burden is really carried by them."

House Bill 2924 and Senate Bill 583 both are in committee. Newton said she hopes they receive a public hearing soon.


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