Linn County, Oregon, Uses New Law to Restrict Livestock Operations
According to a June 2023 article in the Statesman’s Journal, “Oregon has passed a bill imposing restrictions on new or expanding large livestock and poultry farms in the state.” The bill the article refers to is Oregon Senate Bill 85, which comprises of a number of restrictions for confined feeding animal operations (CAFOs), including groundwater use, permit requirements for waste management, and property line setbacks.
On December 12, 2023, Linn County, Oregon, recently utilized Oregon Senate Bill 85 to severely restrict the number and locations of large CAFOs by changing their county code to include a setback of one mile for livestock buildings from the property line of neighboring property. This action was taken in response to a proposal to build an 11-barn poultry farm in a rural area of Linn County.
SB 85 was Legislation Presented by Special Interest Groups Calling for a Moratorium on New or Expanding Livestock Operations
Originally, SB 85 called for an 8-year moratorium on building new large CAFOs and expanding existing large CAFOs. Along with the moratorium, it would have required the Oregon Department of Agriculture to conduct studies and recommend legislation with expanded regulations.
According to an article in the Statesman Journal, “The bill that passed scaled back some of those proposed regulations. Advocacy groups said they’ll keep working to tighten restrictions.” The website linked in the article shows that these “advocacy” groups are radical animal rights and environmental organizations like Animal Legal Defense Fund, Farm Sanctuary, World Animal Protection, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Humane Society of the United States, Physicians for Responsible Medicine, Mercy for Animals, The Center for Biological Diversity, Food and Water Watch, Riverkeepers, and more.
CAFO Designation Has a Broad Application in Oregon
A CAFO (Confined Animal Feeding Operation) in the State of Oregon, according to the Oregon Department of State’s definitions 603-074-0010, states:
3) "Confined animal feeding operation (CAFO)" means:
(a) The concentrated confined feeding or holding of animals or poultry, including but not limited to horse, cattle, sheep, or swine feeding areas, dairy confinement areas, slaughterhouse or shipping terminal holding pens, poultry and egg production facilities, and fur farms;
(A) In buildings or in pens or lots where the surface has been prepared with concrete, rock, or fibrous material to support animals in wet weather; or
(B) That have wastewater treatment works; or
(C) That discharge any wastes into waters of the state.
The State of Oregon defines the different sizes of confined animal feeding operations as:
(9) "General permitted confined animal feeding operation" means:
(a) A small confined animal feeding operation that is registered to a general NPDES or WPCF permit and has less than 200 dairy cattle, less than 300 cattle, or less than a number of animals of other species as described in the attached table under a small operation;
(b) A medium confined animal feeding operation that is registered to a general NPDES or WPCF permit and has between 200 and 699 mature dairy cattle, between 300 and 999 cattle, or numbers of animals of other species as described in the attached table for a medium operation;
(c) A large Tier I confined animal feeding operation that is registered to a general NPDES or WPCF permit and has between 700 and 2,499 mature dairy cows, between 1,000 and 3,499 cattle, or numbers of other species described in the attached table for a Tier I large confined animal feeding operation; or is a large livestock auction yard or large seasonal feedlot; or
(d) A large Tier II confined animal feeding operation that is registered to a general NPDES or WPCF permit and has 2,500 or more mature dairy cows, 3,500 or more cattle, or numbers of other species described in the attached table for a Tier II large confined animal feeding operation.
SB 85 Language Linn County Commissioners Utilized
Oregon is a Right to Farm state; however, in Linn County, a handful of County Commissioners have been able to reduce the number of large farms by changing codes. Right to Farm protects farmers and ranchers from nuisance lawsuits but does not protect them from county commissioners making changes to building codes.
This is why it is essential to thoroughly read the language of proposed bills to understand the true implications; a simple amendment, section, or change in a definition can quickly expand the reach of laws and regulations.
(1) Prior to applying for a permit under ORS 468B.050, an applicant for a proposed confined animal feeding operation shall request, from the city or county in which the confined animal feeding operation is proposed to be located, a land use compatibility statement that authorizes the land use. (2) The land use compatibility statement must demonstrate that the requested permit pertains to a land use that is allowable as a permitted or conditional use within the given zoning designation where the land is located. (3) The Department of Environmental Quality or the State Department of Agriculture may not issue the permit under ORS 468B.050 if the land use compatibility statement demonstrates that the proposed land use is prohibited in the applicable zone.
Notwithstanding ORS 30.935, 215.253 (1) and 633.738, the governing body of a city or county in which a new large confined animal feeding operation, as defined in ORS 468B.215, is proposed to be located may require the new large confined animal feeding operation to include a setback or buffer, composed of a natural or created vegetative barrier, berm or terrain, in the production area of the new large confined animal feeding operation, if the parcel of land on which the new large confined animal feeding operation would be located is adjacent to a parcel on which: (1) A residential structure is lawfully sited; or (2) A structure that was lawfully sited when constructed, but no longer conforms with or is allowed under new or changed land use requirements, is sited.
Organization in opposition to large modern farms HERE
Oregon Public Law Statutes HERE
Bill Track HERE
Oregon Legislature website HERE
Oregon Secretary of State - Department of Agriculture HERE
Linn County Government HERE