Following a request for a permit by a proposed eastern Oregon factory farm to build another mega-dairy on the site of the disastrous Lost Valley Farm, 21 groups, including members of the Stand Up to Factory Farms Coalition, sent a letter today to Gov. Brown and the directors of the Oregon Departments of Environmental Quality and Agriculture voicing their fervent opposition to granting a permit to Easterday Farms. The groups warn that granting a permit to the mega-dairy would mean doubling down on the failed approach that led to the Lost Valley Farm debacle. That mega-dairy was shut down by the state after hundreds of documented environmental violations, including overflowing mortalities storage, as well as egregious conditions for animals and workplace health and safety abuses.
The coalition warns that the rush to grant Lost Valley a permit exposed a systemic failure to fully weigh the environmental and health dangers before green-lighting industrial mega-dairy operations. They say the permitting process should be overhauled before considering the request by Easterday Farms to open yet another mega-dairy of nearly 30,000 cows on the same site. Last year the state legislature failed to enact stronger protections to avoid another disaster like Lost Valley Farms. The Stand Up to Factory Farms coalition would like to see a moratorium on all new mega-dairy permits.
“Lost Valley Farm showed us the state’s inability to regulate mega-dairies and keep the public safe from the environmental and health harms posed by these industrial-scale operations,” said Tarah Heinzen, senior attorney with Food & Water Action. “Now, history is threatening to repeat itself. Industrial mega-dairies have proven too unsafe for Oregon, and the state should not grant Easterday’s–or any mega-dairy’s–permits.”
Some groups called on the governor and state regulators to take stronger measures to protect public health.
“The communities around the proposed Easterday mega-dairy already suffer from drinking water contaminated with unsafe levels of nitrates, a public health threat that can cause reproductive and cardiovascular issues, Blue Baby Syndrome, and even cancer,” said Amy van Saun, senior attorney with the Center for Food Safety. “Putting another 30,000 cows on top of this existing pollution, bringing the number of cows in the area over 100,000, is extremely irresponsible. The state needs to protect all Oregonians, not sacrifice community health for private profit.”
Other signatories worried that Easterday Farms could put family farmers out of business.
“In 2016 we had significant concerns about the permitting of Lost Valley, each of which were validated as the ‘state of the art’ facility was shut down within 18 months,” said Shari Sirkin, farmer and Executive Director of Friends of Family Farmers. “Now, three years later we have the very same concerns as yet another similarly sized mega-diary seeks to set up shop in the exact same location. The overproduction of milk drives down prices, creating a negative effect on the viability of small family farms around the state, yet the ODA has refused to conduct an economic impact analysis to determine how this new mega-dairy might harm rural economies.”
The Stand Up to Factory Farms Coalition says it will continue to press state regulators and the governor to declare a moratorium on new permits for factory farms until an effective process is put in place.