Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek has signed Senate Bill 85, imposing new restrictions on some “factory” farms, including large dairies.

Two national environmental organizations working on the issue in Oregon, Food & Water Watch and the Center for Food Safety, were happy to take the win but wanted more.

The bill previously passed the Senate 17 to 8  and the House of Representatives 31 to 19. The legislation temporarily limits new factory farms’ groundwater use loophole for five years before a new legislative fight to reinstate the limit will be required, and it will enable — but not require — local governments to impose residential setbacks.

During the past five years, wastewater violations at a controversial  Oregon dairy prompted legislative reform proposals for livestock operations across the state. 

With SB 85, stricter rules for “concentrated animal feeding operations,” including water and land use restrictions, made it through the 2023 Oregon Legislature.

Problems at Lost Valley Farm near Boardman, OR, were said to inspire the legislation, a. history that included the dairy’s implosion in 2018. 

At that time, overflowing lagoons and other wastewater violations convinced Oregon farm regulators to slap Lost Valley Farm with a $187,000 fine, the biggest civil penalty ever imposed by Oregon on a dairy.

“SB 85’s passage is a credit to the tireless work of Oregonians fighting to end factory farming in our state,” said Food & Water Watch’s legal director Tara Heinzen“This legislation is a step in the right direction, but this is not the end of the road. 

“Despite hours of public testimony supporting a full moratorium on new and expanding factory farms, legislators watered the bill down to a handful of regulatory changes that don’t go far enough to protect our environment and communities. Legislators must take stronger action to protect Oregon from the factory farm threat — we will not stop until they do.”

At a series of meetings last spring, many Oregonians demanded a moratorium on new and expanding factory farms driving farmers out of business, harming animals, and polluting the climate and environment. 

The moratorium language was dropped from the bill before final passage.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)