Monday, April 17, 2017

Your Food, Your Legislature: Mega-Dairies Win, Oregon's Air Quality Loses

"Threemile Canyon Farms in Boardman, Oregon, reported that its 52,300-dairy-cow operation emits 15,500 pounds of ammonia per day, totaling more than 5,675,000 pounds per year. That is 75,000 pounds more than the nation’s number one manufacturing source of ammonia air pollution (CF Industries of Donaldson, Louisiana)." - from a letter to the EPA from the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, March 27, 2008

Not to scare the pants off of you, but Threemile Canyon Farms, the mega-dairy mentioned above, now has 70,000 cows, with a concomitant increase in the amount of ammonia produced per day—meaning its cows now produce 20,746 pounds of ammonia per day, every day, for a grand total of 7,572,180 pounds per year. Not only that, it's soon to be joined by Lost Valley Farm, which is initially slated to have 30,000 cows. Oh, and Boardman? It's right on the banks of the Columbia River, at the east end of the Columbia River Gorge.

Slurry at Threemile Canyon Farm.

Luckily for these factory farms—both of which have contracts to supply much of their milk to Oregon's own Tillamook cheese so it can be sold from here to Micronesia—the legislature's Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources today killed a bill, SB 197, that would have begun the process of setting up basic regulations on air contaminant emissions (like ammonia) from these types of mega-dairies. Contaminants are not monitored or regulated due to a loophole in Oregon law that exempts these factory farms from any requirement to monitor, report or reduce air pollution associated with the manure from the tens of thousands of animals they keep.

Cow standing in slurry at Threemile Canyon.

In a statement on the demise of SB 197, a coalition of farm and environmental watchdogs said that "large mega-dairies like Threemile Canyon Farms, with 70,000 cows, and the recently approved 30,000-cow Lost Valley Farms, have been identified as major sources of ammonia, a gas responsible for haze and acid deposition in the Columbia River Gorge."

"The landscape of agriculture in Oregon is changing," according to Ivan Maluski, Policy Director of Friends of Family Farmers. "Since 2002, the state has lost roughly 75% of its dairy farms even as cow numbers have grown and large industrial scale dairies have moved in. Instead of supporting small and mid-sized family farms, the state has opened its doors for increasingly large, factory-scale industrial dairy operations. All the while, Oregon decision-makers have been putting their heads in the sand with regard to their harmful emissions of gases like ammonia and methane from these increasingly large operations. Today will be marked as one in which Oregon chose to do nothing to address the harmful air emissions from the growing number of large confinement dairy operations coming here to take advantage of our misguided air pollution loophole."

Read my post on Why I'm Quitting Tillamook Cheese.

Read the other posts in this series. Find your legislators here and share your concerns.

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