Ten family farm, animal welfare, and environmental groups today sent a letter to Governor Brown, condemning the reappointment of Marty Myers, general manager of Threemile Canyon Farms for a second four-year term on Oregon’s Board of Agriculture. The groups cited Myers’ conflict of interest in influencing policy decisions by his own mega-dairy’s regulator–the Oregon Department of Agriculture–and his track record opposing rules to limit pollution generated by industrial dairies.
Advocates cited the approval and failed oversight of the notorious Lost Valley Farm mega-dairy which eventually had its permit revoked and was sold following numerous violations for animal waste management and storage. They say Myers and other Board of Agriculture members have failed to appropriately use their roles as policy advisors to advocate for needed improvements in ODA’s Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) program in the wake of the Lost Valley disaster.
“We need an Ag Board that is willing to protect Oregonians’ air and water from contamination from mega-dairies, not industry insiders who want to continue to protect their own interests,” said Tarah Heinzen, a senior attorney with Food & Water Watch. “Allowing Myers, a mega-dairy operator, to continue to influence the Department of Agriculture as it considers permitting yet another mega-dairy at the Lost Valley site does not bode well for Eastern Oregon residents or our environment.”
“With the reappointment of Marty Myers to the Board of Agriculture, Governor Brown has demonstrated her continued allegiance to industrialized dairy in Oregon and her lack of regard for our family-owned dairies, which continue to struggle in very difficult market conditions,” said Shari Sirkin, Executive Director of Friends of Family Farmers. “It would have been far better to appoint a real family farmer to this board, but once again, Governor Brown chose Oregon’s mega-dairies over its small, independent farms.”
The groups blasted Governor Brown for rushing through the reappointment, without addressing community concerns about Myers’ conflict of interest. “In fact, almost as soon as we inquired about the process regarding Myers’ reappointment, we learned that the reappointment had been made — before we even had an opportunity to provide feedback to the governor’s office. It appears this egregious decision was an attempt to completely shut out the public at a time when we know transparency is valued more than ever, ” said Erin Eberle, Director of Engagement, Farm Forward.
“This was a backroom, closed-door decision without any public review or input,” said Hannah Connor, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “It indicates the governor remains much more interested in appeasing corporate agricultural interests than working openly with Oregonians to make sure their air and water is safe.”
“This is not the first time that the Governor and her agencies have shut us out of what should be a public process to regulate these massive industrial facilities,” said Amy van Saun, senior attorney with the Center for Food Safety. “Just like in the Lost Valley permit revocation process, where we were excluded from a closed-door settlement, public stakeholders have a right to a seat at the table when state policymakers are deciding the fate of our environment and public health.”
Several of the groups criticizing Governor Brown’s decision to reappoint Myers raised similar concerns four years ago, but those concerns have gone unanswered. The organizations now seek a meeting with the Governor’s staff to discuss needed improvements to transparency and regulation of mega-dairies going forward.