Climate experts, activists and frontline community members cite climate change, water contamination and animal welfare concerns 

Salem, OR – At a virtual press conference hosted by the Stand Up to Factory Farms Coalition, experts and activists joined in urging Governor Brown to deny Cole Easterday’s application for a mega-dairy on the site of the former Lost Valley Farm. Earlier today, members of the coalition delivered more than 1,400 petitions to Governor Brown calling on her to deny the Easterday permit. 

“Eastern Oregon does not need another mega-polluting mega-dairy,” said Kristina Beggen, Organizer with the Stand Up to Factory Farms Coalition. “Governor Brown has an opportunity to listen to the voices of her constituents who don’t want mega-dairies in their communities. The transfer of ownership from Cody Easterday to Cole Easterday makes no difference. Mega-dairies produce climate disrupting methane emissions, no matter who operates them. Oregon can’t afford climate change accelerants, nor can its communities afford to have their scarce water resources hijacked or polluted by mega-dairies. Governor Brown must deny this application for the sake of Oregon’s climate and communities.”

The influx of mega-dairies has correlated with a dramatic decline in the number of family-scale dairy farms in operation in Oregon. In a span of 17 years, their numbers decreased by more than 85 percent from 1,900 to 228.

“Small farmers certainly won’t benefit from the introduction of another mega-dairy into Oregon’s agricultural landscape,” said Amy Wong, Policy Director at Friends of Family Farmers. “In just ten years, the number of cows in Oregon has grown 14-fold thanks to mega-dairies, making it harder for sustainable, smaller dairies to survive. Hundreds of Oregon’s small dairies were driven out of business in part by the market being flooded with cheap mega-dairy milk that doesn’t take environmental and other externalities into account. If Governor Brown denies Easterday’s permit, she can set an example of sustainable agriculture and climate leadership for other states to follow.”

The coalition also delivered a letter bearing the signatures of 21 organizations representing more than 120,000 Oregonians to the Governor, similarly urging her to deny Cole Easterday’s permit. The letter outlines concerns around the prospective facility’s methane emissions and impact on climate change as well as groundwater contamination from nitrates, already detected in the site’s soil and identified by ODA as a threat to groundwater sources.  

“The long-held narrative from Oregon officials that Lost Valley Farm and its hundreds of permit violations was simply ‘one bad actor’ is blatantly false,” said Mackenzie Aime, Oregon Organizer with Food & Water Watch. “All mega-dairies pose a threat to Oregon’s public health and environment. Governor Brown should learn from previous mistakes and deny this permit outright to protect our water and the health of frontline communities.”

“As the West continues to face drought conditions, only to worsen as a result of climate change, it’s unconscionable that officials are even considering providing permits to mega-dairies that will jeopardize the safety of Oregon’s critical groundwater supply,” said Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “We must say no to projects that will endanger the public and surrounding environment that have no justification other than to increase profits for industrial animal agriculture.”

According to a recent study, livestock production air pollution kills 12,700 people per year. Dairy operations are responsible for one third of those deaths. Mega-dairies emit ammonia, methane, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, and hydrogen sulfide, all compounds hazardous to human health. 

“Industrial dairies use and pollute massive amounts of water, and the leakage from their animal waste lagoons leeches into groundwater, endangering the drinking water supply for all Oregonians,” said Amy Van Saun, Senior Attorney for Center for Food Safety. “Denying the Easterday permit application would send a strong message to all Oregonians: people matter more than industry profits.”

Watch and download the press conference here.

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