Oregon values vibrant rural communities and independent, family-scale farms but mega-dairies put small farms out of business.
Forty years ago, Oregon was home to more than 4,000 dairies, most of them small, family-owned businesses. These and thousands of other small family farms in Oregon are part of what makes our state a leader in sustainable agricultural practices and strong community-based food systems.
But Oregon has lost more than half of its licensed dairies since 1990. Today, just over 200 family-owned dairies remain in our state. (Source: Oregon Employment Department)
Mega-dairies have taken their place, and they have an unfair advantage. Mega-dairies are appealing to processors, like Tillamook’s Columbia River Processing in Boardman, which profit from the ability to get their milk supply from fewer, larger operations. By confining thousands of cows in an industrial milking operation, they can produce milk more cheaply, which, in turn, lowers milk prices. When small family farms can’t compete, they go out of business, which harms families and communities and destroys a piece of our state’s heritage in the process.
What’s worse: Current laws treat mega-dairies the same as family farms. Industrial dairies have exploited these laws to pollute Oregon’s air and water and threaten animal welfare — all while pushing out small, independent dairy farms that strengthen, rather than extracting from, our rural communities.
We need to ensure that independent family farms, not mega-dairies, are the future of dairy production in Oregon. We need to transition our dairy market so that it works for small farmers. Oregon deserves a food system that prioritizes independent family farmers, produces healthy food for consumers, and protects our environment. Mega-dairies won’t get us there.