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Special Interest Groups Jeopardize Linn County Agriculture

Late last year, the Linn County Commissioners made a decision that could have significant repercussions for the agricultural community. Their approval of a one-mile setback for new large Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) not only sets a dangerous precedent of choosing winners and losers between agricultural commodities, but it also undermines the very essence of Oregon's agricultural heritage.


Oregon (and Linn County) have long been committed to protecting the “right to farm”, recognizing the vital role agriculture plays in our state's economy and identity. However, the decision to impose such excessive restrictions on new or expanding livestock operations directly contradicts this principle. The proposed county code amendment not only stifles potential agricultural growth but also impacts the regional food supply, at a time when grocery costs are already skyrocketing.  Grocery stores are forced to source from out-of-state and are carrying less and less fresh and local eggs, chicken, milk and beef. By restricting the establishment of new dairies, feedlots, and poultry farms (which the state already determined are safe) we risk driving consumer costs higher and becoming more dependent on external sources for our food.


Furthermore, this decision weakens the hard-fought land use systems that have been established to regulate agricultural activities. It prioritizes the concerns of a minority over the broader interests of the agricultural community and the well-being of our rural economy. In Oregon we have land designated as Exclusive Farm Use. Linn County, whether inadvertent or not, has restricted what can be grown where. This is a terrible precedent for Oregon’s family farmers and ranchers.


Denver Pugh, President of Linn County Farm Bureau
Denver Pugh is the President of Linn County Farm Bureau.

We credit the Linn County Board of Commissioners for reopening the record on this issue to hear from more than a few loud voices. As residents of Linn County, we must urge our elected officials to reconsider this decision. If science dictates that the air, water, and land will be protected and sustain a farm, then it should be allowed in a farm zone (period). Further, when a farmer can clear the already significant regulatory hurdles to get a water quality permit from the State of Oregon, why would Linn County add more restrictions (and be the first and only county in the state to do so)? Those residents supporting these restrictions like to refer to people like me and to organizations like Farm Bureau as “Big Ag” or “Corporate Farms." The truth is, we represent all agriculture and in particular, farms and ranches owned and operated by local people who value their families and communities, and who make significant contributions to the local economy. As a community we cannot afford to let unfounded complaints dictate policy. Instead, we should work together to find solutions that support our farmers and ranchers while ensuring the sustainability of our food production systems.


Today, people are paying more than ever for their food. These may seem like far away issues, but they start right here, in Linn County. In this challenging time, when the need for safe and efficient agricultural practices is more pressing than ever, it's essential that we uphold the values that have defined Oregon's agricultural legacy.


We ask our county Commissioners to please not add unnecessary restrictions on family farms and ranches and keep a level playing field for all commodities.

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Written comments can be submitted to Linn County until 5 p.m. June 17 at aboles@co.linn.or.us or planoffice@co.linn.or.us.



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