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    Watching over the little piglets-cm

    Oregon’s Small Farms Under Bureaucratic Assault

    Small farms throughout Oregon are drowning in a rising tide of regulations. With no popular support for legislative changes, the elites are relying on top-down, backroom methods to expand the regulative state. More specifically, these bureaucrats are leaning on newfangled and unfounded interpretations of current laws to justify their pressure campaign on local, family farms. These Draconian moves affront property rights and directly harm Clackamas County’s economy.

    In 2023, the Oregon Department of Agriculture unilaterally expanded its categorization of confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) – a designation usually reserved for large, commercial farms. The broadened definition makes no distinction between a family with a few cows and an industrial farm with hundreds of livestock. As a result, small dairy farms would be required to hold expensive permits and invest in impractical, commercial-sized equipment. After being hit with a lawsuit, ODA backpedaled but stopped shy of abandoning the project.

    In a similar situation, the Oregon Water Resources Department is cracking down on small farms and market gardens for misusing water. Apparently, growing a handful of plants or caring for a few animals puts Oregonians at risk of violating the state’s complicated water permit system. These laws have existed since the early 1900s, but there’s been an uptick in charges. The department is even expanding already restrictive water usage rules. Chillingly, the government is cracking down on these small operations with aerial photography and neighbor referrals.

    The food grown on small farms isn’t funneled into the large-scale distribution network of commercial enterprises. Often, this local production is a key source of nourishment for the entire community. However, restrictive land use laws prevent small farms from being able to process, package, and sell their produce or crops. Known as value-added agriculture, this practice is vital for ensuring a livelihood for local farmers and converting raw agricultural products into consumable goods for everyone.

    Oregonians will never be permitted to walk onto corporate farms to buy food for their families. In a blatant act of favoritism, the government boosts the success of commercial agriculture at the expense of local, family operations. The result? We’re barred from feeding ourselves and our families in our own neighborhoods! This increases dependency on a state that has clearly demonstrated indifference and even disdain for the individual while undercutting economic freedom, financial independence, and fundamental property rights – once seen as foundational American values.

    Another disastrous yet often overlooked result of this regulatory bias is the harm to agritourism. This economically empowering marriage of agriculture and tourism is celebrated and encouraged throughout eastern and southern Oregon where fewer restrictions exist. Although local farms in Willamette Valley attract between 3.7 and 13.7 million people annually, the government has diminished the economic potential of agritourism through its backward land-use restrictions.

    Ideally, these shocking developments could be written off as standard cases of bureaucratic overreach. However, a deeper look at these events uncovers an underlying pattern of political favoritism. It seems the political elites are intentionally looking for ways to tweak or reinterpret existing laws and regulations to edge out small farms to the advantage of commercial enterprises. While it’s impossible to guess motivations, the effective results of these policies cannot be ignored: small farms are disproportionately suffering.

    The blatant misapplication and capricious nature of these regulations contribute to an atmosphere of uncertainty, frustration, and distrust among small agricultural businesses throughout Oregon. The state government has a responsibility to be transparent, aboveboard, and consistent in their application of laws. Unfortunately, many Oregonians see these developments as a feature of the system rather than a bug.

    This commission has been a stalwart defender of Clackamas residents against the onslaught of overregulation from the capital. Despite our varying backgrounds, we’ve remained committed to governing the Clackamas Way and protecting our constituents against the harmful effects of Portland Creep. These shocking examples of overregulation targeting small farms prove that the fight is far from over. This development reinforces our resolve to resist government overreach to protect the rights and livelihoods of our constituents.