The Van Trump Report

County in California Could Be First in Nation to Restrict CAFOs

A county in California could be the first in the nation to vote on a measure to limit CAFO sizes. In case you are wondering… CAFO is the acronym they use for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, aka CAFOs. The measure was approved for the ballot after a petition drive by the group “Coalition to End Factory Farming” which wants to end concentrated animal feeding operations, aka CAFOS. If passed, the Sonoma County initiative could shutter some 60 farms, although the activists are not likely to stop their crusade with this one county.

The Coalition to End Factory Farming is a group of roughly 30 animal welfare advocates, environmentalists, and small producers that say they want to address environmental and ethical issues tied to large-scale animal farming operations. While many local nonprofits and animal rights organizations back the measure, the Sonoma County Farm Bureau notes that Berkeley-based “Direct Action Everywhere” is the driving force behind the measure.

“The Sonoma County Farm Bureau strongly opposes this measure, viewing it as a significant threat to the livelihoods of local farmers such as Clover Sonoma and Straus Family Creamery, the availability of local food sources, and the rural character of our community,” the Farm Bureau said in a press release.

Activists often label CAFOs as “factory farms” due to their industrial-scale production methods. The initiative would phase out medium- and large-sized “concentrated agricultural feeding operations,” or CAFOs, in Sonoma County. The definition of a CAFO includes animals stabled or confined for 45 days or more in any 12-month period. The size of the farms that stand to be out of compliance would vary by animal and according to how they discharge manure.

Direct Action Everywhere claims the initiative will not have much impact on local farmers, although that’s only true you don’t count the roughly two dozen that it will impact. Direct Action says those impacted could close down the facilities, transition into some other kind of farm, or downsize to get below the limit and no longer be considered a CAFO. California overall is among the states with the largest numbers of CAFOs.
The organizers note that the definitions of CAFOs used in the ballot initiative come directly from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Local farmers insist they are misleading, and that none of Sonoma County’s dairies or egg farms are true factory farms. They also warn that if the ballot initiative passes, it would threaten hundreds of family and multigenerational farms, while immediately shuttering about 60.

Dayna Ghirardelli, the president of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau, believes the sponsors behind the ordinance aim to get rid of animal agriculture altogether. She calls the organizers of the petition are animal “extremists” and believes they are using this legislation as a means to start the process of wiping out farms. “This is just the beginning.”

Jennifer Reichardt of Liberty Ducks, known for high-quality, ethically raised ducks, represents the type of operation at risk due to the initiative. That’s despite the fact that the company is committed to raising ducks in spacious environments on natural diets, without hormones or antibiotics. Reichardt criticizes the measure’s “vague language” and warns it will harm family farms, despite the measure’s supporters claiming it will benefit small farmers.  

This type of legislation often begins in California and unfortunately spreads to the rest of the country. Due to its sheer size and economic heft, what happens in California inevitably impacts the rest of the country. California voters overwhelmingly approved two statewide ballots in 2008 and 2018 that addressed animal confinement, establishing minimum space requirements for a variety of livestock, including egg-laying hens, veal calves and pigs. Those bills have essentially changed farming practices for any farmer in the country who wants to sell their product in California.

After verification, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors will decide the initiative’s fate — they can either adopt the ordinance or present it to voters in November or during a special election. The board is currently within the allotted 30 days to make their decision. If it is included on the ballot, Sonoma County will be the first in the nation to vote on a CAFO ban. The City of Berkeley will have a similar initiative on the ballot this year as well. (Sources: The Press Democrat, Los Angeles Times, Sonoma County Gazette)

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