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Forget Potatoes: Idaho Now Grows CAFOs

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Idaho News page, Farm Issues page, and our Factory Farm & Food Safety page.

When the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act (Proposition 2) passed in California in 2008, it granted laying hens nominally more space in their cages.

Proponents of humane animal husbandry cheered the fact that these birds would now have a little more room to stretch their wings. But industrial egg producers -- claiming their costs would go up -- threatened to leave the state before 2015, when key portions of the law go into effect.

Hope those disgruntled egg producers like potatoes. Perhaps sensing an opportunity, Idaho lawmakers passed a series of laws more or less inviting the poultry industry to their state. In this High Country News article (subs. req'd), Grist contributor Stephanie Ogburn tracks the state's Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) laws and their repercussions throughout the state, and asks: Is Idaho a new haven for CAFOs?

Idaho's dairy industry (which surpassed potato production in 1997) has already ballooned out of control: In 1991, 2,000 dairies produced 3 billion pounds of milk; now a mere 650 dairies produce 11 billion pounds of milk.

How exactly did they usher in so many changes so fast? According to Ogburn, Idaho lawmakers started out by restricting public comment on CAFOS in 2000. They followed that by altering water rights laws, passing legislation ominously nicknamed the "CAFO Secrecy Bill" (which blocked oversight of CAFO manure-management plans by making them "proprietary"), and amending the state's Right to Farm law to prohibit local governments from regulating agricultural facilities as nuisances. The latter also barred neighbors from filing complaints using the nuisance law.

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