Three separate Oregon bills — the Farm Direct Bill, the Family Farm Act and HB 2872 — supporting a 1,000-bird exemption rule for poultry processing are being backed by supporters of small family farms and locally grown food.
The state currently has a 20,000-bird exemption, which allows a poultry processor to process up to 20,000 birds per year in a state-inspected, brick-and-mortar facility owned by the processor. Supporters of the bills said this rule isn't friendly to small, family-owned poultry farms. "That facility could cost up to $100,000, (according to) some producers that we've talked to in the state that have actually gone ahead and done this," said Kendra Kimbirauskas, president of Friends of Family Farmers. "Or you can process your birds in a USDA facility," she said, but there is only one USDA facility in Oregon and it just came online in the last few months.
The new exemption would allow growers to process and sell up to 1,000 birds on their farms. "These bills are nearly identical and provide for small grower/producers to raise no more than 1,000 poultry — chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese and guineas — for slaughter and intrastate sale without being licensed or inspected," said Jim Postlewait of the Oregon Department of Agriculture's Food Safety Division. "The poultry grower must slaughter and store poultry while protecting from adulteration (such as) dust, insects, etc."
Lack of formal inspection under the exemption, according to supporters, does not mean giving small farms free reign. "They still have to follow the USDA basic rules, as written in the bill," said Lauren Gwin, co-coordinator of the Niche Meat Processor Assistant Network. "And the USDA can pop in at any time, for example, if there is a complaint to make sure that the farmer isn't breaking those rules, e.g., doing 2,000 birds per year, not keeping sales records or creating an unsanitary cesspool of blood & feathers."