Idaho House Speaker Lawerence Denney will introduce a bill this week to protect and strengthen confined animal feeding operations, better known as CAFOs. Denney's measure would fortify Idaho's Right-to-Farm Act to include any "defined agricultural activities." Simply put, instead of a simple definition of agriculture, the law would also encompass any "recognized or permitted" entity that includes farm services. Denney's bill would require any group that challenged and lost an effort to eliminate an agricultural facility to pay all legal fees.
The Right-to-Farm Act was created to protect family farms from nuisance suits. But for nearly a quarter of a century, family farms have dwindled in Idaho while CAFOs continued to grow. Between 1991 and 2007, the number of Idaho dairies dropped from 1,952 to 648. But the average herd size increased from 91 cows in 1991 to 783 in 2007. As the mega-dairies grew, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality has found increasingly elevated levels of nitrate in areas heavily populated with CAFOs.