‘Groundbreaking’ Vote To Ban Factory Farming To Be Held In US County

Northern California's Sonoma County could ban factory farming thanks to a citizen-led petition from the CEFF


3 Minutes Read

Photo shows five CEFF volunteers standing with large boxes of signatures before handing them in This vote to end factory farming in Sonoma county could inspire others - Media Credit: Michelle Del Cueto

Northern California’s Sonoma County is now one step closer to a factory farming ban.

On Wednesday, March 27, the Sonoma County Registrar of Voters officially confirmed that a citizen-led petition to ban factory farms qualified for the ballot. Volunteers from the Coalition to End Factory Farming (CEFF) submitted over 37 thousand signatures earlier this month.

The Registrar of Voters will now deliver the initiative to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, which will then decide when it will actually go to a vote. The CEFF believes that this will likely be in November of this year. This means that Sonoma County will become the first in the nation to vote on such a ban, with potentially huge implications for the rest of the US.

The measure, if adopted, would impact around two dozen local agricultural businesses which are classed as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO), or factory farms, per federal guidelines. (The USDA defines a CAFO as confining more than 1,000 “animal units.”)

The proposed measure would also take into account the species of the confined animals, the duration of animals’ confinement, and how significant its pollution of the local environment, including where two or more operations could be together considered a CAFO.

Existing CAFOs would be required to register, and would have three years to phase out operations before facing increasingly severe financial penalties: USD $1,000 for the first day, $5,000 for the second, and $10,000 for the third and all subsequent days spent in violation.

The measure would also require a phase out process developed in collaboration with a California-based humane society or society for the prevention of cruelty to animals, along with a job-retraining program for CAFO workers created by the Agricultural Commissioner.

Why end factory farming?

Photo shows two CEFF volunteers handing in a large box of signatures
Michelle Del Cueto CEFF volunteers Sarah Van Mantgem of Windsor and Kristina Garfinkel of Santa Rosa hand in a box of signatures in support of a factory farming ban on March 4, 2024

CEFF is a coalition of over 30 organizations including various environmental advocacy and animal protection groups along with several small animal farms and even local businesses. They are as diverse as the Organic Consumers Association, Farm Sanctuary, the Food Animals Concerns Trust (FACT), and Direct Action Everywhere (DxE).

“Sonoma County is a beautiful place with strong values around protecting animals and the environment. Unfortunately, dozens of factory farms are operating counter to the public’s values,” DxE communications lead Cassie King told Plant Based News (PBN). “Now, ordinary people are uniting and utilizing a form of direct democracy to end factory farming in Sonoma County.”

Factory farming’s impact is felt far and wide. Extensive scientific studies combined with repeated undercover investigations depict the myriad of ways factory farming impacts the environment and wildlife, public health, and CAFO workers, as well as the animals themselves.

In fact, several years of factory farm investigations in Sonoma County specifically have exposed shocking cruelty, including three separate investigations (2014, 2019, and 2023) into the Reichardt Duck Farm in Petaluma which each found diseased and dying animals.

“Cheap food has come at the cost of our local economy and rural landscape,” said Roy Smith, operator of a Sonoma-based diverse animal farm and vocal supporter of the CEFF’s measure, in a release sent to PBN. “The first step in rebuilding our food system, and making family farms viable again, is to level the playing field.”

“There is no playing field for small farmers as long as CAFOs occupy it,” added Smith. “And they won’t leave without an eviction notice.”

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