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A classic conflict

Land-use conflicts are nothing new, and the one shaping up near Ashland is a classic. Operators of Uproot Meats, a free-range pig farm above Siskiyou Boulevard south of Ashland, want to add a chicken-slaughtering and meat-processing facility on their property. Neighbors, including Weisinger’s winery, are objecting to what they fear will be runoff into an irrigation canal, odors and other disturbances.

Jackson County Development Services tentatively approved the application last month.Neighbors are objecting, saying the uphill location threatens downhill properties with runoff that also could contaminate a Talent Irrigation District canal below the farm.

State law allows what the owners want to do. Chicken slaughtering facilities are expressly permitted on exclusive farm use land. So are wineries. And the state’s Right to Farm law protects farmers from court action based on noises, smells, dust or other nuisances customarily associated with farming.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture’s fact sheet on the Right to Farm law notes that the law’s protections do not apply to farm activities that result in “damage to commercial agricultural products of another grower or neighboring property.”

But as long as Uproot Meats prevents any contamination of the irrigation canal or neighboring farmland, the county probably has no grounds to deny the application. Uproot’s owners say the filtration system they have designed has been approved by the Department of Environmental Quality and the Talent Irrigation District.

If the neighbors want to stop a legal farm operation, they should work to change state law.