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Food Integrity Campaign Blog

Senate Bill to Overhaul Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations

FIC Staff | December 16, 2019

On December 12, 2019, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced the “Farm System Reform Act,” a sweeping piece of legislation designed to address the worst ills of factory farms, also known as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). The Food Integrity Campaign (FIC) is pleased to endorse this bill.

Meat and poultry companies profit from CAFO operations at the expense of rural communities, the environment, animal welfare, and the farmers themselves. Most poultry, pork, and beef producers in the U.S. operate under contracts with companies that dictate every input and step of the process—and that retaliate if a farmer speaks up about problems. FIC clients and allies have put their own livelihoods on the line to reveal these truths to the public.

The Farm System Reform Act takes important steps to overhaul this rigged system. The bill contains three major sections, all of which play an important role in the fight for food integrity.

Phase Out Factory Farms

CAFOs generate huge amounts of manure, typically more than can be reasonably used as fertilizer on local fields, leading to contamination of local streams, exposure to air pollution, and noxious smells for local residents. Meanwhile, producers don’t earn enough to pay for environmental improvements.

The bill places an immediate moratorium on expanding or building new large CAFOs, requiring all CAFOs of a certain size to be phased out by 2040 and offering a voluntary buyout program for farmers. The bill also puts liability for pollution and community harm squarely where it belongs, on the meat and poultry companies.

Strengthen Farmer Protections Against Unfair Practices

Starting five years ago with poultry grower and whistleblower Craig Watts, FIC has represented or advised several growers facing retaliation for speaking up about problems with contract agriculture. Contract growers Rudy Howell, Erick Hedrick, and Tony Grigsby have each worked with FIC and other partner organizations to collect tens of thousands of signatures asking Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to protect farmers like them.

The bill ends a number of practices companies use to manipulate payments to producers. The bill also prohibits retaliation against producers who talk to government officials about their contracts or who join producer associations to organize for better contracts.

Restore Country of Origin Labelling

FIC has long supported country of origin labeling, known as COOL. Passed by Congress in 2013, mandatory COOL required meat packages to identify in what country the animal was born, raised, and slaughtered. Congress repealed COOL for beef and pork in 2016. FIC has joined farm, consumer, and other organizations fighting to restore COOL, including a sign-on letter to Senators just this month.

The bill not only restores COOL for beef and pork, but also for the first time establishes COOL for dairy products. Clear and accurate COOL labels allow consumers to make informed choices about what they buy.

FIC appreciates Senator Booker’s continued leadership to protect farm families and limit corporate abuses of power in agriculture. The Farm System Reform Act serves as a wake-up call to the fact that factory farms and contract agriculture as we know it needs to end.

 

 

5 Comments

  1. Janette St Pierre says:

    It boggles the mind how people love to eat meat but treat the source so inhumanely.Report

  2. Rick says:

    Even if someone is not concerned about the horrific cruelty inflicted upon hapless animals at factory farming operations, they should be concerned about their own health. Viruses, such as the Corona virus, run rampant in such densely-occupied operations and cannot be quelled with increasing resistance to the endless antibiotics used. The impact on the food supply people think is ‘created’ out of the back room of the grocery store’s meat department can be overwhelming if just one virus strain spreads rapidly.Report

  3. Cheryl Y Marcum says:

    Missouri Republican Governor Mike Parson signed SB 391 into law on May 31, 2019. It disembowels county commissions’ and health departments’ authority to regulate CAFOs and takes away counties right to establish new regulations to protect residents’ health and welfare. Missouri allows 2,500-7,499 swine weighing over 55 pounds or 1,000-2,999 beef or feeder cows 1,000 ft. from a residence with no air quality standards for CAFOs with less than 7,000 cattle or 17,500 hogs! State standards allow CAFOs to spray their untreated liquid manure 50 ft. from homes, and a new “export only” permit allows spraying it right up to the property line, even if a home is on the property line. 20 rural counties have health ordinances with stricter, common sense regulations. SB 391 was passed by 23 of 24 Republican senators, 103 of 117 Republican House members with nine absent. No Democrats voted for SB 391. Cedar County’s Republican County Commission joined Cooper County Health Department to file a lawsuit against Governor Parson, the Missouri Clean Water Commission, and the Missouri Air Conservation Commission, alleging Senate Bill 391 is unconstitutional and does not operate to rescind previously adopted county health ordinances. The summary judgement hearing was February 19, awaiting ruling.Report

  4. Norma says:

    Why does nobody seem to realize TREES GET RID OF CARBON DIOXIDE, SO TREES ARE THE ANSWER TO FIXING THE PROBLEM.
    Without agriculture we won’t have anything to eat, so agriculture needs to be protected from government penalties.

    STOP THE COMMERCIAL ANIMAL FARMS who abuse the animals so bad. All you need to do is drive across the prairies to be the massive abuse the cattle are suffering WITH NO GRASS ANYWHERE in their pens, and they are crowded so there are at least 20-30 head per acre which if far too many, to say nothing of the abusive and dangerous use of antibiotics that are use on the cows AND chickens that have contributed to the super bugs that can’t be stopped.

    There should be something put in place to stop the abuse of antibiotics unless there is a REAL need for them. I grew up on a dairy and egg farm so I know it can be done without the massive abuse of meds – we didn’t use very many and we waited for the animals to grow naturally without steroids or antibiotics.
    People who eat meat are the problem and I eat some beef and that is terrible, so I am part of the problem. You can get protein from beans, fish (and the seas are in danger as well), and chickens and we would all adapt if they were not available n the grocery.Report

  5. Fred Williams says:

    I am part in the lawsuit against SB391. Rural farmers are being convinced corporate Ag is looking out for them. The truth is they are only looking for more money and power. How many independent farmers raise hogs, chickens or turkeys? How much has the price for a bushel of corn, wheat, soybeans, ect increased over the last 30yrs compared to the cost of harvesting? How many farmers are going bankrupt or looking for a government handout these days? Pull your head out and understand who is for you and who is stealing your livelihood.Report

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