Senator Booker’s legislation aims to reform U.S. farming systems – Food Tank

US Senator Cory Booker recently reintroduced the Farm System Reform Act to restrict the growth of new factory farms and protect family farmers.

About 20,000 contained animal feed (CAFO) operations are currently operating in the United States. CAFOs are large-scale industrial facilities that rear thousands of animals under conditions that are harmful to public health, the environment, and animal welfare.

The Farm System Reform Act was first introduced in the United States Senate in 2019. Since then, Booker has enjoyed a wide range of support from advocates for family farms and ranches, environmental justice groups and the animal welfare, public health agencies and unions related to the meat packing industry.

“From rural communities to public health to the environment, factory farming continues to have a detrimental impact on almost every aspect of our lives, and I am encouraged to see a broad coalition of stakeholders supporting the efforts. transition to a more sustainable and humane system, ”Booker told Food Tank.

Farm System Reform Act aims to ban new CAFOs from forming and phasing out larger CAFOs by 2040, holding large corporations accountable for pollution caused by CAFO practices, creating $ 100 billion fund of US dollars to buy back farmers who want to leave the operation of a CAFO. , and strengthen the protections of family farmers by reinstating the law on packers and stockyards.

Public support for a CAFO moratorium is growing in states like Iowa, where CAFOs are prevalent and growing. A recent poll conducted by the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future found that nearly two-thirds of Iowa residents want a moratorium on CAFOs. Iowa lawmakers have also repeatedly introduced legislation to push for a statewide moratorium on CAFOs, including in 2021.

Iowa faces major environmental and public health consequences from CAFOs, including waterway pollution that closes beaches and kills fish, volatile odors that impact psychological health, and significant increase in asthma in children and adults. These environmental and health effects are common in the areas surrounding CAFOs, which are disproportionately located in minority communities.

A 2021 study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that air pollution from animal agriculture is responsible for 12,720 deaths in the United States per year. Despite these major concerns, actors in the industrial agriculture supply chain are exempt from declaring the environmental impact.

Joe Maxwell, president and CEO of Family Farm Action and sixth generation farmer, told Food Tank: “These big companies are externalizing environmental costs to taxpayers, communities and farmers, and claiming to have affordable meat. . While farmers may be interested in adopting more sustainable practices, meat packers make this impossible by pushing farmers to maximize production to an unsustainable level.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, family farmers had a median net income of $ 1,840 in 2018. With just four companies controlling 85 percent of the livestock market and 65 percent of the pork market, farmers have little to do with it. ‘options and are often forced to accept prices below the cost of raising the animals.

“You can look at all sectors of animal agriculture and you will find a handful of multinational companies controlling this market space,” Maxwell told Food Tank.

Asked about the importance of federal support for farmers looking to move away from the CAFO model, Maxwell said, “That’s it. Farmers want an option, they are looking for a way out. It is imperative that we start removing some of the current subsidies from the model of industrial agriculture that has put farmers on a treadmill that they cannot get rid of.

The Farm System Reform Act would also strengthen the Packers and Stockyard Act of 1921, which was originally designed to protect farmers against unfair and anti-competitive business practices. In addition to enhancing market transparency, farmers would be protected against retaliatory practices if they took legal action against a company that caused them harm.

While there is little chance of passing the bill in its entirety this session, Booker sees potential for progress. For example, Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, introduced bipartisan legislation almost identical to the Packers and Stockyard Act section of the Farm System Reform Act. And as a newly appointed member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Booker is well positioned to lead the change for the long haul.

“The large multinational meat packers, by virtue of their purchasing power and size, put our food system at risk and harm everyone along the supply chain,” Booker told Food Tank . “We need to fix the broken system – it means giving family farmers and ranchers a fair chance and holding business integrators accountable for the damage they cause. “

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