A new bill seeks to change the way animals are raised in the US. It needs our support. Action Alert!
The Farm System Reform Act addresses a number of concerns we at ANH-USA have been writing about for years. The meat industry in the United States is dominated by a few large companies that demand animals be confined in close quarters and raised in squalid conditions. This bill would halt the dominance of CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operation) over the meat industry in the US. It would also return transparency to meat labeling.
Specifically, the bill would place a moratorium on the expansion and creation of new large CAFOs. By 2040, no large CAFOs would be allowed to be in operation. (Large CAFOs are defined by the EPA based on the number of animals contained in the operation.)
The bill also holds corporate entities responsible for the massive amounts of pollution and waste generated by CAFOs. As it currently stands, large transnational companies contract with local growers who run the CAFO according to the company’s specifications, but it is the local growers who are legally responsible for the pollution generated by the operation. The new bill would transfer this responsibility to the parent company.
The bill allots $100 million over ten years for a voluntary buyout program for farmers who want to leave the CAFO business. This fund would also offer transition assistance to farmers who want to start a pasture-based livestock operation, grow specialty crops, or start an organic operation.
Finally, the bill restores mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) for beef and pork and expands it to include dairy products. It also prevents foreign meat from carrying the “Product of USA” label. These are two issues we’ve raised the alarm on in the past (here and here). Previously, Congress caved and repealed COOL when the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled that the law unfairly discriminated against meat from Canada and Mexico. The “logic” was that COOL infringed upon international trade obligations, entitling those countries to take retaliatory measures against US exports that amounted to billions of dollars.
We’ve also written about the loophole at the USDA that allows foreign meat to be labeled as American. Current USDA policy allows foreign meat to be imported to the US and carry the “Product of USA” label if it passes through a USDA-inspected plant. The USDA loophole allows foreign multinational corporations to disguise their products and take advantage of the lucrative US market. There’s good reason to believe that this loophole also violates the federal government’s own policies that prohibit false or misleading labeling.
The provisions in this bill mark some positive first steps to reforming our broken agricultural system. CAFOs have come to dominate meat production in the US, but consumers are becoming increasingly wary of these operations, especially as reports come out about the abuse of animals that happens at CAFOs—and which some states work to suppress through “ag-gag” laws. We must start to turn the tide by supporting initiatives such as this.
Action Alert! Write to Congress and tell them to support the Farm System Reform Act. Please send your message immediately.