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Blog | December 18, 2020

A new opportunity to reform the animal agriculture system

Whenever a new president is elected, there is an opportunity to have input on the priorities and policies of the new administration. In the past months, coalitions of farm and food organizations have come together to help shape new policies for agriculture and rural America, creating recommendation documents to share with the transition teams building the new administration. Farm Aid was part of creating a policy recommendation paper submitted this week by a broad coalition of farm and food organizations seeking to influence the policies and regulations that impact animal agriculture.

As our readers well know, the livestock industry is dominated by large corporations that wield their power to influence policy and regulations and control the market, making it difficult for independent livestock producers to compete and earn a fair price. In rural communities, this corporate power allows confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs, often referred to as factory farms) to rise up, even against the opposition of local community members. These CAFOs raise thousands of animals in indoor facilities that don’t adhere to the same principles and values that family farmers do—to be good neighbors and good stewards. In so many communities across the country, factory farms are responsible for terrible acts of environmental injustice against surrounding communities, particularly communities of color. The quantity of manure produced in factory farms—and lack of regulation around how it is handled—means they have been responsible for the destruction of the health of waterways and soil. For all of us who eat, consolidation in our food system leaves fewer choices in the grocery aisle and higher prices, while corporate-written policies are sparking growing concerns about worker safety and food safety. A change in the way we regulate factory farms could reshape rural communities, markets for farmers, our soil and water and our public health!

The signers of the Animal Agriculture Reform Policy Recommendations for the Biden-Harris Administration represent farmers, food chain workers, frontline and rural communities, as well as environmental, animal welfare, and public health organizations. Together, the 72 organizations represent more than 10 million people from every state in the country. This diverse coalition urges swift and immediate action to protect farmers, food chain workers and public health to put our country on the path to recovery by building a just, regenerative, regional, high-welfare animal agriculture system.

The recommendations cut across multiple agencies, executive actions and legislation through Congress. The urgency of and need for these reforms was clearly illuminated in 2020 as the United States experienced the COVID-19 pandemic and an uprising for racial justice, in addition to the already present climate crisis. With these challenges top of mind, the Biden-Harris administration has stated priorities that align perfectly with reform of our highly industrialized and corporate-controlled animal food system. The policies and actions recommended can build food and agriculture systems that:

  • Protect the essential workers who risk their lives to raise, pick and process our food during the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Create hundreds of thousands of jobs, support independent family farmers, and rebuild thriving rural economies;
  • Address racial inequities to uproot unjust systems and agricultural policies;
  • Mitigate climate change, the existential challenge of our time.

The new administration has a choice: They can keep us trapped in a highly consolidated factory farm and food processing system controlled by a handful of mega-corporations, which takes power away from family farmers, rural communities and eaters. Or we can build back better than ever, reforming and rewriting the rules of the food system to strengthen farmers and rural communities, increase transparency and animal welfare in our food system, and protect our soil and water.

Read the full document for more details. And stay tuned to hear what progress is made in 2021 and how you can get involved in the work to change our food system!

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