Legislative proposal bans CAFOs, reinstates MCOOL

Farm System Reform Act introduced by Sen. Booker and Rep. Khanna would force major changes on ag industry.

Jacqui Fatka, Policy editor

July 14, 2021

4 Min Read
Cattle feedlot - DaveHughesIstockImages174683887.jpg
END TO CAFOS: New bill would place a moratorium on all concentrated animal feeding operations. An estimated 95% of cattle in the U.S. spend at least some time in feedlots. Dave Hughes/Istock

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., introduced a wide sweeping bill – the Farm System Reform Act – to place a moratorium on large concentrated animal feeding operations, strengthen the Packers and Stockyards Act and require mandatory country of origin labeling on beef, pork and dairy products.

“If Congress doesn’t act soon, we risk losing an entire generation of family farms to multinational farming corporations,” says Khanna. “The Farm System Reform Act is the clear way to ensure the American food system maintains fair competition, high animal welfare standards and a dependable food chain. We must fix this broken system.”

A release from the Family Farm Action says, “By helping producers shift to more sustainable practices and phasing out concentrated animal operations that benefit from unfair business practices, the Act creates opportunities for thousands of current and prospective independent producers and protects workers from unsafe working environments.” 

The Farm System Reform Act attempts to revitalize independent animal agriculture and uplift farmers and rural communities by:

  • Placing an immediate moratorium on the construction and expansion of large CAFOs

  • Phasing out the operation of large CAFOs by 2040

  • Investing $10 billion annually in voluntary buyout and transition funding for farmers who want to get out of the CAFO model

  • Holding corporate integrators responsible for pollution and other harms caused by CAFOs

  • Strengthening the Packers and Stockyards Act to ensure fair contracts and treatment of farmers

  • Restoring mandatory Country of Origin Labeling and extends it to dairy products and prohibiting imported meat products from being labeled as “Product of USA.”

“Large, multinational meatpackers, because of their buying power and size, are putting our food system at risk and harming everyone along the supply chain. We need to fix the broken system – that means giving family farmers and ranchers a fair shot and holding corporate integrators responsible for the harm they are causing,” says Booker. “We must immediately begin to transition to a more sustainable and humane system. An important first step is ending our reliance on huge factory farms and investing in a system that focuses on resilient and regenerative production.”

“In the past week, Democrats in Washington have put forward two starkly different proposals for strengthening the future of American cattle farmers and ranchers. One of these paths, namely the recent announcement from Secretary Vilsack, offers practical, long-term progress for our producers,” explains National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane. “The alternative, introduced today in Congress, is the kind of broad, jumbled mess you get when you’re more focused on Twitter and talking points than the sound legislating rural Americans need.”

Lane explains that 95% of cattle raised in the United States visit a feedyard and would be considered a CAFO. “Feeding operations aren’t antithetical to small, family-owned farms and ranches — they’re part and parcel of the same, symbiotic supply chain that produces the most nutritious, sustainable beef in the world. Cattle feeders respond efficiently to meet a wide range of consumer demands, and that efficiency is one of the main reasons why the United States has had the lowest beef GHG emissions intensity in the world for 25 years. As our food supply chain is taxed by a growing number of mouths to feed at home and abroad, this efficient production system will be more vital than ever,” Lane says.

In supporting the bill, Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, says, “The factory farm agricultural model, which dominates our country’s food system, fuels toxic air and water contamination, drives dangerous and unfair working conditions, wreaks havoc on independent farmers and rural communities and threatens food safety.”

“The Farm System Reform Act tackles the root of our food system issues: consolidated corporate power,” says Joe Maxwell, fourth generation Missouri farmer and president of Family Farm Action. “By shifting federal support away from production models that only benefit corporate agriculture firms, the Farm System Reform Act places power in the hands of farmers and workers. Now is the moment to work together and build a better food system.”

The United Food and Commercial Workers supports the bill. UFCW International President Marc Perrone says, “This bill takes action to rein in food industry monopolies and put consumers and workers first with new mandatory country-of-origin labeling requirements for beef, pork and dairy products.”

Lane notes NCBA has been on the forefront of issues such as accurate Product of the USA labeling, and petitioned for USDA to consider updating the label criteria just weeks before USDA made the formal announcement.

“While it is positive to see some of these key producer concerns receiving attention from two new members of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees, we’re also frustrated to see them buried in such a sprawling, misguided package,” Lane says.

The Farm System Reform Act is supported by more than 300 diverse groups, including the The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Food & Water Watch and the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. Additionally, more than 100 farmers across the country have signed onto a letter endorsing the bill as a solution that would revitalize independent agriculture and uplift farmers and rural communities.

About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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