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Calling for Overhaul of Nation's Food System, New Campaign Seeks Ban on Factory Farms

"We need to work together around the country to stop factory farms and protect our communities, our air and water, and our climate."

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Local leaders and environmentalists came together in Des Moines, Iowa on Monday to demand a nationwide ban on factory farms. (Photo: Farm Sanctuary/flickr/cc)

Farmers, environmental advocates, and community leaders came together in Des Moines, Iowa on Monday to launch a national campaign to outlaw factory farming, in conjunction with a new report that outlines the long list of negative consequences tied to housing hundreds or thousands of animals in crowded spaces.

"This is a model that doesn't work for the way we produce our food. It doesn't work for the environment. It doesn't work for public health. It doesn't work for communities. It doesn't work for family farmers... And it's time to say, 'no more.'"
—Patty Lovera,
Food & Water Watch

Noting that the number of industrial farms across the United States has soared over the past two decades, the report (pdf) by Food & Water Watch details how "these operations produce enormous volumes of waste, pollute the air and water, exploit workers, harm animal welfare, fuel antibiotic resistance and climate change, and harm the rural communities they are purported to benefit."

Wenonah Hauter, the group's executive director, compared the national campaign to halt all factory farming to grassroots efforts in 2011 to ban the natural gas extraction process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

"Like fracking, factory farming is too dangerous for our environment to simply regulate," Hauter said. "We need to work together around the country to stop factory farms and protect our communities, our air and water, and our climate."

At the launch event in Iowa, local leaders explained the problems their communities have faced as a result of the growing popularity of factory farming, while a representative from Food & Water Watch discussed the report's findings.

"Iowa's surface waters are filthy...with bacteria, with soils, with chemicals, and a growing concern for us is blue-green algae and cyanotoxins," Bill Stowe, CEO and general manager of the Des Moines Water Works, said Monday. "And there's no question that land use upstream from us... land use predominated by industrial farming, by factory farms, is contributing to the deteriorating water quality in this state."

"You've heard a lot about what's happening to the water here in Des Moines, and the same things are happening around the country where this is the dominant model of agriculture," said Food & Water Watch assistant director Patty Lovera. "And the list of impacts just goes on and on."

The report, titled The Urgent Case for a Ban on Factory Farms, calls for a fundamental restructuring of the nation's food system, and puts forth a list of policy proposals, which includes:

  • enforcing antitrust laws to break up the agribusiness stranglehold on our food system;
  • establishing supply management programs to ensure that grain producers can make a fair living without flooding the market with cheap grains that feed factory farms;
  • creating policy incentives for encouraging diversified and regenerative farms;
  • rebuilding the local and regional infrastructure needed for small and mid-sized livestock producers to get their animals to market;
  • enacting aggressive policies to address climate change, including policies to limit the contribution of agriculture to climate change;
  • not allowing new factory farm operations to be built or expanded;
  • enforcing environmental laws on existing factory farms;
  • supporting research and technical assistance needed to transition factory farm operations; and
  • directing government spending to prioritize rebuilding the infrastructure needed for diversified, smaller-scale livestock production using regenerative practices to supply regional markets.

Outlining the negative consequences of industrial farming, Lovera concluded: "This is a model that doesn't work for the way we produce our food. It doesn't work for the environment. It doesn't work for public health. It doesn't work for communities. It doesn't work for family farmers... And it's time to say, 'no more.'"

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