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New Research Shows Alarming Impacts of Corporate Agriculture Industry in America

As large meat and poultry producers buckle under COVID-19 outbreaks, report exposes deepening consolidation in factory farm industry.

WASHINGTON - As the country’s meat and poultry industries increasingly fail consumers and workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, new research from the advocacy group Food & Water Watch exposes the alarming spread of corporate dominance in America’s meat, poultry, dairy and egg industries. With the perils of consolidation now becoming apparent as plants become pandemic hotspots, farmers euthanize cattle and dump product, and store shelves across the country sit bare, the new report details the deepening expansion and consolidation among America’s largest corporate factory farms (also known as concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs).

The new report, “Factory Farm Nation: 2020,” reveals the stark impacts of recent consolidation in the food industry, including:

  • A 14 percent increase – representing more than 190 million animals – in U.S. factory farm stock from 2012 to 2017.
  • An 82 billion-pound increase in annual factory farm manure waste – three times the weight in human sewage produced by New York City each year – from 2012 to 2017.
  • The loss of nearly 10,000 family-run dairies (those with fewer than 500 head) from 2012 to 2017.
  • A 70 percent increase in the real consumer cost of ground beef over 20 years, while farmer income continues to decline.

“It’s a shame that it takes a global pandemic to focus needed attention on the dangerous state of our food system in America. Due to reckless corporate consolidation and dominance in the meat and dairy industries over recent years, our country’s food production and supply chains have been put in peril by a small handful of giant companies that prioritize profit over food safety, worker safety, sustainability and consumer choice,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “Without bold action by Congress to address the glaring faults in our corporate agriculture system, the current supply disruptions, worker illnesses, family farm crises and rampant pollution of our rural communities will only be the tip of the iceberg.”

Legislation in Congress introduced by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) is intended to correct many of the existing problems in the agriculture system and put the country on a path to more safe and sustainable food production in- the future. Among other things, the Farm System Reform Act would:

  • Place a moratorium on construction of new large factory farms and the expansion of existing ones.
  • Hold corporations liable for environmental harm caused by the factory farms that raise their animals.
  • Provide a $100 billion voluntary buyout program for contract farmers to transition away from factory farming.
  • Strengthen the Packers & Stockyards Act to protect family farmers and ranchers from abusive practices by integrating corporations.

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Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and by transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.

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