As the coronavirus pandemic exposes the dangers and vulnerabilities in the meat supply chains, U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have co-sponsored a bill put forward by Senator Cory Booker to phase out factory farms. The bill, called the Farm System Reform Act, is a series of legislation targeting concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and will help the industry transition into other more sustainable and safer agricultural operations.
Last December, Booker proposed the Farm System Reform Act, which plans to impose an immediate end to building new CAFOs or factory farms, and phase out the largest existing farms by 2040. It will also require agricultural conglomerates that control the market to take up the cost of pollution, accidents and disasters that occur in the supply chain and will set up a US$100 billion fund over the next ten years to help farmers shift into other agricultural operations.
Since the legislation has been proposed, it has attracted a number of high-profile cosponsors, including Elizabeth Warren in May this year, as well as House Representative Ro Khanna, who had co-chaired Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and House Progressive Caucus co-chair Representative Jamie Raskin. Bernie Sanders signed on as a co-sponsor this August.
We need to fix the broken system – that means protecting family farmers and ranchers and holding corporate integrators responsible for the harm they are causing.Senator Cory Booker
According to Newsweek, the Senators supported the bill in light of the coronavirus pandemic, which has wreaked havoc on meat supply chains as slaughterhouses and packing plants become hotspots of viral outbreaks and employees’ outcry over unsafe working conditions.
Scientific research has shown how “superbug” outbreaks, including the current Covid-19 pandemic, have either originated from or been fuelled by the world’s hunger for meat, which has given rise to intensive animal agriculture like CAFOs. The current pandemic is only the latest in a slew of zoonotic diseases to emerge after swine flu, MERS, SARS and Ebola.
The latest report by United Nations experts has further underlined the link between unsustainable animal agricultural intensification as a result of demand for animal-based foods and zoonotic disease emergence. To date, 60% of all the 1,400 microbes known to infect humans have originated from animals.
Explaining the urgent need for such legislation back in December 2019, Booker, who is a long-time vegan, said: “A handful of firms have come to dominate the processing of livestock and poultry…Our independent family farmers and ranchers are continuing to be squeezed by large, multinational corporations that, because of their buying power and size, run roughshod over the marketplace.”
“We need to fix the broken system – that means protecting family farmers and ranchers and holding corporate integrators responsible for the harm they are causing,” Booker added. “Large factory farms are harmful to rural communities, public health, and the environment and we must immediately begin to transition to a more sustainable and humane system.”
Lead image courtesy of CIWF.