It is perhaps not a surprise that it is a vegan US politician who has taken a lead in having a go at implementing a fundamental reform of the US industrial animal farming complex. It probably takes a level of personal commitment to take a stand and use one’s position to influence to make this a central political issue. Take a bow, Cory Booker, New Jersey Senator (and Democratic Presidential hopeful).
The Senator has just put forward a bill to pave the way to transition agriculture away from factory farming. The Farm System Reform Act is a bold attempt to promote independent family farms and to protect rural communities and public health.
The bill proposes placing an immediate moratorium on new large scale facilities, defined as CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations). Additionally, the bill provides for a $100 billion budget in the next ten years to help CAFOs to transition to more sustainable forms of agriculture.
Booker’s aim is to phase out the largest CAFOs by 2040.
In a press release Booker said:
“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. 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.”
According to Booker, the handful of dominant firms creates a system whereby dominant buyers can “engage in predatory practices that artificially depress prices paid to farmers without passing along cost savings to consumers”.
Corporate Integrators to be made responsible for the pollution they cause
The Bill seeks to hold these “corporate integrators” responsible for the pollution and other harm caused by CAFOs and provide a voluntary buy-our for farmers who want to transition away from CAFOs.
The Bill also seeks to restore mandatory country-of-origin labelling requirements. Currently, products may be labelled “Product of the USA” when beef or port has been shipped to the US and then processed and repackaged. He asserts that this erodes fair competition and prevents consumers from having the ability to support local rural communities.
The Senator’s position on these issues has been moulded by his observations as Mayor of Newark. In that capacity, he “witnessed how our broken food system harmed local residents, as large sections of Newark were essentially ‘food desserts’, where communities had no access to healthy foods. After becoming a Senator he concluded that this food system “that was harming families in Newark was also hurting family farmers and ranchers around the country”.
Another Democratic frontrunner, Bernie Sanders has labelled factory farming “a threat to America”. He opined on Twitter in May that US factory farms cause 1.4 trillion tons of animal waste. No doubt Booker can count on Sanders’ support for his initiative.
We await the political progress of the Farm System Reform Act, and any signs of the emergence of a vegan voting bloc, with great anticipation.