We Must Shut Down Factory Farms to Protect Clean Water and Environmental Justice

Americans have been presented with the image of a happy family farmer who provides the food that we eat for years. Unfortunately, this image is not true for most of the food we eat. Food production, especially in industrial animal agriculture, is creating an ecological crisis in our waterways which further perpetuates environmental racism. This must stop.

The overwhelming majority of today’s U.S. food systems are dominated by a handful of international corporations. These profit-driven enterprises often employ industrialized methods, such as concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, where animals are “produced” in incredibly cramped and unsafe facilities.

CAFOs are a formidable threat to the health of our nation’s waterways, representing one of the largest unaddressed sources of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in the United States. Their uncontrolled — and mostly unregulated — discharges into waterways lead to harmful algal bloomsThis can lead to a decrease in drinking water supplies, fisheries, and recreational waters throughout the country. Look no further Lake Erie, Chesapeake Bay, the Mississippi River Basin, North Carolina’s coastal estuaries, and many other inland and coastal waters that are already gravely affected. Aside from the damages done to safe drinking water and human health, it’s also really expensive. Harmful algal blooms can have a negative impact on economies by as high as $4 billion a year.

One of these animal factories can produce as many animal wastes as a single one. large city with millions of people. According to a 2013 study, it amounts to 1.1 billion tonsEvery year, the country produces over 100 million tons of animal waste. Many of these facilities store animal waste in unlined lagoons which invariably pollute groundwater. Many times, the excess waste is used to pollute groundwater and nearby surface waters. Some facilities go so far as spraying the excess waste onto the fields in a haphazard fashion, creating an unpleasant experience for neighboring communities.

Picture homes, schools, parks covered in airborne liquified animal waste. Imagine windows closing in the middle of summer because of the overwhelming smells. Consider the millions of people who are affected by respiratory disease. Consider all the rivers and streams that are contaminated with pathogens.

It is important to note that CAFOs do not exist everywhere. CAFOs are found mainly in rural areas and communities of color. These communities are often lacking the political power to stop them. CAFOs are built quickly and with minimal community input. Once they are operational, they are ostensibly shielded against any kind of interference. transparencyresponsibilities, oversight and consequences. For example, in North Carolina, General Statute 106-24.1 shields the state’s agriculture industry by making any information collected or published by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services classified from the public. But it’s not just North Carolina. There are “ag-gag” lawsIn many states, it is available on the books.

Funding for the CAFO crisis has been secured by huge corporations, such as Smithfield Foods, They are encouraged and supported by politicians who choose not to see the problem. Like so many of the catastrophes affecting frontline communities and waterways, it’s a nightmare of our government’s own making, which means we also have the power to correct it. We always have a choice, and it’s possible to make the changes we need.

The most effective way to legislatively confront the CAFO crisis would be for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to use the Clean Water Act to prevent uncontrolled discharges of untreated animal waste into our nation’s water by requiring these facilities to obtain permits that contain real limits. Imagine what would happen if the Clean Water Act was fully implemented and enforced. Unfortunately, the EPA has not yet responded to public pressure. environmental groups are suingto force the regulator onto clean water rules for factory farms.

We can also encourage our members to push Congress to pass real legislation such as the Farm System Reform ActIt would be a way to curb the monopolistic practices of agriculture, invest billions in a more resilient system of food, and finally, transition us away form CAFOs to more regenerative and independent farmers and ranchers.

Finally, we can and must encourage the industry to make changes by pulling our strings. These companies must be made to understand that money speaks and they should be forced to change their ways. We don’t always have to purchase food from corporations that are contributing to this CAFO crisis. You can save so much money if you are able to spend a little more at the grocery store.