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  • AGA Supports The Farm System Reform Act

    AGA Approved Supplements

    American Grassfed Association is one of 300 local, state and national advocacy organizations that sent a letter to Congress urging passage of the Farm System Reform Act (S.3221/HR.6718), introduced by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA).

    Farm System Reform Act

    As COVID-19 exposes the exploitation and injustice in the food system, the letter recognizes that “this visionary legislation meets the scale of action necessary to transform our farming and food system in a timeline that reflects the urgency of its problems.” The letter was facilitated by the national advocacy organization Food & Water Action.

    Among other things, the Farm System Reform Act would halt the establishment of new factory farm operations (otherwise known as concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs) and prohibit the expansion of existing ones. It would also provide a $100 billion voluntary buyout program for contract farmers who wish to transition away from the factory farm system.

    “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,” said Senator Cory Booker. “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.”

    Fair Markets for Farmers

    “The Farm System Reform Act will ensure that huge corporations no longer have a stranglehold on our food supply,” said Representative Ro Khanna. “It’s important for our farmers, the economy, the environment, and animal welfare. I’m proud to see the growing coalition of groups organizing to support the bill.”

    As the letter points out, “…The U.S. food system is dominated by factory farms that confine tens of thousands of animals in cramped, unsanitary conditions; these conditions place the safety of our food at risk, pollute our air and water, harm the welfare of animals and workers, extract wealth from rural communities, increase the risk of antibiotic resistant bacteria and increase corporate control of our food.”

    This legislation will revitalize independent family farm agriculture and rural communities by:

    • Placing a moratorium on new and expanding large factory farms
    • Phasing out existing large factory farms by 2040
    • Holding corporate integrators responsible for harm caused by factory farms
    • Providing a $100 billion voluntary buyout program for contract farmers who want to transition away from factory farms
    • Strengthening the Packers & Stockyards Act to protect family farmers and ranchers
    • Restoring mandatory Country of Origin Labeling for meat, and including dairy products
    • Prohibiting USDA from labeling foreign imported meat products as “Product of USA”

    The letter calls for passage of the Farm System Reform Act and a ban on factory farms in order to benefit independent farms, rural communities, food safety, our air and water, and the welfare of animals.

    How You Can Help

    Contact your Congressional representative and tell them you support the passage of the Farm System Reform Act (S.3221/HR.6718).

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  • USDA Committee Appointments Insult America’s Family Farmers & Ranchers

    The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced the appointment of 10 new members of the 15-member National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection (NACMPI).

    NACMPI’s “Diversity” Doesn’t Represent Niche Agriculture Or Small Processors

    Though USDA claims in its release on the subject that these members, “represent a diverse group distinguished by their knowledge and interest in meat and poultry safety,” the newest members, along with members already serving on the committee, fail to represent niche agriculture, nor small or very small processing plants—adding yet another insult to America’s independent family farmers, ranchers and processors across the nation.

    What’s more: Brazilian-owned JBS, the largest meat producer in the world whose leaders have been convicted of bribing thousands of inspectors and politicians in Brazil to allow the sale of expired and rotten meat, now has a seat at USDA’s table.

    “To give seats on this committee to company representatives of a foreign corporation that has been fraught with corruption and bribery charges is just wrong on many levels,” said AGA executive director Carrie Balkcom, “The announcement of the appointees to the USDA advisory committee for meat and poultry is again a slap in the face of the farmers and ranchers that have proven time and time again that they are the backbone of American agriculture.”

    “A government that is fair, reasonable, responsible and accountable represents all producers, processors and consumers,” said AGA board member Greg Gunthorp, a Midwest independent farmer and processor. “This committee should be a diverse mixture across the whole industry.”

    Greg Gunthorp at Gunthorp Farms

    (Jenna Watson / IndyStar)

    Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S., we have seen the industrial animal production system’s inability to pivot in the face of global crisis. Industrial-scale slaughterhouses swiftly emerged as coronavirus hot spots, infecting and killing workers and causing a ripple effect of harm to surrounding communities and cities throughout the U.S. Spikes in illness lead to the shutdown of processing plants, leaving store shelves empty, increased prices on meat and poultry, the killing, burial and/or composting of millions of animals .

    Meanwhile, April saw some of the industry’s highest exports of poultry to China. The current industrial-scale system is not built with the best interests of American consumers and independent farmers, ranchers and processors in mind, and the USDA’s latest committee appointment announcement further shows the agency’s willingness to ignore this reality.

    Small, independent, niche producers and processors were able to quickly react to the COVID-19 crisis, seamlessly providing food to their communities throughout the month when grocery store shelves remained bare.

    “We are the resilient portion of the U.S. food supply and an integral portion of a food and national security program going forward,” Gunthorp, an AGA board of director member and policy committee member, wrote in a recent letter shared via email with industry and AGA members. “What happened this year in our food supply should be a wake-up call that our food supply, while very efficient and productive when clicking, is very fragile. It’s in the best interest of the country to make every effort to support the resilient portion of the food supply … the domestic small processors … not the foreign, large processors.”

    This is why we need niche, small- and very small-scale producers and processors serving all USDA committees—especially NACMPI. “Local family farms and farmers stepped up to the task and, without major handouts from the government, proved that they can provide good and safe food for their neighbors and communities,” said Balkcom. “We need to have seats at this table. We need a balance of academics and practitioners at this table, and we don’t have it.”

    Do you agree? If so, share your thoughts with USDA:

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