Groups Oppose Use of Inflation Reduction Act Funding for Polluting Factory Farms

Nearly 200 groups and 200,000 people urge USDA Sec. Vilsack to exclude factory farms and methane gas production from climate funding

Published Oct 25, 2023

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Food System

Nearly 200 groups and 200,000 people urge USDA Sec. Vilsack to exclude factory farms and methane gas production from climate funding

Nearly 200 groups and 200,000 people urge USDA Sec. Vilsack to exclude factory farms and methane gas production from climate funding

Today, nearly 200 groups sent a letter to Secretary Tom Vilsack urging the agency to reconsider its recent decision to include several “conservation practices” that support factory farms and the proliferation of factory farm gas to its list of Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry practices that will be prioritized under the Inflation Reduction Act. The letter warns that nearly $2 billion in Inflation Reduction Act funding intended to boost climate-smart agriculture could go to polluting factory farms. Its delivery comes hours before a USDA webinar touting the expanded climate-smart agriculture funding opportunities.

Groups, led by Food & Water Watch, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Campaign for Family Farms and The Environment, Friends of the Earth, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and Southern Environmental Law Center, urged USDA not to further subsidize factory farms under the guise of climate action. The push also comes as nearly 200,000 Friends of the Earth members have signed a petition to USDA demanding the agency end its support of the factory farm system.

“Factory farm gas and its dirty methane digesters have no place in our clean energy future or sustainable agriculture,” said Food & Water Watch Senior Food Policy Analyst Rebecca Wolf, an organizer of the letter. “USDA’s latest approved practices only double down on pollution, and divert millions in much-needed federal climate funding from smaller, more sustainable producers. Secretary Vilsack must stop the flow of Inflation Reduction Act conservation funding toward Big Ag’s greenwashing schemes.”

As the letter states, factory farming and the production of factory farm gas are costly industrial practices that “will exacerbate climate change, waste taxpayer dollars, and harm Indigenous peoples and environmental justice communities. This directly contradicts the intent of the Inflation Reduction Act and the stated priorities of the Biden Administration.”

“EPA reporting is clear that factory farms are responsible for significant greenhouse gas emissions,” said Ben Lilliston, Director of Climate Strategies at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. “It makes no sense to spend valuable conservation dollars on high cost practices that subsidize this factory farm system at the expense of real conservation practices that can benefit farmers and the climate.”

“By prioritizing Inflation Reduction Act climate spending on factory farming-related practices, USDA is diverting valuable taxpayer dollars away from farmers and ranchers who are truly fighting climate change and instead rewarding Big Ag’s pollution,” said Molly Armus, Animal Agriculture Policy Program Manager at Friends of the Earth. “Subsidizing expensive greenwashing practices like factory farm gas will further entrench industrial animal agriculture and allow for the unbridled polluting of rural communities to continue. This directly undermines the Biden Administration’s stated commitment to environmental justice. We urge USDA to change course and listen to the hundreds of organizations and 200,000 Friends of the Earth members asking it to stop subsidizing factory farms.”

As the letter points out, “according to an analysis by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, just seven anaerobic digesters in California used nearly $2 million in EQIP funding – enough to support the average cost of 238 farms planting cover crops.”

“Using public money to build digesters for factory farm manure isn’t climate-smart,” said Patty Lovera of the Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment, a coalition of state and national organizations working to change policies that prop up the factory farm system. “Independent family farms raising livestock sustainably have been shut out of conservation programs for years due to lack of funding, so it makes no sense to use new funding on expensive false solutions like factory farm gas.”

“Funding under the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) should be reserved for true conservation practices that prioritize and advance sustainability, climate mitigation, and environmental protection,” said Alicia Prygoski, Strategic Legislative Affairs Manager at the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “The Animal Legal Defense Fund is extremely concerned to see that factory farms will be eligible to receive funding for practices that pollute our air and water, exacerbate the climate crisis, and harm animals – practices that directly contradict the goals of the IRA. We are proud to join nearly 200 other organizations in asking the USDA not to use conservation funding to prop up an industry that will further entrench us in an unsustainable animal agricultural farming system.”  

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