Carbon Pipeline Companies Spent $92,600 on Lobbying in Iowa This Year

Categories

Food System

For Immediate Release

Carbon pipeline companies Summit, Navigator and Wolf spent a collective $92,600 on lobbying in Iowa’s 2022 state legislative session, according to the state lobbying declaration records released this week. Specifically, since January 10, 2022, Summit Carbon Solutions spent $36,000, Navigator CO2 Ventures spent $16,600, and Wolf Carbon Solutions spent $40,000.

In the 2022 state legislative session, multiple bills to prohibit eminent domain for carbon pipelines failed to make it out of committee, despite 80% of registered Iowa voters opposing eminent domain for carbon pipelines.

These carbon pipeline lobbying expenditures far outpace the lobbying expenditures from the Dakota Access Pipeline fight, where Energy Transfer spent between $25-23.1K on state lobbying each year starting in 2015. Additionally, Summit Carbon Solutions is employing the same lobbyists who worked on that controversial pipeline.

Food & Water Watch Senior Iowa Organizer Emma Schmit issued the following statement:

“The halls of the Iowa legislature are teeming with cushy corporate cronies and their well-heeled Wall Street investors. While Iowans stand in fields and march in streets to hold our public institutions accountable to we the people, pipeline profiteers are greasing the wheels with dirty money.

“Let’s get one thing straight — Iowa belongs to the people. Our land belongs to us, and our public institutions must be accountable to us. Carbon pipelines are dangerous and unnecessary, and we don’t want them. They’ve also been massive conflicts of interest for our elected officials from the start. Governor Reynolds must listen to the people, not the money, as we demand she stop carbon pipelines, and prevent eminent domain for private gain.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

Lawsuit Against Smithfield for Lying to Public Will Move Forward

Categories

Food System

Smithfield Foods lost its bid to dismiss a case alleging that the meatpacking giant repeatedly lied to consumers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to protect its bottom line at the expense of its workers’ health and safety.

The decision from Judge Heidi M. Pasichow, released on July 22, means that the case, filed by the advocacy group Food & Water Watch in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, will proceed. The group is represented by itself and Public Justice.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and especially in the early stages of the global health crisis, Smithfield has mounted an aggressive public relations campaign to bolster its image and keep its production plants operating at full capacity despite the grave risk to workers. 

When major COVID-19 outbreaks struck Smithfield plants in 2020, the company told consumers that closing processing plants to protect workers’ lives would result in national meat shortages. It also reassured the public that its pandemic safety protocols were keeping workers as safe as possible a claim it continues to make to this day.

The lawsuit alleges both claims are false. The country was never in danger of a meat shortage: at the height of the pandemic, Smithfield increased its exports and held billions of pounds of meat in warehouses across the country. The company’s fearmongering led to record sales and profits. Meanwhile, Smithfield has consistently failed to implement essential safety measures at its processing plants, and workers still face dangerous working conditions, particularly as new COVID variants emerge.

As the company sought to have the case dismissed, a congressional report exposed the role that Smithfield and other meatpacking giants played in inciting panic about the national meat supply, and documented how companies like Smithfield aggressively lobbied the federal government to keep plants running with “glaringly deficient” safety protocols, endangering workers’ lives. The report also revealed how Smithfield actively impeded state and federal policies that would have better protected all meatpacking workers, including its own. 

“While Smithfield told the public it was doing ‘everything in its power’ to protect its workers, the company was actually cutting backroom deals with federal regulators that halted life-saving safety precautions from being instituted at its plants,” said Emily Miller, Staff Attorney at Food & Water Watch. “We are grateful that the court will provide us an opportunity to make our case, and to deliver justice for workers and consumers who continue to be harmed by Smithfield’s reckless behavior and incessant fearmongering.”

“Smithfield lied to consumers about workers’ protections from COVID-19 and even made up a story about an impending national meat shortage—all to justify continuously operating its slaughterhouses at full tilt at the height of the pandemic, no matter how many workers or people in the surrounding community got sick,” said Public Justice Budd Attorney Ellen Noble. “Public Justice is glad that the court quickly denied Smithfield’s motion to dismiss, recognizing that Food & Water Watch has properly alleged violations under the DC Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA) and should have an opportunity to seek discovery and prove its case. We look forward to doing just that.”

Food & Water Watch is also represented by Berger Montague and Towards Justice.

Records Reveal Even With No Animals On Site, Easterday Dairy Violated Water Quality Laws

Categories

Food System

For Immediate Release

Boardman, OR – Stand Up to Factory Farms has learned that before even obtaining a permit to operate a 28,000-head dairy, Easterday Dairy repeatedly violated the “cleanup” permit it inherited when it bought the former mega-dairy site near Boardman, Oregon. Public records obtained by the coalition show that the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) cited 11 separate instances where Easterday Dairy violated its wastewater discharge permit in 2021, indicating high levels of nitrates, phosphorus and e.coli bacteria in the soil and water nearby. Easterday Dairy would operate in an area already plagued by dangerous nitrate contamination, exemplified by the fact that Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality recently fined the Port of Morrow $2.1 million for over-applying nitrogen-laden wastewater to fields. 

In response, Stand Up To Factory Farms Coalition Organizer Kristina Beggen issued the following statement:

“Easterday Dairy is violating its wastewater discharge permit before the dairy cows even get there, and yet Oregon agencies are considering approving the Easterdays to operate a nearly 30,000 cow mega-dairy that will produce massive amounts of polluting waste. Communities in the Boardman area have lacked access to clean, safe drinking water for decades — in large part because of factory farms’ irresponsible waste management practices. The timing could not be worse to authorize a mega-dairy with a history of environmental violations to operate in a groundwater management area in a historic drought. Oregon’s state agencies have every reason to deny Easterday Dairy’s application for a mega-dairy permit that will risk further polluting Eastern Oregon’s already contaminated water sources.” 

While ODA has indicated it will take no immediate action on Easterday’s permit in light of the company’s current environmental violations, the Port of Morrow water contamination emergency, and Easterday’s financial situation, ODA has not denied or withdrawn the permit. The site’s previous occupant, Lost Valley Farms, closed after it was cited for hundreds of environmental violations, including overflowing manure lagoons and improper management of dead animals. 81 public drinking water systems were threatened by Lost Valley Farms, and the site still retains contamination from that period.

See the relevant documents here.

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Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

One Year In, Landowners and Activists Protest Eminent Domain for Carbon Pipelines at Iowa Utilities Board Meeting

Categories

Food System

For Immediate Release

This morning, more than 50 impacted landowners and activists from the Iowa Carbon Pipeline Resistance Coalition including Food & Water Watch, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, the Sierra Club Iowa Chapter, and the Science, Environment and Health Network attended the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) monthly meeting in Des Moines to raise concerns about three proposed carbon pipelines. Protesters demanded an end to the threat of eminent domain for carbon pipeline proposals before the Board, and requested a meeting with Governor Reynolds to discuss the projects further. Following the meeting, protestors caravanned to the Governor’s Mansion at Terrace Hill to amplify the demand for Governor Reynolds to put the interests of Iowans before the profits of pipeline companies.

Summit Carbon Solutions’ 2,000 mile hazardous pipeline is currently before the Iowa Utilities Board, drawing expansive opposition surpassing that of the Dakota Access Pipeline. To date, 76% of the Iowa counties impacted by Summit’s proposed pipeline route have submitted formal objections.

Tuesday’s rally marks just over one year since Summit announced their project. The company is seeing slow progress on securing voluntary easements, as impacted landowners resist handing over private property for the project which threatens public health, safety and farmland alike. In fact, Food & Water Action polling found that 80% of Iowa voters oppose eminent domain for the project.

Food & Water Watch Senior Iowa Organizer Emma Schmit said:

“It’s been one year since greedy corporations announced their plans to take our land for their gain. Iowans simply won’t accept eminent domain for private gain, and it’s time our Governor listened to us. We demand a meeting with Governor Reynolds to discuss these projects and make clear that Iowans will not allow carbon pipeline corporations to ram their dangerous schemes through our land, putting us at risk so someone on Wall Street can make a quick buck.”

“We are a year into the Summit project and it’s clear Iowans do not want CO2 pipelines. Land agents call us 20 times a week — worse than telemarketers or a presidential election. We do not want these pipelines destroying our land,” said Sherri Webb, a Summit-impacted owner of a Century Farm in Shelby County

“Navigator is telling landowners one thing, and the IUB and County Supervisors another. We have no way to know the truth,” said Richard McKean, a Navigator-impacted landowner. “It’s a living nightmare.”

“This process is a sham,” said Johnson County Supervisor Jon Green. “The outcome is preordained. I’m here to ensure the record reflects that these carbon pipelines are a greenwashing grift.”

“A year into this project, it’s clear that no one wants carbon pipelines except for those who stand to benefit,” said Sierra Club Iowa Chapter Conservation Program Coordinator Jess Mazour. “70% of landowners won’t sign easements, 34 county boards of supervisors are saying no — Iowa doesn’t want these pipelines. The IUB needs to say no to carbon pipelines now.”

IUB officials have indicated any action or public hearing on Summit’s permit application is not expected before February 2023. Photos from today’s event are available here.

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

Pandemic Profiteering: How Corporations Are Capitalizing on the Crisis

Categories

Food SystemClimate and Energy

by Peter Hart and Mia DiFelice
Editor’s Note: This content originally appeared on Food & Water Action’s website (our affiliated organization) at an earlier date.

From the beginning of the COVID crisis, corporate oligarchs manipulated markets to maximize profits. The giants that control the meat industry stoked bogus fears of a shortage to jack up prices on consumers — with lies so egregious that we filed suit against one of the worst offenders, pork giant Smithfield.

Of course, the problems mounted. Inflation spiked across the economy. Shops swung between long waits and huge shortages. Big companies blamed supply chain shocks and increasing production costs, which were certainly part of it.

But when a handful of corporations control markets, they can essentially name their price — and shovel obscene profits to CEOs and Wall Street speculators.

Oil Companies Are Winning

The squeeze on working families intensified with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Suddenly, global dependence on fossil fuels reached a breaking point. U.S. gasoline prices soared while gas supplies to Europe plunged into chaos. 

In response, politicians and their media enablers demanded a dramatic increase in fracking. But energy giants quietly rebuffed these drilling demands. Not for any new concern for the environment — but rather because they are pulling in billions in record profits. Twisted market logic meant that limiting supply would pay off for their Wall Street investors.

From January to March this year, CEOs of eight fossil fuel corporations saw their share values grow by nearly $100 million. Windfall profits have not resulted in lower prices or better conditions for workers. Instead, these CEOs sold their shares for millions of personal profit.

The horror in Ukraine has created a new global energy crisis. Unfortunately, too many political leaders are clinging to the wrong solution. They want to “fix” a fossil fuel crisis by pushing more fossil fuels. That political support has given frackers a license to spring for long-term gas export terminals. American company EQT even called their mega-polluting gas export scheme “the Largest Green Initiative On the Planet.”

As a result, 25 new LNG projects are currently underway in our country. Fossil fuel companies are not only profiteering from today’s misery — they’re locking us into decades of pollution and emissions. We can’t let this continue. The International Energy Agency warned just last year that fossil fuel production must stop growing immediately if we’re to avoid the worst effects of climate change. 

Cornering the Market at The Supermarket

At the start of the pandemic, broadcasts and news feeds were fixated on one recurring image: empty grocery store shelves. Periodic shortages kept some consumers on our toes, while many were simply forced to go without.

As with oil and gas, we face giant corporations that would rather gobble profits than prioritize the needs of families. Over the course of the pandemic, we’ve seen the cost of meat rise while small farmers’ and ranchers’ profits fell. While COVID ran rampant, we saw corporations limit hazard pay for workers, while investing in stock buybacks to line the pockets of executives.

The meat industry is one of the core players in this problem. A mere four corporations process 85% of all beef and 70% of pork in the U.S. This extreme concentration gives these companies the power to control supply chains, prices and wages. Experts suspect they’re using inflation and supply chain problems as a cover to boost profits. In fact, net profit margins for those top four companies are up over 300%.

Plus, lean supply chains in any industry are dangerous for crises. With one disaster, a few broken links send huge ripples throughout a system without the backups and resilience to recover. For example, a COVID outbreak in a single Smithfield hog plant took out 5 percent of the nation’s hog processing capacity. 

Corporations Are Selling Us Misery

It’s never been clearer: When the essentials for life itself are controlled by corporate cartels, the future of our communities, our families and our planet are at their mercy. For decades, corporate America has told us that bigger is better, that consolidation would lower prices and eliminate inefficiencies. 

We know this is a lie. 

The latest heartbreaking example: the wealthiest nation on Earth is running out of baby formula because of problems at a single factory, thanks to a market controlled by four corporations.

At Food & Water Watch, we know that these problems have solutions. That’s why we’re fighting to break up the grocery cartels and stop corporate water profiteers. It’s why we’re demanding an end to the polluting factory farms that harm communities and farmers. Why we fight on the ground across the country to stop the fossil fuel projects driving the climate emergency. In an era of compounding crises, we must fight to transform the present and protect the future.

We can’t fight Corporate America without you.

What’s The Buzz On Pollinators?

Categories

PDFFood SystemClimate and Energy

Why are pollinators so important? Our food security is intrinsically tied to the lives of hundreds of thousands of insects and animals.

Experts Join IA Farmers, Advocates and Legislators For People’s Hearing on Need for Factory Farm Moratorium

Categories

Food System

For Immediate Release

AMES, IA — On Saturday, farmers, experts, advocates and legislators gathered at the Ames Public Library for a people’s hearing on the urgent need for a factory farm moratorium in Iowa. The event came on the heels of yet another legislative session without action in Des Moines on the state’s factory farm crisis, and one month after the release of a new Food & Water Watch report, “The Hog Bosses,” detailing the agricultural consolidation crisis in Iowa farm country.

Absent legislative action on the issue, advocates from the Iowa Alliance for Responsible Agriculture, a coalition of more than 25 organizations united against factory farming in Iowa, hosted the two-hour people’s hearing to present constituent demands and expert perspectives on the necessity of a factory farm moratorium in Iowa. Hours of testimony reflected the diverse criticisms of the industrial factory farming model, and highlighted local impacts on the lives of Iowans from all corners of the state. Topics discussed included water quality, public health, market consolidation, and the impacts factory farms have on community members’ quality of life and on farmers’ ability to make a living.

A recent poll commissioned by Food & Water Action found that 95% of Iowa voters support rules that make it easier for small farmers to compete with large agricultural corporations, and a 2019 study found that 63% of Iowa voters support legislation to stop factory farm expansion and corporate monopolies in our food system.

Food & Water Watch Senior Iowa Organizer John Aspray, Chair of the Iowa Alliance for Responsible Agriculture issued the following statement:

“The factory farm system is crushing Iowa. For decades, Iowans have seen independent family farms forced into bad contracts with corporate giants in order to survive, small businesses shutter their doors, and our waterways and drinking water devastated by this model of industrial agriculture.

“Today, community members, farmers, and experts from all across Iowa came together to bear witness to the tremendous suffering our people, state, and environment are undergoing at the hands of corporate agribusiness and their legislative enablers. Our hearing underlined the criticisms of a model that many of our legislators have been too weak to confront.

“Iowa legislators must listen to us, their constituents, as we state loud and clear that it is high time to put an end to factory farms’ relentless growth in our state. We must pass a factory farm moratorium in Iowa and our federal representatives must pass the Farm System Reform Act.”

A full quote list from event participants is here. A recording of the event is available here.

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

PFAS: No Sticking, No Staining … And Not Going Anywhere

Categories

Food SystemClean Water

By Mia DiFelice

The story begins in 1938, with the accidental invention of Teflon. Made famous by the miraculous “nonstick” cookware, Teflon flooded American kitchens in the 1960s. But Teflon’s stick- and stain-fighting power comes from the chemical PFOA. As Teflon sold the miracle of PFOA to consumers, new, similar chemicals flooded the market. Those chemicals, called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), are showing up in our baby clothes, our burger wrappers, our blood. And they’re not going away any time soon.

Is That a Bad Thing?

Very — and PFAS manufacturers have known this for a long time. In 2005, the EPA fined Dupont, the maker of Teflon, $16.5 million. The fine penalized Dupont for covering up decades of studies that linked PFOA to cancer, birth defects and liver damage. Dupont and 3M, the maker of another PFAS chemical, knew back in the ’60s that these substances could be dangerous.

Now, we see studies linking PFAS to thyroid disease, decreased fertility, endocrine disruption, cognitive problems and immune system impacts (for example, reduced response to vaccines). There is even evidence linking PFAS exposure to greater risk of COVID and more severe COVID symptoms.

Despite this research, the U.S. still lacks federal regulations for PFAS. Chemical companies can keep information on PFAS close to the chest, so we often can’t know if a product we purchase contains the chemicals. Our federal government does not regulate all industrial PFAS wastewater discharges, either. On top of that, it has not designated PFAS as hazardous substances, which would help clean up contamination sites.

Where Do We Find PFAS?

In short, everywhere. If a product is labeled non-stick, stain-resistant or water-resistant, there’s a good chance it contains PFAS. And once PFAS are in the environment, they spread and persist. When we toss garbage with PFAS in it, the chemicals leach from the landfill into our air, water and soil. Then they can get into the groundwater. Scientists have even found PFAS in places thought to be undamaged by humans, like the Arctic and the deep ocean. In the U.S., researchers estimate they’re in 97% of people’s blood.

And PFAS, also called “forever chemicals,” are nearly impossible to get rid of. If a manufacturer stopped using PFAS right now, they could still find traces in products coming out of that plant a decade later.

The Stuff We Buy

Stain-resistant and water-resistant fabrics usually have PFAS. For instance, a recent study found 60% of fabrics used in children’s products labeled “waterproof” or “stain-resistant” contained PFAS. When PFAS-treated upholstery or carpeting wears down, we inhale the dust. We can eat PFAS when they slide off our water-resistant food packaging. They’re also in our cosmetics and our toiletries, where they are most likely to get into our systems through our eyes.

The Food We Eat

When we flush products with PFAS down the drain, the chemicals build up in our sewers. Many wastewater treatment plants filter out the solids and clean the water. But those solids have to go somewhere, and often, they go to farms. Farms have long-used sewer sludge as fertilizer. As a result, the Environmental Working Group estimates that 20 million acres of US cropland could be contaminated with PFAS. The chemicals now appear in the crops of PFAS-affected farmland — and in the meat and milk of animals that eat those feed crops.

The Water We Drink

In 2021, EWG found PFAS contaminants in the public and private water of all 50 states. We might drink from the tap several times a day, so if PFAS are in the water, our bodies are continuously contaminated. Researchers have found PFAS in the drinking water of towns near factories that work with the chemicals. They’ve found the chemicals in the drinking water of towns near military bases, which use PFAS-laden firefighting foam for training exercises. We depend on water to survive — our government should not allow it to be laced with toxic forever chemicals.

What Can We Do About PFAS?

Many companies have voluntarily phased out PFAS, especially in the last twenty years as their dangers came to light. However, the EPA has not set a legal limit for PFAS in drinking water, nor required manufacturers to help clean up contamination.

In 2021, the agency released its “PFAS Strategic Roadmap,” committing the agency to several measures to combat PFAS in the next few years. And just this week, it designated $1 billion of Infrastructure Bill funds to help local communities address PFAS. In the same announcement, the EPA published health advisories on four major PFAS chemicals — but this is out of thousands in the family.

While these are important steps in the right direction, the advisories aren’t enforceable, and communities have already waited decades for action. There is so much more work to be done. 

Food & Water Watch calls for:
  1. PFAS to be regulated as a class of chemicals, not on an individual level. Much of the work on PFAS so far has focused on PFOA and PFOS, allowing dozens of other PFAS to come onto the market with little scrutiny. When PFOA came under fire, Dupont was quick to replace it with GenX, shorter-chain compounds that share many of the same toxic traits as its sibling chemicals. But GenX may be even more toxic and could be more difficult to remove from drinking water. Without addressing PFAS as a category, the EPA will continue playing whack-a-mole with the thousands of varieties.
  2. Enforceable national drinking water limits, not only for legacy PFAS chemicals but all the chemicals in the family.
  3. Hazardous substance designation under the Superfund law for PFAS as class to jump start the cleanup of contaminated areas. 
  4. Passage of the WATER Act, which provides greater support for local water systems to test and treat for PFAS in drinking water and wastewater systems. This support must reach both public water utilities and household wells. If remediation isn’t possible, Congress must provide support to connect communities with contaminated water  to new, clean water sources. 

We need more funding and better policy for PFAS. Tell Congress to pass the WATER Act!

Morrow County Commission Declares State of Emergency Over Nitrate Contamination in Groundwater

Categories

Food SystemClean Water

For Immediate Release

Boardman, OR – Morrow County, one of Oregon’s primary hubs for industrial agriculture and food processing, is under a state of emergency after numerous groundwater wells showed dangerously high nitrate pollution. A leading source of nitrates is industrial animal agriculture. Mega-dairies in particular produce massive amounts of nitrogen-laden waste that can easily seep into groundwater.

“It’s a relief to see the Morrow County Commissioners doing everything in their power to protect the drinking water of vulnerable Oregonians,” said Kristina Beggen, an organizer with Food & Water Watch and the Stand Up to Factory Farms Coalition. “But the problem of nitrate pollution can only be solved by addressing its primary source: the irresponsible waste management practices of mega-dairies. Our coalition petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to use its own emergency powers under the Safe Drinking Water Act over two years ago, but the EPA has so far failed to act. It is past time to take decisive action to curb this dangerous, mega-polluting industry and protect Oregonians’ drinking water.”

The Oregon Department of Agriculture is currently considering an additional mega-dairy for Morrow County: the 28,000 cow Easterday Dairy. According to national advocacy organization Food & Water Watch’s latest research, the proposed Easterday Dairy operation in Boardman (within Morrow County) would produce nearly 6 million cubic feet of manure and 12 million cubic feet of wastewater per year. 

Beggen added, “In light of the State of Emergency, it would be wholly unconscionable to introduce another mega-polluting industrial dairy to Morrow County’s landscape. ODA and DEQ have no choice now but to deny Easterday Dairy’s permit and focus on providing clean, accessible water to their constituents.” 

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Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

Congress Confirms: Smithfield Lied. We Won’t Let Them Get Away With It.

Categories

Food System

Photo CC-BY-FARMWATCH_FLKR
by Emily Miller

Last month, Congress’s explosive report revealed how the country’s largest meatpackers lied to the public and endangered their workers. The companies, including pork giant Smithfield Foods, falsely claimed meat shortages. Then they aggressively lobbied the federal government to keep plants running with “glaringly deficient” safety protocols, despite the terrible risk to workers’ lives. 

The report’s findings are truly disturbing. But sadly, they are not surprising. In fact, we’ve known that Smithfield was lying from the start, which is why we sued the company last year. Unbelievably, just two days after Congress released its findings, Smithfield demanded that the court dismiss our case. They argued our detailed allegations have no merit — a bold position in the wake of the Congressional report. The investigation documents in painstaking detail just how egregious Smithfield’s lies were. See for yourself — here are just a few excerpts exposing Smithfield’s central role in drumming up panic and endangering workers:  

Lie #1: That we were “Perilously Close to the Edge in Terms of our Nation’s Meat Supply.”

“While meatpacking companies—Smithfield and Tyson in particular—asserted that reduced plant operations and worker absenteeism were making the food supply chain ‘vulnerable,’ documents obtained by the Select Subcommittee suggest that this narrative lacked any basis in fact and show that others in the industry believed it was false. For example, on April 12, 2020, Smithfield CEO Ken Sullivan issued a public statement admonishing that the closure of one of its plants was ‘pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our [nation’s] meat supply,’ and would have ‘severe, perhaps disastrous, repercussions for many in the supply chain.’ But just three days later, Smithfield asked their industry representatives to issue a statement that ‘there was plenty of meat, enough that it was [sic] for them to export,’ while Smithfield simultaneously was ‘tell[ing] importers they have enough meat.’ When discussing Sullivan’s statements about the meat supply, meatpacking industry representatives described it as ‘intentionally scaring people,’ ‘whipp[ing] everyone into a frenzy,’ and creating a ‘mess’ that others would have to ‘clean up.’ When meatpacking industry representatives inquired into where any actual shortages were occurring, they were unable to find any.” 

Lie #2: That Smithfield has “done everything possible to protect employee health and safety.”

“When meatpacking companies’ attempts to stifle state and local health department regulation did not yield sufficiently comprehensive results, Smithfield and Tyson conceived of a ‘federal directive’ that would ensure state and local health authorities were powerless to impose coronavirus health and safety precautions in the plants. The meatpacking companies drafted and pitched an executive order to the Trump White House, which promptly issued it after less than a week of review and revision. The final order that was eventually issued adopted the themes and statutory directive laid out in the meatpacking industry’s draft, invoking the Defense Production Act (DPA) to ensure meatpacking plants ‘continue operations.’”

“Meatpacking companies and USDA officials sought the ‘critical infrastructure’ designation without first attempting to address the glaringly deficient coronavirus precautions in plants. This conduct is particularly egregious considering that, as discussed above, the nation’s meat supply was not actually at risk.”

Lie #3: That Smithfield wasn’t “unwilling to implement worker protections for the sake of profits.”

The truth is, Smithfield was unwilling from the beginning. They avoided implementing worker protections and worked with federal agencies to keep avoiding them throughout the pandemic. Congress reports that:

“Emails obtained by the Select Subcommittee and statements given during transcribed interviews show that meatpacking companies communicated regularly with USDA regarding USDA’s discussions with CDC and OSHA about coronavirus mitigation guidance and recommendations to ensure they would allow plants to continue operating without critical science-based prevention and mitigation measures.” 

One such example centered on an “outbreak [that] occurred in April 2020 in Smithfield’s Sioux Falls, South Dakota plant, which left at least 900 workers infected and two workers dead. When CDC issued recommendations to address the coronavirus outbreak in the facility, the recommendations included precatory language and qualifiers that effectively made the guidance optional for Smithfield. It later came to light that the CDC recommendations had been watered down from an earlier draft that lacked these types of qualifiers.” 

“Internal meatpacking company documents obtained by the Select Subcommittee now illustrate how these edits came about—namely, that Smithfield intercepted the draft CDC recommendations, provided extensive comments to CDC, USDA, and the South Dakota Governor’s office, and ultimately succeeded in having CDC water them down before being issued.” 

“Even though the guidance had been significantly watered down per Smithfield’s efforts, CEO Ken Sullivan said upon its release that ‘this is worse than nothing’ and a ‘Middle finger from govt.’”

“Smithfield’s changes to CDC’s recommendations had potentially dire consequences for Smithfield’s workers. During the first year of the pandemic, Smithfield saw 9,666 worker infections and 25 worker deaths. Smithfield’s lethal role in weakening federal meatpacking worker protections was not limited to its own employees. The company’s lobbying efforts with respect to the Sioux Falls recommendations carried over into shaping CDC/OSHA guidance for all federally-inspected meatpacking plants.”

What’s Our Next Step?

Our legal team is fighting Smithfield’s attempt to dismiss our case. We won’t let it stop the court from deciding for itself whether Smithfield’s pandemic statements were unlawfully false and misleading. Armed with Congress’ findings, we are confident we can overcome Smithfield’s meritless arguments. Once we do, we will start demanding the company turn over relevant records and witnesses. That’ll allow us to continue building our case and expose Smithfield’s lies for what they are.

We’re holding Smithfield accountable. Help us spread the word.

Food Advocacy Groups Defend Lawsuit to Hold Smithfield Accountable for Lying to the Public

Categories

Food System

Today, Public Justice and Food & Water Watch submitted their opposition brief in response to Smithfield Foods’ motion to dismiss Food & Water Watch’s case. The case alleges that Smithfield Foods has repeatedly lied to consumers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to protect its bottom line at the expense of its workers’ health and safety.

Smithfield’s attempt to dismiss the lawsuit comes in the wake of a damning congressional report released last month, exposing the role that Smithfield and other meatpacking giants played in inciting panic about the national meat supply and endangering workers in the process. After conducting an extensive investigation, the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis concluded that the country’s largest meatpackers—including Smithfield— not only lied to the public about meat shortages, but also aggressively lobbied the federal government to keep plants running with “glaringly deficient” safety protocols, despite the terrible risk to workers’ lives.

Congress’ findings validate the advocacy groups’ claims against the pork giant. Throughout the pandemic, Smithfield has mounted an aggressive public relations campaign based on two claims: that the company was adequately protecting workers at its facilities from COVID-19, and that meat shortages were imminent if processing plants were forced to close. The lawsuit alleges both claims are false. Nonetheless, Smithfield continues to promote misleading information about how it protected its workers earlier in the pandemic.

In moving to dismiss this case, Smithfield excused its baseless claims about impending meat shortages, arguing that government agencies and the Trump administration made similar statements. However, the congressional report traces those same government statements directly back to meat industry lobbyists, including Smithfield CEO Ken Sullivan.

“Smithfield has a lot of nerve attempting to dismiss our case just two days after Congress published its truly disturbing findings about the company’s pandemic response,” says Emily Miller, Staff Attorney at Food & Water Watch. “As confirmed by Congress, while Smithfield was telling the public it was doing ‘everything in its power’ to protect its workers, the company was actually cutting backroom deals with federal regulators so that it did not have to implement life-saving safety precautions at its plants. Smithfield put its workers in grave danger then, and if not stopped now, will keep putting workers at risk as new COVID variants surge throughout the country.”

The meatpacking giant also claimed that it had addressed worker safety concerns. However, the COVID pandemic is still having a serious impact, from the emergence of new variants to ongoing outbreaks that continue to put workers in danger.

Public Justice Budd Attorney Ellen Noble has this to say on today’s brief: “Smithfield Foods fabricated a controversy and panic. The company intentionally promoted the myth that meat shortages were imminent if the company scaled down production to protect workers. This myth impacted consumers’ purchasing decisions and stirred up a national debate about the need to keep meatpacking plants running at full capacity. Smithfield’s tactic of ginning up a public controversy to promote production is not unlike Big Tobacco’s strategy of turning the health risks of smoking into a public argument, instead of a well-documented and widely accepted fact.”

World’s Largest Ethanol Producer Joins Forces with Navigator On Controversial Carbon Pipeline Scheme

Categories

Food System

For Immediate Release

Yesterday, Texas-based Navigator CO2 Ventures announced a letter of intent to partner with the world’s largest ethanol producer, POET, to add 18 new facilities to the company’s controversial carbon pipeline proposed for the Midwest. The pipeline is set to cross 36 Iowa counties and stretch into Illinois, Nebraska, Minnesota and South Dakota.

Navigator’s pipeline proposal is one of many controversial carbon pipelines proposed for the Midwest. Hotly contested by scores of landowners, farmers, health professionals, experts and activists, the projects have drawn widespread opposition and brought together odd bedfellows. Recent Food & Water Action polling showed that 80% of Iowa voters, across party lines, objected to the use of eminent domain for the project. 

Food & Water Watch Senior Iowa Organizer Emma Schmit issued the following statement:

“The Midwest’s carbon capture pipeline battle is pitting the biggest industry players against the very farmers who supply them. The lines are being drawn, and it’s people vs polluters. Our elected officials need to stand up for the little guy and stop these carbon pipeline scams from taking root. Carbon capture is a false solution to our climate crisis, sucking up billions in public dollars to throw at private companies, while leaving farmers, landowners and communities like mine to foot the bill when things go wrong.

“Iowa and our farmers deserve better than irreparably damaged farmland and leaky and potentially lethal pipelines running through our communities — Governor Kim Reynolds must direct her Iowa Utilities Board to stop these carbon pipelines, and the legislature must ban the use of eminent domain for their construction.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

The Hog Bosses: Fact Sheet

Categories

PDFFood System

The corporate hog takeover of Iowa’s rural landscape has wreaked severe economic and environmental damage. Iowa lost nearly 90 percent of its hog farms between 1982 and 2017, as factory farms squeezed out smaller, family-scale operations. Farmers are earning less (in today’s dollars) per pound of pork produced, while processors and retailers capture more profit. Meanwhile, factory hog farms pollute Iowa’s waterways and contribute to climate change.

Whistleblowers Say EPA’s Toxic Management Greenlights Toxic Chemicals

Categories

Food SystemClean Water

by Mia DiFelice

In the 1960s, the United States was drowning in pollution. Air pollution killed hundreds of New Yorkers, towns stank with sludge and smog, an Ohio river burst into flames. In response to public fears and public pressure, President Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Since then, the EPA has committed to “protecting human health and the environment” with regulations, education and funding for state and local programs. It claims to rely on “best available scientific information” to promote clean air, land and water for everyone. Yet, the agency has failed to keep up with emerging threats — in part because of industry sway.

Big corporations have made it their business to co-opt agencies meant to guard us from danger. Now, rather than fulfill its mission, the EPA too often protects the interests of polluting corporations instead. Nothing makes that clearer than information coming straight from four whistleblowing scientists. In July of last year, scientists from EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety shared evidence alleging abuse and corruption that give toxic chemicals a pass onto the market.

“The depth of it is pretty horrifying. I don’t sleep at night knowing what I know from the whistleblowers.”

Kyla Bennett, New England director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Their attorneys represent the whistleblowers.

The Office of Chemical Safety Does Not Stop all Unsafe Chemicals

Companies are constantly introducing new chemicals for manufacturing, construction, agribusiness and more. EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention studies these chemicals and keeps dangerous ones off the market. At least, that’s what it’s supposed to do.

In 2021, whistleblowers revealed how management undermined scientific findings and pressured scientists to change their reports for numerous chemicals. Or, perhaps worse, supervisors changed the reports’ conclusions without scientists knowing until after the fact. These scientists detailed a culture of intimidation, corruption and retaliation, which allows thousands of toxic chemicals into our homes and workplaces. Chemicals that were given a pass have been linked to cancer, developmental disorders and neurological effects, among other health risks.

It looks like the executives hired to protect the public are more worried about protecting the profits of chemical companies. And these whistleblowers say they’re willing to cheat, bully and lie to their staff to do so.

Is the EPA Loyal to Chemical Companies Over Public Health and Safety?

Throughout these instances of pressure and abuse, whistleblowers report, management often prioritized the chemical companies submitting chemicals for assessment. They emphasized how upset companies would be if the work was too slow. They even dangled the threat of lawsuits over scientists’ heads, if the assessment came out unfavorably. Moreover, according to one toxicologist at the agency, “It is the unwritten rule that to get promotions, all pesticides need to pass.”

All this happens because EPA management routinely jumps into the chemicals industry after leaving the agency. In fact, since 1974, all seven former EPA pesticide directors who continued working after their time at the EPA did so at pesticide companies. Other EPA officials have gone on to work as consultants and board members at agrochemical companies. 

This revolving door has devastating impacts for our health and our environment. For instance, from June 2016 to July 2021, 3,835 new chemical applications were submitted to the EPA. Not a single chemical was kept off-market. This included 40 PFAS compounds. Studies that companies submitted linked these chemicals to neurotoxicity, cancers, convulsions and more. Yet, all 40 PFAS chemicals have been allowed, largely unregulated, onto the market.

PFAS chemicals, also known as “forever chemicals,” do not break down naturally but will persist in the environment. By siding with the chemicals industry, senior officials put short-term career ambitions before the forever effects of toxic chemicals. 

This Isn’t the EPA’s First Alleged Chemical Cover-up

The EPA was already in the spotlight in 2018 for its inaction on glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup weedkiller. Bayer-Monsanto, owner of Roundup, has faced hundreds of thousands of lawsuits by people alleging a link between their cancer and Roundup. Contrary to warnings from the World Health Organization and numerous scientific studies, the EPA insists that glyphosate is not a human carcinogen.

Yet, in 2016, the agency had done an internal analysis on glyphosate linking the chemical to cancer. But it kept the study under wraps. Instead, drafts of the EPA’s human risk assessment for glyphosate (first published that same year) gave the chemical the lowest possible cancer rating: “Not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”  

In a common industry strategy, Monsanto ghostwrote research and paid academics to put their names on it. The EPA used this scientifically dubious research, as well as dozens of other industry-funded, unpublished studies, to reach its equally meritless conclusions on glyphosate. 

Interestingly, Bayer-Monsanto has announced it will stop selling glyphosate-based products for home use, but not because the EPA stopped them. It seems entirely prompted instead by the tidal wave of lawsuits the corporation has faced. The EPA should have stepped in long before that point — and banned all uses of glyphosate. 

The EPA’s Two-Pronged Problem Puts Us All At Risk

EPA managers putting their thumb on the scale of critical scientific assessments threatens our health, safety and environment. And it will only get worse as corporations strengthen their influence. The market for glyphosate is expected to grow by billions of dollars in the next few years, despite the controversy. And researchers have found PFAS everywhere from widely used pesticides to children’s clothing and everything in between.

Making matters worse, the EPA struggles with severe lack of resources, funding and staffing. Administrator Michael Regan told Congress that the agency has only 50% of what it needs to “review the safety of new chemicals quickly in the way that the law requires.” Monsanto-Bayer spent more cash defending glyphosate in court than the entire budget of the Office of Pesticide Programs. The EPA does not have the capacity to stand up to chemical companies or even do its job correctly. Besides vulnerability to corruption, this results in backlogs of work, rushed assessments and hurried acceptance of industry “science.” 

Even with the EPA’s recent change of hands in the Biden Administration, the agency faces deep-rooted cultural problems that will be hard to shake off. In 2022, an internal survey showed that EPA scientists in the New Chemicals Division still suffer from burnout and fears of retaliation. Staff reported that a culture of fear, retribution and abuse at senior levels remains common. 

EPA executives are wooed by corporate influence at the top, while scrambling to make do with scarce resources from below. The result? An agency that is failing to protect us from the toxic threats seeping into our everyday lives. 

Food & Water Watch won’t stop fighting to hold EPA accountable to public health and the environment — not corporate profits. We can’t do it without you.

Help us continue the fight.

New Research Details Skyrocketing Emissions and Water Use of Oregon’s 11 Mega-Dairies

Categories

Food System

For Immediate Release

Salem, OR – New research from national advocacy group Food & Water Watch tracks the emissions of Oregon’s 11 dairy CAFOs, or mega-dairies, and reveals their profound impact on climate change and public health. According to Food & Water Watch’s findings, the yearly methane emissions of Oregon’s mega-dairies produce the equivalent CO2 emissions of 318,000 cars — more than all of Marion County’s registered passenger vehicles

Like the rest of the Western U.S., Oregon is experiencing the worst drought the region has seen in 1,200 years and is increasingly vulnerable to year-round wildfires. Morrow County holds the highest concentrations of Oregon’s mega-dairies despite the region’s dry, arid landscape, and is home to a large Hispanic/Latinx population, who are disproportionately impacted by the harms from mega-dairies. The research highlights the area as a key example of a population already overburdened from decades of industrial agricultural pollution. As weather trends reflect a warming planet and wildfires and drought become regular occurrences, the vulnerability of communities across Oregon to the health and environmental hazards of these facilities will grow. The report likewise refers to the expanding dairy digesters and resulting factory farm gas pipelines as dangerous for surrounding communities.

“Oregon needs an immediate moratorium on new and expanding mega-dairies,” said Mackenzie Aime, Oregon Organizer with Food & Water Watch. “For years we have known that with mega-dairy expansion comes pollution and water scarcity. This new research makes clear that the emissions and water use of these industrial facilities will soon be felt by Oregonians all over the state. We need to reevaluate this flawed system instead of expanding or propping it up with scams like factory farm gas that will only entrench mega-dairies and dirty energy. ”

The report also flags the heavy emissions produced by the anaerobic digesters frequently used by industrial mega-dairies to capture methane. Burning the gas produced by the anaerobic digestion process releases carbon dioxide and other pollutants like smog-forming nitrogen oxides, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, creating hazards for surrounding communities.

Other key statistics highlighted by the report:

  • Oregon’s 11 mega-dairies consume 8.2 million gallons of water a day just for drinking water and washing cows and buildings, enough to meet the average indoor daily water needs of over 124,000 Oregonians.
  • The yearly methane emissions of Oregon’s mega-dairies produce the equivalent CO2 emissions of 318,000 cars — more than all of Marion County’s registered passenger vehicles. 
  • Those emissions fuel mega-fires, which also fuel climate change. Oregon’s wildfires during the summer of 2021 produced 17 million tons of carbon dioxide — the warming equivalent of driving 3.7 million passenger cars for one year.

For years, the Stand Up to Factory Farms Coalition, of which Food & Water Watch is a member, has called for a moratorium on new and expanding mega-dairies and bold action to curtail the emissions and health hazards of unsustainable factory farming.

READ THE FULL REPORT HERE.

###

Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

Oregon’s Mega-Dairies, Mega-Pollution and Mega-Climate Consequences

Categories

PDFFood SystemClimate and Energy

The numerous problems that mega-dairies create and the incalculable damage that they inflict on Oregon are not going away without strong action from the state’s leaders. Touting factory farm gas as a solution is only entrenching pollution among frontline communities. Oregon’s legislature must take strong action to protect our air, water and health, beginning with a moratorium on new and expanding mega-dairies.

Food & Water Watch recommends that Oregon:
• Enact an immediate moratorium on new mega-dairies, and on the expansion of existing ones;
• Adopt regulations requiring mega-dairies to reduce their emissions of methane and other harmful air pollutants; and
• Reject the incentivizing of air pollution through factory farm gas and focus on real solutions to climate change like wind and solar.

Tester, Booker, Merkley, Warren Introduce Food & Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act

Categories

Food System

For Immediate Release

Today, Senators John Tester (D-MT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced federal legislation to combat rampant consolidation and monopolistic practices in the food and agribusiness industries. The Federal Food & Agribusiness Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act would pause all industry mergers and establish a commission to study how to strengthen antitrust oversight of the farm and food sectors. The bill’s introduction comes as American consumers struggle with rising grocery prices and crucial product shortages.

A recent Food & Water Watch report, “The Economic Cost of Food Monopolies: The Hog Bosses”, laid out the agribusiness consolidation crisis’ effects on Iowa farm country, finding that as industry efficiencies squeeze more hogs than ever out of Iowa factory farms, farmers and communities are left behind. Key findings include:

  • Iowa lost nearly 90 percent of its hog farms from 1982 to 2017, as rapid factory hog farm expansion drove out smaller, independent farms.
  • Since 1982, Iowa counties with the most hog factory farm development suffered declines across several economic indicators, including real median household income and total jobs. These counties also experienced significant population decline — twice the rate of Iowa’s rural counties overall.
  • Overproduction — and growing corporate consolidation — have pushed down the real price of hogs. Adjusting for inflation, today’s farmers earn $2 less per pound of pork produced compared to 1982, while the retail price fell only $1; slaughterhouses, processors and retailers capture the other $1.
  • Between 2004 and 2011, the top four firms slaughtered 9 out of 10 Iowa hogs thanks to corporate consolidation within the meat slaughtering and processing industry.

Food & Water Watch Senior Iowa Organizer John Aspray issued the following statement:

“For too long, a handful of agribusinesses have stood between our nation’s two million farmers and 330 million consumers. Iowans are seeing the effects of these decades of unchecked corporate consolidation in the grocery aisle and on struggling family farms. In order to create a food system that works for consumers, farmers, and our communities, we must rein in the corporate profiteers that stand in the way. Passing the Federal Food & Agribusiness Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act is a critical first step.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

New Investigation Documents Meatpackers’ Pandemic Deceptions

Categories

Food System

Today, the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis released a report documenting how leading U.S. meatpacking companies stoked fears about a meat shortage in order to keep their plants open during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.


The report shows that corporate giants like Tyson and Smithfield worked closely with the Trump administration to keep their operations running despite the risks to workers. It also documents how pork companies were exporting record amounts of pork while stoking fears of a shortage. 

In June of last year, Food & Water Watch filed suit charging that Smithfield Foods repeatedly lied to consumers about a looming meat shortage in order to protect its profits. 

In response to today’s report, Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter released the following statement: 

“From the very beginning of the pandemic, consumer advocates and industry watchdogs warned that meat giants like Smithfield and Tyson were stoking fears of a shortage in order to keep their plants operating – putting public health and workers’ lives at risk. These fear mongering PR campaigns were nothing more than a coverup for corporate greed and pandemic profiteering.

“The unsafe conditions in meatpacking plants have raised alarms for decades. The devastating impacts of the COVID crisis on workers in these industries should push lawmakers and the Biden administration to crack down on the meatpacking giants. This is an urgent matter of public health, food safety and workers’ rights.”

‘Lab Meat’ Industry is Big Ag in Disguise

Categories

Food System

The ‘lab meat’ industry is dominated by many of the same corporate powerhouses that exert substantial control over the processed foods and meat industries, according to new research from the national advocacy organization Food & Water Watch.

The group’s report (“Lab Meat Won’t End Factory Farms — But Could Entrench Them”) shows that the plant-based meat sector is dominated by just four companies, including Kellogg and  Conagra. Kellogg alone accounts for nearly half of all sales of plant-based meat alternatives, thanks to its acquisition of Morningstar Farms. 

The industry is also seeing substantial investments from meat giants such as JBS, Smithfield and Tyson. This is not surprising; U.S. sales of plant-based meat rose 37 percent between 2017 and 2019, and plant-based dairy has seen even more impressive growth.

As a whole, the lab meat industry (plant-based meat and so-called ‘cultured meat’) seeks to attract health conscious consumers by closely mimicking meat products while promising substantial environmental benefits. But on the whole, the marketing of plant-based meats deserves further scrutiny. Many products are ultra-processed and rely on additives like saturated fats to mimic the flavors and textures of meat. And government oversight can range from inconsistent to non-existent, and often relies on industry-supplied safety studies. And the ecological and climate benefits touted by the industry remain dubious, given the reliance on processed materials and inputs like corn and soy. 

The report finds that so far, lab meat seems to be complementing — not replacing — meat consumption, which raises questions about whether Americans can truly ‘shop their way’ to a more sustainable food system. This is all the more true when considering the array of federal policies and economic incentives that support the heavily polluting factory farm model. 

“Consumers may think they are ’voting with their dollar’ by choosing plant-based meats, but most of that dollar lines the pockets of agribusiness giants, including the largest meat companies,” says Amanda Starbuck, Food & Water Watch Research Director. “Plant-based meats are not true alternatives if they prop up the existing system that fuels climate change and ecological degradation.” 

The report calls for sweeping changes to U.S. farm policy, including banning factory farms and boosting support for organic, regenerative farming. This will only be achieved if we fight back against corporate power that currently holds a stranglehold on our food system. 

Navigator Walks Back Claims About Permanent Storage for Controversial IA Carbon Pipeline Gas

Categories

Food System

For Immediate Release

Yesterday, Navigator CO2 Ventures announced a new letter of intent to work with Big River Resources and Big River United Energy on their carbon capture project proposed for the midwest. Among other services, they will partner to explore “key value optimization opportunities for captured CO2.” To date, Navigator has claimed their captured carbon will be used solely for permanent underground storage — yesterday’s announcement is the company’s first admission of additional aims for the hazardous gas.

Navigator is behind one of the three controversial carbon pipelines proposed for Iowa. The pipeline would run 1,300 miles from Illinois to South Dakota, including 900 miles in Iowa, reaching across 36 counties. The pipeline’s end destination in Illinois is close to multiple depleted oil fields, which has raised advocate concerns about use of the captured hazardous carbon dioxide for enhanced oil recovery — a dangerous process by which carbon gas is pumped underground to increase oil drilling. Coal bed methane extraction is another possible end use for the carbon pipelines, also posing dire environmental and climate repercussions. Navigator’s announcement Tuesday opened that previously shut door.

Food & Water Watch Senior Iowa Organizer Emma Schmit issued the following statement:

“From the start, we’ve warned that companies like Navigator are not to be trusted. They’ll say anything to mislead the public, but the facts are simple: Carbon capture is a scam, and these corporations are only in it for the money.

“Value optimization opportunities for captured carbon dioxide means one thing — more fossil fuels. Carbon capture and the carbon pipelines that feed it are the fossil fuel industry’s trojan horse to suck more dirty fuels from the ground while masquerading as a climate solution. And they’re using our tax dollars and our land to make it happen — it’s not right.

“Iowa’s legislature has failed to take any meaningful action to stop these projects. As time runs out, they must act now to stop eminent domain for private gain, stopping these pipelines before they start. Carbon capture and carbon pipelines are no solution for Iowa.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

Lab Meat Won’t End Factory Farms — But Could Entrench Them

Categories

PDFFood System

Can next-generation alternatives like lab meat actually replace factory farms, as some supporters boldly claim?

Consumers would first need to accept these novel products. They must appeal to people who enjoy meat and be comparable in taste and cost. This is a tall order. Scaling up cultured meat requires expensive facilities and equipment and sterile environments — such as those used in the biopharmaceutical industry. Moreover, consumers are increasingly interested in not just sustainability but nutrition; they are seeking fresh, minimally processed foods with short
ingredient lists. Cultured and plant-based meats are
neither.

Second, even if lab meat gains widespread acceptance, there is no guarantee that it will replace consumption of farmed meat, which is deeply embedded in Western culture. One study found that even if price and taste were equal, most consumers would still choose a beef burger over a cultured or plant-based one. This might help explain why fast food sales of plant-based alternatives are flatlining and chains are dialing back their offerings; as the novelty wears off, customers are choosing the familiar. Meanwhile, U.S. per capita meat consumption
reached an all-time high in 2020. Lab meat seems
to be complementing — not replacing — meat in
people’s diets.

Finally, factory farms are baked into the U.S. food system through various federal policies and economic incentive. This dooms any market-based solution from the very start. For instance, U.S. meat production already outstrips domestic demand, and surpluses
are exported. So even if everyone in the United States switched to lab meat, Big Ag would continue to produce meat. Likewise, reducing or eliminating meat consumption will not affect incentives to stick with the current ecologically depleting farming systems that prop up factory farms, such as the overproduction of commodity crops on monocultures. Both cultured and plant-based meat rely on many of the same commodities used in livestock feed and may further entrench these systems.

New Report Outlines Deepening Crisis in Iowa Hog Industry

Categories

Food System

A new report released today from the national environmental advocacy group Food & Water Watch details the growing crisis in Iowa farm country caused by the increasingly consolidated hog industry. The report is the second in a series outlining the harsh economic costs to consumers, rural communities and farmers of corporate monopolies throughout the American food system.

In the report — “The Economic Cost of Food Monopolies: The Hog Bosses” — Food & Water Watch analyzed the economic welfare of counties in Iowa, ground zero for the nation’s consolidated hog industry. Through an analysis of 35 years of data from the USDA Census of Agriculture, the report examines the impacts of a hyper-consolidated agriculture industry on Iowa’s local economies, consumer prices and climate change. The report also highlights how federal policies and lax antitrust oversight enabled and encouraged these impacts.

The report finds that Iowa is producing more hogs than ever, on fewer farms than ever, to the detriment of local economies. Specifically:

  • Iowa lost nearly 90 percent of its hog farms from 1982 to 2017, as rapid factory hog expansion drove out smaller, family-scale farms. Continued farm loss is a steady trend, with fully one third of Iowa’s remaining hog farms disappearing from 2007-2017.
  • Since 1982, Iowa counties with the most hog factory farm development suffered declines across several economic indicators, including real median household income and total jobs. These counties also experienced significant population decline — twice the rate of Iowa’s rural counties overall.
  • Overproduction — and growing corporate consolidation — have pushed down the real price of hogs. Adjusting for inflation, today’s farmers earn $2 less per pound of pork produced compared to 1982, while the retail price fell only $1; slaughterhouses, processors and retailers capture the other $1.

A March poll commissioned by Food & Water Action found that 95% of Iowa voters support rules that make it easier for small farmers to compete with large agricultural corporations, and a 2019 study found that 63% of Iowa voters support legislation to ban factory farm expansion and corporate monopolies in our food system.

“Our centralized, corporate-controlled food system was built to funnel local resources into Wall Street hands, at the expense of local economies, independent family farms, consumer prices and our environment. Nowhere is this more obvious than with Iowa’s hog bosses,” said Food & Water Watch Research Director Amanda Starbuck. “Factory farming, dismantling federal supply management, and a consistent willingness to shirk antitrust oversight and enforcement for the industrial agriculture industry are hollowing out Iowa farm country. To fix this, Iowa legislators must enact a moratorium on new and expanding factory farms. And President Biden must ban new and expanding factory farms through passage of the Farm System Reform Act, restore supply management in the 2023 Farm Bill and improve antitrust oversight and enforcement.”

“I run a factory farm because I have to; I run a regenerative hemp farm because I want to,” said farmer Ethan Vorhes of Floyd County, Iowa. “Over my daughter’s lifetime, Iowa lost one third of our farms. While I’m one of the few remaining, I’m struggling to make ends meet. Our policies, tax dollars and elected officials should support methods of farming that help farmers like me and families like mine — not industrial factory farming that lines Wall Street pockets at our expense.”

“It started with needing to take on a second job to make ends meet — farming just doesn’t pay the bills like it used to,” said farmer Nick Schutt of Hardin County, Iowa. “Jobs are evaporating and my community along with it. Today, I work three jobs. Farming, hauling trash for the dump, and fighting against the very policies that created this mess. We have to give power back to the little guy, by banning factory farms and halting the corporate consolidation ruining Iowa.”

“After 25 years out-of-state, I returned to Iowa for retirement. It felt like a completely different place,” said Linda Luhring of Calhoun County, Iowa. “The businesses I’d frequented in my hometown had shuttered, and everywhere I looked, I found nothing but hogs and corn. Iowa is so much more than Big Ag’s playground. We need to reign in corporate power, stop the unsustainable proliferation of factory farms and reinvest in our rural communities.” 

“Decades ago, the federal government told farmers to “get big or get out,” so they did. We’re paying with the consequences now,” said Julie Duhn of Hardin County, Iowa. “People are leaving town to find jobs, and factory farms are polluting our air and water without regulation. It’s up to our elected officials to turn this ship around. The government needs to reinvest in farmers doing the right thing, not the destructive factory farming system carving out our communities.”

For more on The Economic Cost of Food Monopolies report series from Food & Water Watch, see Grocery Cartels, detailing exploitative retailer monopolies and their impacts on consumers.

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

The Economic Cost of Food Monopolies: The Hog Bosses

REPORT - May 2022

What You’ll Learn From This Report

  • 1: Introduction
  • 2: The Rise of The Hog Bosses
    • Iowa becomes ground zero for factory hog farms
  • 3: Hog Farms Did Not Bring Prosperity to Rural Iowa
    • Counties with the most factory farm development score lower on numerous economic indicators
  • 4: The Factory Farm Industry Is Driving Climate Change
    • We need to support diverse family-scale farms
  • 5: Conclusion and Recommendations
    • We cannot solve this crisis without combating corporate power
  • 6: Methodology

Part 1:

Introduction

In December 2019, U.S. hog slaughterhouses were operating at nearly 100 percent capacity. The system was functioning as designed; corporations profit by maximizing output and contracting with large operations to ensure a steady stream of hogs.1 But the system buckled just a few months later as the United States entered pandemic lockdown. Plummeting foodservice demand and shuttered slaughterhouses created backlogs of hogs that depressed prices and forced some farmers to euthanize their animals. Meanwhile, meat disappeared from store shelves, while processors used their reserves to export record amounts of meat abroad.

We can place some blame on the pandemic for a bad year in farm country. But the reality is that the current centralized, corporate-controlled food system was not built for resiliency, or even to support family-scale farms. Nowhere is this more evident than in Iowa’s factory hog industry. This second issue brief in our ongoing series on the Economic Cost of Food Monopolies explores how massive growth in hog production has failed to bring economic prosperity to Iowa’s rural communities.

Food & Water Watch analyzed the economic welfare of Iowa counties with the most hogs sold and the largest hog farms, from 1982 to 2017. We found that:

  • Iowa lost nearly 90 percent of its hog farms from 1982 to 2017, as rapid factory hog expansion drove out smaller, family-scale farms.
  • Overproduction — and growing corporate consolidation — pushed down the real price of hogs. Today’s farmers earn $2 less per pound of hog produced compared to 1982, while the retail price fell only $1; slaughterhouses, processors and retailers are capturing the other $1.
  • Counties that sold the most hogs and those with the largest farms suffered declines across several economic indicators — including real median household income and total wage jobs — over roughly the same time period. These counties also experienced significant population decline — twice the rate of Iowa’s more rural counties.
  • The factory farm industry depends on the overproduction of feed grain like corn and soybeans. Yet grain farmers also experienced significant real price drops between 1982 and 2017 — 52 and 39 percent per bushel, respectively, for corn and soybeans. Iowa also lost more than 40 percent of its corn and soybean farms as production shifted to the largest operations.

As we continue to manage the pandemic, we need to fundamentally transform the way we produce and process food, especially in animal agriculture. Fortunately, the path forward is clear. It starts by banning new and expanding factory farms.a We must also restore supply management in upcoming Farm Bills and improve antitrust oversight and enforcement. Only then can we build a food system that achieves both economic and climate stability.

aWe define “factory farms” as operations meeting the following size categories: 500 or more beef cattle (on feed), 500 or more dairy cows, 1,000 or more hogs, 500,000 or more broiler chickens sold annually, and 100,000 or more egg-laying hens. These are based off of inventory categories used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Census of Agriculture and roughly align with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s definition of a medium-sized concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO). 

Part 2:

The Rise of The Hog Bosses

Iowa becomes ground zero for factory hog farms

Pig farm. Photo credit: CC-BY-2.0 / Farm Watch, Flickr

Up until the late 20th century, most hogs were raised on smaller, diversified operations. It was often cheaper to grow feed onsite, thereby limiting the number of hogs that a single farm could raise.2 But significant changes in U.S. farm policy and corporate power transformed the way we grow crops and raise livestock.

The U.S. government once had a robust food supply management system that prevented overproduction, a key contributor to low crop prices. New Deal farm policies encouraged farmers to voluntarily cut back production in exchange for price supports. These programs provided living wages to farmers of certain commodities and backgrounds, for much of the 20th century.3

But as U.S. antitrust enforcement eroded and agribusinesses amassed power, corporations lobbied to dismantle these systems to expand global commodity trading. The U.S. government embraced free trade, aiming to increase domestic production and to use expanding export markets to soak up excess commodities. In the 1970s, the agriculture secretary famously directed farmers to “plant fencerow to fencerow.” Many took heed, taking out loans to expand their operations.4

Harvesting crops in the 1970s.

But this all came crashing down in the 1980s. The export market proved volatile and grain prices crashed, leaving farmers with huge debt that they could not repay. Thousands of farms were foreclosed. Those that remained looked to new production models, including contract hog production, to save the farm.5

The death of supply management created a glut of low-priced grain, which agribusinesses purchased and processed into cheap livestock feed. It was now cheaper for farmers to purchase feed offsite and raise their livestock in confinement.6 And Iowa, with its ready supply of feed input crops like corn and soybeans,7 became ground zero for factory hog expansion.

More hogs, fewer farms

Cheap feed is one part of the equation that fueled rapid factory farm growth. Another is growing corporate consolidation within the meat slaughtering and processing industry. In 1980, the top four pork processors slaughtered one out of every three U.S. hogs. Over the past 40 years, their market share has doubled (Figure 1).8 Concentration at the local level can be even more extreme. For instance, between 2004 and 2011, the top four firms slaughtered 9 out of 10 Iowa hogs.9

Extreme market power gives corporations greater leverage to dictate farm prices and practices. Until the early 1990s, most hogs were sold in “spot markets” like live auctions, where multiple buyers competed to purchase a farmer’s hogs. Iowa alone had around 200 such facilities.10 Competition among buyers helped secure fair prices for farmers.11

But corporate consolidation reduced the number of buyers vying for Iowa’s hogs. Those that remained put pressure on the industry to expand their herd sizes, preferring to bargain with a few very large farms rather than numerous family-scale ones. Some buyers use production contracts, paying farmers to raise hogs owned by the processor — a near-universal practice in the broiler chicken industry. Marketing contracts, however, are more common in the hog industry, where farmers agree to deliver a set number of hogs at a future date. In both cases, farmers swap independence for a guaranteed income/buyer.12

In 1993, more than 80 percent of all hogs sold nationally were negotiated on the spot market. Two decades later, this had fallen to as low as 3 percent. Such a “thin” hog market prevents fair pricing and contributes to market volatility. This impacts farmers selling under marketing contracts as well, since the prices they receive are often tied to the spot market.13

A market dominated overwhelmingly by marketing contracts and with few negotiated hogs gives greater leverage to processing corporations. It is also open to manipulation. Pork processors have abused the system in various ways; one example is flooding the auction floor with their own hogs, driving down the spot market price just as a marketing contract is delivered.14

Corporate takeover of the hog industry has provided windfall profits to processing companies, but has gutted farm income.15 Nationally, farmers today are earning $2 less per pound of pork than in 1982 (adjusted for inflation). That’s a third of the value earned in 1982. But we are paying only around $1 less per pound at the grocery checkout. Pork processors and retailers are capturing the other dollar (Figure 2).16 In fact, the average net returns among Iowa’s wean-to-finish hog operations were negative for nearly half the years between 2004 and 2019.17

Part 3:

Hog Farms Did Not Bring Prosperity to Rural Iowa

Counties with the most factory farm development score lower on numerous economic indicators

Main Street in Readlyn, Iowa. Photo credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 / Orange Suede Sofa, Wikimedia Commons

Iowa’s farming landscape looks significantly different today than just a couple of decades ago. In 2017, Iowa sold 2.5 times as many hogs as in 1982. And the average number sold per farm each year has swelled nearly 20-fold, to 9,600 hogs per farm. Today, one out of every four U.S. hogs comes from Iowa. Yet the state lost almost 90 percent of its hog farms over this same period (Figure 3).

Moreover, our findings indicate that pork processors are capturing greater shares of profits, while farmers are feeling the pinch. In fact, the farmer’s share per pound of pork sold dropped two-thirds between 1982 and 2017 (adjusted for inflation). This suggests that the factory farm industry’s takeover of Iowa is not benefiting most farmers or rural communities. Instead, it shifts economic output from small, family-scale operations to a handful of very large operations — and ultimately to the pork processing corporations.

The study

A 2012 Food & Water Watch economic analysis,18 reviewed by the Agricultural Policy Analysis Center (APAC) at the University of Tennessee, is a valuable case study in what happens when governments endorse and enable factory farm growth. From 1982 to 2007, as factory farms mushroomed across the Iowa landscape, the value per hog sold to the Iowa economy actually declined. Moreover, the gains from hog sales are more unevenly distributed today, with fewer (but much larger) farms across virtually every Iowa county. This concentrates wealth among the largest farms, which in turn tend to make fewer local purchases than their smaller counterparts. This has cascading effects across the entire economy.

The 2012 study also compared the economic and social well-being of counties with the most hog sales and the largest farms to counties with fewer sales and smaller farms. We updated many of these comparisons using data from the 2012 and 2017 Censuses of Agriculture, while adding a few more. (For details, see the Methodology section.) The results suggest that failure to stop factory farm expansion and eliminate subsidies to the industry is wreaking havoc on Iowa’s farm economies. The results also counter the industry narrative that pork processors are building wealth and jobs in rural communities.

More hogs, less income

The National Pork Producers Council19 boasts that the U.S. pork industry supports over $22 billion in personal income.b We found that on a per capita basis, personal income increased in each Iowa county over the study period of 1982 to 2017. There were not significant differences in growth rates between counties with high hog sales and large farms, and those with fewer sales and smaller farms. The same is true even when comparing urban to rural counties.

However, measuring total personal income (not accounting for population) tells a different story. Iowa’s top hog-producing counties saw real total personal income fall roughly 8 percent from 1982 to 2017. In contrast, it ballooned 181 and 142 percent, respectively, among counties that sold fewer hogs and have smaller farms. Even Iowa’s more rural counties saw a 41 percent growth in real total personal income.

In other words, significant population losses (detailed below) went hand-in-hand with the drop in total personal income in counties with high hog sales and large farms. Moreover, per capita income measurements can mask economic inequality, especially when a few large earners bring up the county average. Median household income can help account for this by finding the middle point among all households in a sample.20

For instance, the real median household income among counties with high hog sales and large farms was between 6 and 7 percent less in 2017 than in 1979 (Figure 4). In contrast, it increased slightly within counties with fewer sales and smaller farms. Real median household income even increased modestly among Iowa’s rural counties. These findings suggest that the income benefits of factory hog production are not evenly shared across households living in counties with the most hog production — even though these counties collectively increased their hog production three-fold.

Job losses both on and off the farm

One of the most compelling findings of this report relates to employment. The factory farm industry likes to claim that its industrial model creates jobs — and to stoke fears about job losses to oppose regulation.21 However, the data do not support this. Instead, the rise of Iowa’s factory farms coincided with significant job losses both on and off the farm.

Statewide, total farm employment dropped 44 percent between 1982 and 2017. Every single Iowa county experienced double-digit declines in farm jobs. However, job losses among the top hog-producing counties exceeded the state average — and were even slightly higher than among rural counties overall (Figure 5).

Our previous report came to a similar conclusion: Farm size matters more than total hog output when it comes to job creation. Other studies echo this conclusion, including a 2021 analysis comparing job creation between Iowa’s conventional hog farms and those practicing pasture-based farming. (The average pasture-based farm in the study sells 600 hogs per year, compared to the state average of 9,600). The economic analysis found that the pasture-based farms created more than three times as many jobs per 100,000 hogs marketed compared to conventional farms. They also contributed more indirect and induced jobs.22

Iowa counties with high hog production lost jobs in other industries as well, including manufacturing and retail, whereas counties with low hog production and small farms gained jobs. When looking at all wage jobs, top hog-producing counties saw 30 percent declines from 1982 to 2017. Those counties selling fewer hogs and with smaller farms saw 131 percent and 102 percent growth in total wage jobs, respectively (Figure 6) — outstripping population growth rates by roughly 2:1. Even rural counties saw a 12 percent growth in jobs over the study period.

Simply put, the factory farm model is both anti-farm (pushing family-scale farms to foreclosure) and anti-job (reducing employment both on and off the farm).

Business and retail

Factory farms have cascading impacts on all sectors of the local economy. This is due in part to the different purchasing patterns between small and large farms. For instance, Iowa’s average large wean-to-finish operation purchases only $1 out of every $3 of inputs locally.23 Numerous economic analyses underscore the importance of small farms to local economies; some studies have concluded that smaller farms make more local purchases than larger farms, thereby supporting local retail and contributing to the “multiplier effect” that occurs when wealth is circulated in a local economy.24 Another study found that small, family-scale hog production models shift more profits from corporations to farmers, and induce more household spending among affected workers and farm owners.25

Our study aligns with these analyses. While Iowa experienced an estimated 2 percent decline in total retail businesses between 1982 and 2017, the counties with high hog sales and large farms saw extreme declines — 40 percent and 33 percent, respectively (Figure 7). This decline was even more severe than in rural counties. Counties with low hog sales and small farms, in contrast, saw double-digit growth in retail businesses.

Similarly, while Iowa lost nearly 60 percent of its grocery stores from 1982 to 2016,c losses among counties with high hog sales and large farms were even more stark —75 and 70 percent losses, respectively. This is even greater than losses in the most rural counties. In contrast, losses among low hog sales and small hog farm counties were lower than the state average.

The only business categories considered in this report that had positive growth among high hog-producing counties were meat slaughter and processing plants. However, growth still trailed that of the state as a whole. In fact, most of the growth in meat slaughter and processing facilities occurred in counties with low hog sales and small farms, as well as in rural counties. This could be due to a number of factors, including proximity to the workforces, transportation infrastructure and sewage treatment systems necessary to run slaughter facilities. It is also worth noting that more than a quarter of all hogs raised in Iowa are slaughtered across state lines.26

Before we commend the factory hog industry for a growth in livestock slaughterhouse and processing jobs, it is clear that the quality of these jobs has declined significantly over the past few decades. As meatpacking conglomerates rose in power, working conditions at their plants deteriorated; union representation declined, wages were cut, and conditions became more dangerous.27 In fact, today’s slaughterhouse workers suffer twice the rate of reported injuries and illnesses compared to the manufacturing sector as a whole.28 The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the willingness of pork corporations to put profit ahead of worker health and wellbeing, as corporations fought to keep plants open despite outbreaks that were killing workers.29

Population losses and net migration

Iowa’s total population grew 8 percent from 1982 to 2017. However, counties with high hog sales and large farms saw their populations decrease by 44 percent and 36 percent, respectively. In contrast, the populations of counties with low hog sales and small hog farms boomed 73 percent and 47 percent, respectively. These differences cannot be chalked up to rural and urban divides alone; population loss in rural counties was 18 percent — at least half as much as in counties with high hog sales and large farms.

Additionally, counties with high hog sales and large farms experienced greater rates of net migration compared to counties with low hog sales and small farms. We cannot make sweeping claims about why populations are leaving these counties based on numbers alone. Job losses, decline of rural services, and nuisance and public health concerns from nearby factory farms could all play a role and deserve greater attention. This negative net migration can have cascading effects on communities, including reduced retail demand and declining tax bases.30

bPersonal income includes all wages, employer-provided benefits, rental property, government benefits, and interest and dividends. It excludes capital gains from stocks. See U.S. Department of Commerce. Bureau of Economic Analysis. “Income & Saving.” Available at https://www.bea.gov/resources/learning-center/what-to-know-income-saving. Accessed December 2021 and on file with Food & Water Watch.

cEstimate uses the U.S. Census Bureau’s County Business Patterns data, which changed reporting in the 2017 report year to no longer include data cells with three or fewer businesses. We used 2016 data instead to have a more accurate comparison across the years.

Part 4:

The Factory Farm Industry Is Driving Climate Change

We need to support diverse family-scale farms

Derecho damage seen on a grain bin in Jackson County, Iowa Photo Credit: CC BY 2.0 / Phil Roeder / Flickr

Decoupling hog and crop production has had significant consequences for Iowa’s environment and the global climate. Previously, smaller and more diverse crop-and-livestock systems could only get so big, restrained in part by the amount of cropland that they could dedicate to growing feed. Smaller farms also produce less manure, which can be sustainably recycled onsite as fertilizer and thereby reduce chemical inputs on cropland.31

But artificially cheap feed and pressure from the pork industry have incentivized farms to expand their herds to previously unthinkable sizes. This creates a surplus manure problem, with many regions of the United States, including Iowa, producing more nutrients than can be sustainably recycled. These problems, compounded in regions with high densities of factory farms, contribute to runoff that pollutes soil and water.32 In 2021, American Rivers named Iowa’s Racoon River, which receives overflows from hundreds of factory hog operations, one of the country’s “Most Endangered Rivers.”33

RaCcOON RIVER

The Country’s Most Endangered Rivers: Raccoon River

​​American Rivers named Iowa’s Raccoon River one of the Most Endangered Rivers in the U.S. The Raccoon River supplies drinking water to over half a million Iowans. Des Moines Water Works, Iowa’s largest water utility, depends on the Raccoon River in order to provide residents of central Iowa with safe drinking water.

SCROLL SIDEWAYS TO NAVIGATE

Photo: Raccoon River
RACcOON RIVER

But industrial agriculture practices are rampant in the watershed. Over 750 factory farms are located in the basin and have put our access to clean water at risk. In order to provide safe drinking water to residents in Iowa’s capital city of Des Moines, the Des Moines Water Works was forced to invest in one of the world’s most expensive nitrate removal systems — a cost borne by ratepayers, not the corporate agribusiness entities responsible for the pollution. Why?

Photo: Hog farm in Iowa.
RACcOON RIVER

Because E. coli, MRSA, and toxic levels of nitrates are as much a part of the water in Iowa as hydrogen and oxygen. Where are they coming from? These harmful pathogens and pollutants originate in factory farms. Each year, over 3,600 factory farms across the state produce more than 72 billion pounds of manure. That waste is then spread on acre after acre of cropland, oftentimes in amounts far greater than the soil’s ability to absorb it. From there, the excess runs off into Iowa’s waters, polluting drinking water, limiting recreation on the water, and destroying critical plant and animal habitat.

Factory farms decimate rural economies and rural life, a price no one should have to pay so that corporations can profit.

The unsustainable factory farm model is pushing our climate to the limit. Globally, livestock production contributes 14.5 percent of all human-sourced greenhouse gas emissions.34 Yet Iowa’s hog production continues to balloon, with processors profiting off this glut by expanding export markets.35 At a critical juncture where climate scientists are urging nations to reduce livestock production to sustainable levels, the pork industry is promoting U.S. pork abroad and exporting as much as one-third of all U.S. production.36

The factory farm model is propped up by a cropping system that similarly encourages overproduction.37 Crop farmers faced the same pressures to “get big or get out” in the 1970s and 80s38; in 2017, Iowa produced 65 percent more corn and 85 percent more soybeans compared to 1982, but on 40 percent fewer farms (Figure 9). This is a highly inefficient system, with the vast majority of corn bushels not directly feeding people but instead getting processed into livestock feed, ethanol and food additives.39 Corn and soybean production also contribute to climate change, given the huge amounts of land and fossil fuel-derived inputs they consume.40

Transitioning to smaller, diverse crop-and-livestock systems can curb overproduction and lessen Iowa’s ecological footprint.41 But these systems can only scale up once we have reformed the federal farm safety net to support family-scale operations and to incentivize sustainable practices. Corporate agribusinesses spend millions of lobbying dollars to keep the current polluting system in place.42 We cannot address these climate impacts without combating corporate power.

Part 5:

Conclusion and Recommendations

We cannot solve this crisis without combating corporate power

The factory hog industry is not delivering on its promises to Iowa’s rural economies. In fact, counties with the most hog production score lower across a range of social and economic indicators compared to counties with less hog production. This report complements a Food & Water Watch economic analysis that found that, as corporations tightened their hold on Iowa’s hog production, the value shared by rural communities declined.

As illustrated in our first report in this series, “The Grocery Cartels,” corporate consolidation is at the heart of our food system’s dysfunction. Lax attitudes towards antitrust, embraced by leaders on both sides of the aisle, created space for a handful of powerful corporations to amass power over each step of the food supply chain. The problem is too big for any single farmer or eater to solve; we need our elected leaders to stand up against corporate power.

Legislation for a just food system

First, we need a moratorium on new and expanding factory farms, to solve this crisis that worsens every passing year. Moratorium legislation has been introduced in the Iowa legislature for the past several sessions; federal legislation like the Farm System Reform Act would similarly stop factory farm expansion while funding a just transition for existing factory farms.43 In addition, we must halt agribusiness mergers and break up big conglomerates through comprehensive legislation like the Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act.44

But unravelling the factory farm model and transitioning to family-scale farms will take additional steps. We need to overhaul the federal farm safety net and steer U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) resources into smaller, diversified farms. Fortunately, we have this opportunity every five years, through omnibus legislation known as the Farm Bill. Here’s what we recommend:

Restore supply management in the next Farm Bill and ensure the programs benefit farmers of all backgrounds. The first Farm Bill was part of New Deal legislation, and a direct response to commodity overproduction that led to plummeting crop prices and drove many farms into foreclosure. This and other bills curbed overproduction, protected vulnerable cropland and guaranteed living wages for farmers who could access these programs.45

Here’s how supply management worked: The USDA would set a price floor for grains and provide loans based on this price floor, which farmers repaid after harvest. In years when market prices dropped below the price floor, the USDA collected the harvest as collateral, essentially buying surplus grains from the market for the federal grain reserve. Then, when drought or other disasters reduced crop yield, the USDA sold grains from the federal reserve into the market,46 smoothing out market volatility and ensuring a steady supply of grain to the benefit of both farmers and consumers.

Remarkably, supply management can operate at virtually no budgetary cost to taxpayers.47 We can reinstate supply management for grain crops and extend it to dairy — while ensuring participation by farmers of all backgrounds.

Reform — rather than remove — the current farm safety net. Immediately ending current farm subsidy programs would only drive more farmers off the land. Instead, we can realign these programs with the climate reality while moving toward a system that actually manages production. Participants in programs like federal subsidized crop insurance should be required to implement organic regenerative practices such as crop rotation or reduced pesticide reliance. We must also ban factory farms from receiving public funding from conservation programs and guaranteed loans.

Expand coverage for more crops that directly feed people. Feed corn, soybeans and cotton make up a huge chunk of acreage enrolled in federal crop insurance programs,48 while many fruits, vegetables and nuts are not eligible under many programs.49 Expanding safety net coverage to more specialty crops can help more farmers shift to new production systems.

Corporate interests have fought against supply management and other common-sense farm policies that would bring prosperity to rural America. They spend hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying each year for the current agricultural system that serves their corporate interests, all while claiming that they support the family farm.50 But the COVID-19 pandemic revealed whose side they are really on — and their total disregard for workers’ lives. We must elect leaders who are willing to stand up to these hog bosses and other agribusinesses. Only then can we pass a fair Farm Bill and reshape our food system so that it works for all farmers, food chain workers and eaters.

Part 6:

Methodology

Food & Water Watch compiled data from the U.S. Census of Agriculture, a comprehensive analysis of U.S. farms released every five years. We pulled data on the number of hogs sold and the number of hog farms in each Iowa county, for census years spanning 1982 through 2017. We also used the Census of Agriculture to estimate historical yields and prices for corn and soybeans.

For each census year, we sorted counties into quartiles by the total number of hogs sold. The top 50 counties were designated “high hog sale” counties, and the bottom 49 “low hog sale” counties. We used the same method to distinguish “large hog farm” and “small hog farm” counties, based on the average number of hogs sold per farm. This enabled us to compare economic outcomes between counties that saw the most factory farm development and those that saw the least. We created a third comparison based on population density (50 most-rural / 49 least-rural), using data compiled from the U.S. Census Bureau, providing a way to tease out the impacts of population density on the various economic outcomes.

The Census of Agriculture withholds county-level data on livestock numbers when there are only a handful of farms reporting, to protect farm identity. In these instances, we summed the available county-level data on hogs for a particular year and subtracted this by the state-level data to find the residual difference. We then divided this difference by the total number of farms in all counties with undisclosed data to generate a residual average. We multiplied this residual average by the number of farms in counties with undisclosed data, to derive an approximation. This method was repeated in various census years as needed.

We used many of the same economic indicators found in our 2012 report, matching the years with those of the Census of Agriculture (1982, 1987, 1992, 1997, 2002, 2007, 2012 and 2017) or the nearest approximate. We estimated total retail establishments using data from the Iowa Department of Revenue. Retail establishments by industry come from the U.S. Census Bureau’s County Business Patterns. We used NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) data starting in census year 2002, and SIC (Standard Industrial Classification) codes for all earlier releases, matching with the closest approximation (i.e., NAICS 4451 “Grocery Stores” and SIC 541 “Grocery Stores”; NAICS 311611 “Animal (except Poultry) Slaughtering” and SIC 2011 “Meat Packing Plants”; NAICS 311612 “Meat Processed from Carcasses” and SIC 2013 “Sausages and Other Prepared Meat Products”).

The U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey provided data on population, county landmass in square miles and median household income. Personal and farm income, and wage jobs, came from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. We converted all monetary data into January 2020 dollars using the Consumer Price Index (CPI) Inflation Calculator provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Congress needs to know you support a transition to diverse, family-scale farms. Will you send them a message?

Endnotes
  1. Decision Innovation Solutions. Prepared for Iowa Pork Producers Association. “2020 Iowa Pork Industry Report.” May 2020 at 6; Sexton, Richard. “Market power, misconceptions, and modern agricultural markets.” American Journal of Agricultural Economics. Vol. 95, Iss. 2. January 2013 at 6 to 7.
  2. Clark, E. Ann. “Benefits of re-integrating livestock and forages in crop production systems.” Journal of Crop Improvement. Vol. 12, Iss. 1-2. 2004 at 3 to 5; Ayazi, Hossein and Elsadig Elsheikh. Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society. “The US Farm Bill: Corporate Power and Structural Racism in the United States Food System.” October 2015 at 26 to 27.
  3. Rasmussen, Wayne D. et al. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Economic Research Service (ERS). “A Short History of Agricultural Adjustment, 1933-75.” Agriculture Information Bulletin No. 391. March 1976 at 3 to 4; Reynolds, Bruce J. USDA. “Black Farmers in America, 1865-2000: The Pursuit of Independent Farming and the Role of Cooperatives.” RBS Research Report 194. October 2002 at 8 to 9.
  4. McGranahan, Devan A. et al. “A historical primer on the US farm bill: Supply management and conservation policy.” Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. Vol. 68, No. 3. May/June 2013 at 68A to 70A; Ayazi and Elsheikh (2015) at 23 to 26.
  5. Olson, Allen H. “Federal farm programs — past, present and future — Will we learn from our mistakes?” Great Plains Natural Resources Journal. Vol. 6, No. 1. 2001-2002 at 13 to 16; Freese, Betsy. “How contract feeding changed the hog industry.” Successful Farming. November 25, 2019.
  6. Ayazi and Elsheikh (2015) at 26 to 27; Clark (2004) at 3 to 5.
  7. Decision Innovation Solutions (2020) at 29.
  8. USDA. Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration. “2008 Annual Report.” March 1, 2009 at 46; USDA. Agricultural Marketing Service. “Packers and Stockyards Division: Annual Report 2019.” August 2020 at 9.
  9. Sexton (2013) at 2; Food & Water Watch (FWW) analysis of National Pork Board. “Pork Facts: The Pork Industry at a Glance.” 2009-2012.
  10. Lawrence, John D. “Hog marketing practices and competition questions.” Choices. Vol. 25, No. 2. 2nd Quarter 2010 at 2 to 3.
  11. Ajewole, Kayode et al. “Price reporting in a thin market.” Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics. Vol. 48, No. 4. November 2016 at 347 to 348 and 361 to 362; Willingham, Zoe and Andy Green. Center for American Progress. “A Fair Deal to Farmers: Raising Earnings and Rebalancing Power in Rural America.” May 2019 at 16 to 19.
  12. Lawrence (2010) at 2 to 3 and 5; Sexton (2013) at 6 to 7; MacDonald, James et al. USDA ERS. “Contracts, Markets, and Prices.” Agricultural Economic Report No. 837. November 2004 at 41.
  13. Ajewole et al. (2016) at 345 to 347.
  14. Ibid.; Lawrence (2010) at 4; MacDonald et al. (2004) at 50 to 52.
  15. Willingham and Green (2019) at 20.
  16. USDA ERS. “Pork values and spreads.” Available at https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/meat-price-spreads. Accessed August 2021.
  17. Decision Innovation Solutions (2020) at 42, figure 38.
  18. FWW. “The Economic Cost of Food Monopolies.” 2012.
  19. National Pork Producers Council (NPPC). “Pork facts.” Available at https://nppc.org/pork-facts. Accessed November 2021 and on file with FWW.
  20. Missouri Census Data Center. “All about measures of income in the Census.” Available at https://mcdc.missouri.edu/help/measures-of-income. Accessed December 2021 and on file with FWW.
  21. NPPC. “Pork facts”; NPPC. [Press release]. “New economic impact study on livestock rule means rural job losses & higher meat prices.” October 21, 2010.
  22. Swenson, Dave. Iowa State University and University of Iowa. Prepared for Niman Ranch. “The Economic Contribution of Niman Ranch Hog Production in Iowa.” March 2021 at 6, table 1 and 10.
  23. Decision Innovation Solutions (2020) at 61.
  24. Andrews, David and Timothy J. Kautza. Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production. “Impact of Industrial Farm Animal Production on Rural Communities.” 2008 at v to vi; Donham, Kelley J. et al. “Community health and socioeconomic issues surrounding concentrated animal feeding operations.” Environmental Health Perspectives. Vol. 115, No. 2. February 2007 at 317; Foltz, Jeremy D. et al. “Do purchasing patterns differ between large and small dairy farms? Econometric evidence from three Wisconsin communities.” Agricultural and Resource Economics Review. Vol. 31, No. 1. April 2002 at 37; Swenson (2021) at 9.
  25. Kelsey, Timothy W. et al. Pennsylvania State University. College of Agricultural Sciences. “Not Inconsequential: The Economic Effect of Small Farms in Pennsylvania, 2017.” 2021 at 5 to 9.
  26. Decision Innovation Solutions (2020) at 26.
  27. MacDonald, James M. et al. USDA ERS. “Consolidation in U.S. Meatpacking.” AER-785. February 2000 at 14 to 15; Fitzgerald, Amy J. “A social history of the slaughterhouse: From inception to contemporary implications.” Research in Human Ecology. Vol. 17, No. 1. 2010 at 62 to 64.
  28. U.S. Department of Labor. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2020 Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses. Available at https://www.bls.gov/iif/soii-data.htm#newsrelease.
  29. FWW. “Fact-checking Smithfield’s coronavirus food shortage BS.” April 22, 2020.
  30. McGranahan, David et al. USDA ERS. “Nonmetropolitan Outmigration Counties.” Economic Research Report No. 107. November 2010 at 2.
  31. Clark (2004) at 8, 19 and 24.
  32. Yang, Qichun et al. “Spatiotemporal patterns of livestock manure nutrient production in the conterminous United States from 1930 to 2012.” Science of the Total Environment. October 2015 at 14 to 20; Kellogg, Robert L. et al. USDA. Natural Resources Conservation Service and ERS. “Manure Nutrients Relative to the Capacity of Cropland and Pastureland to Assimilate Nutrients: Spatial and Temporal Trends for the United States.” Nps00-0579. December 2000 at executive summary, 1 and 89 to 92.
  33. Jones, Chris et al. “The urgent need to address nutrient imbalance problems in Iowa’s high-density livestock regions.” Agricultural Policy Review. Fall 2019 at discussion; Food & Water Action. “American Rivers has named Iowa river ‘Most Endangered’ in the country.” April 13, 2021.
  34. Gerber, P.J. et al. (2013). “Tackling Climate Change Through Livestock: A Global Assessment of Emissions and Mitigation Opportunities.” Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations at xii.
  35. USDA. Foreign Agricultural Service. “2020 United States Agricultural Export Yearbook.” 2021 at 1 to 2; Holcomb, Griffin. IBISWorld. “Meat, Beef & Poultry Processing in the US.” Industry Report No. 31161. March 2021 at 11, 14 and 20 to 21.
  36. Schiermeier, Quirin. “Eat less meat: UN climate-change report calls for change to human diet.” Nature. Corrected August 12, 2019; U.S. Meat Export Federation. “U.S. pork exports soared to new value, volume records in 2019.” National Hog Farmer. February 6, 2020.
  37. Smith, Trevor J. “Corn, cows, and climate change: How federal agricultural subsidies enable factory farming and exacerbate U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.” Washington Journal of Environmental Law & Policy. Vol. 9, Iss. 1. March 2019 at 47 to 48 and 55.
  38. McGranahan, Devan A. et al. (2013) at 69A to 71A.
  39. FWW analysis of USDA. National Agricultural Statistics Service. Quick Stats. Available at https://quickstats.nass.usda.gov. Accessed July 2020; “Sweet corn vs. field corn: What’s the difference?” La Crosse Tribune. October 16, 2015.
  40. Koneswaran, Gowri and Danielle Nierenberg. “Global farm animal production and global warming: Impacting and mitigating climate change.” Environmental Health Perspectives. Vol. 116, No. 5. May 2008 at 579.
  41. Clark (2004) at 11 to 13.
  42. Ayazi and Elsheikh (2015) at 26 to 27 and 34.
  43. Cadloff, Emily Baron. “Iowa representative pushing to ban new factory farms.” Modern Farmer. February 10, 2022; S. 3221. 116th Cong. (2019).
  44. S. 1596. 116th Cong. (2019).
  45. Rasmussen et al. (1976) at 3 to 5; Reynolds (2002) at 8 to 9.
  46. Graddy-Lovelace, Garrett and Adam Diamond. “From supply management to agricultural subsidies — and back again? The U.S. Farm Bill & agrarian (in)viability.” Journal of Rural Studies. Vol. 50. February 2017 at 76.
  47. Ibid at 76; McMinimy, Mark A. Congressional Research Service (CRS). “U.S. Sugar Program Fundamentals.” R43998. April 6, 2016 at summary.
  48. Shields, Dennis A. CRS. “Federal Crop Insurance: Background.” R40532. August 13, 2015 at summary; Schnepf, Randy. CRS. [Fact sheet]. “2018 Farm Bill primer: Marketing Assistance Loan program.” IF11162. April 3, 2019 at 2.
  49. Rosa, Isabel and Renée Johnson. CRS. “Federal Crop Insurance: Specialty Crops.” R45459. Updated January 14, 2019 at 9; Smith (2019) at 43 to 44.
  50. Ayazi and Elsheikh (2015) at 15; Open Secrets. “Sector profile: Agribusiness.” Available at https://www.opensecrets.org/federal-lobbying/sectors/summary?id=A. Accessed December 2021 and on file with FWW; Duvall, Zippy. American Farm Bureau Federation. “Your voice is essential to our country’s success.” July 21, 2021.

Iowa Legislative Session Set to End Without Action to Stop Eminent Domain for Private Gain

Categories

Food System

For Immediate Release

Today, the Iowa 2022 legislative session is set to conclude without any action on the state’s controversial carbon pipeline issue. More than 1,700 constituents contacted state legislators with demands to stop eminent domain for private gain this session, and recent Food & Water Action polling found that 80% of registered Iowa voters oppose the use of eminent domain for the hazardous carbon pipelines. Despite staunch constituent demand and the introduction and movement of two bills to stop eminent domain for the carbon pipelines, SF 2160 and HF 2565, no legislation was passed this session to address the politically popular issue.

Impacted landowners and members of the Carbon Pipelines Resistance Coalition held a press conference today to reprimand the legislature’s failure to stop eminent domain for private gain. Food & Water Watch Senior Iowa Organizer Emma Schmit said:

“The legislature’s inaction this session is shameful. But the anti-pipeline movement is only growing. Iowans stand united against the threat of eminent domain for these hazardous carbon pipelines. And we refuse to give up our taxpayer dollars, our land and our safety to build them. This is only the beginning.”

“Eminent domain is not just an issue for those of us affected by the Summit pipeline; it should be an issue of concern for all landowners in Iowa,” said Cynthia Hansen, owner of Century Farm in Shelby County, affected by the proposed Summit pipeline. “Our legislators need to stand with us, the landowners, their constituents, who elected them to serve. If these dangerous pipelines are allowed to use eminent domain, no landowner will be safe from its use by other private companies in the future. This will be a dangerous precedent to set.”

“CCS only serves the monied interests and the fossil fuel industry while never truly addressing the climate emergency affecting all of us,” said Mahmud Fitil, Great Plains Action Society. “Amidst this climate emergency we must demand a reduction and phasing out of fossil fuels as a wider part of a just transition. Additionally, the same concerns present with other pipeline projects in the area regarding safety, degradation of the water and land as well as disturbance of sacred Indigenous ceremonial and burial sites. CCS is greenwashing rather than a solution to the climate emergency that Iowans deserve, and as Indigenous people we remain committed to the water, the land and the future generations of Iowans. Great Plains Action Society is firmly opposed to the carbon pipelines.”

“The Iowa legislature has failed to take action on one of the most important issues facing Iowa — the carbon pipelines,” said Conservation Program Coordinator Jess Mazour with the Sierra Club Iowa Chapter. “There is nothing good about these carbon pipelines. It is all risk for us and all rewards for them. We need the Iowa legislature to make meaningful changes to Iowa’s law to protect Iowa, our landowners and our resources. We need to ban eminent domain for carbon pipelines.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

Iowa Senate Remains Silent on Eminent Domain Despite Outreach From 1,700+ Constituents

Categories

Food System

For Immediate Release

Over the course of this legislative session, more than 1,700 constituents have reached out to state legislative offices by phone and email to demand action on eminent domain for the controversial pipelines proposed for Iowa. In addition, almost 250 people attended a public hearing on the issue last month in person in the Capitol Rotunda or virtually. It’s been more than two weeks since the Iowa House passed legislation to pause eminent domain for carbon pipelines, yet the Senate remains silent on the critical legislation.

The silence comes despite new Food & Water Action polling that shows that 80% of registered Iowa voters oppose the use of eminent domain for the hazardous carbon pipelines.

In response, Food & Water Watch Senior Iowa Organizer Emma Schmit issued the following statement:

“As opposition mounts to the hazardous carbon pipelines proposed for our state, and the threat of eminent domain to build them, the Senate’s silence is deafening.

“Iowans see these projects for what they are — greenwashed hazardous pipelines that will make a few very rich at the expense of the many. Senator Whitver and his chamber must heed constituent demands and stop eminent domain for private gain.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

Organic Dairy Is Getting Squeezed By Big Ag

Categories

Food System

by Rebecca Wolf

In the 1980s, Tamara Tripp spent her days doing chores on a small dairy farm in Minnesota. The future FWW Managing Director of Philanthropy was helping her mom and dad milk 60 cows. They sold their milk to Land O’Lakes, took care of the land and were comfortable enough to raise four children.

By the late 1990s, corporate mergers and the systematically-crafted farm crisis had taken their toll — Tamara’s parents sold the cows. 

Big Ag Mergers In Organic Dairy Mean Fewer Buyers

We hear this story over and over again. Corporate bullies gobble up the market, enabled by corporate-friendly federal government policies. Since the advent of the organic milk label, the U.S. has failed to protect small organic dairy farmers from cutthroat corporate mergers.

In 2020, Dairy Farmers of America bought the dairy giant Dean Foods with little oversight from federal regulators. Before this $433 million-dollar buy, Dean Foods had swallowed up Horizon, AltaDena and Organic Cow of Vermont. Other notable shifts:

  • The licensing of Stonyfield Farm’s fluid milk brand to H.P. Hood
  • The growth of organic store brands in large grocery chains like Safeway, WalMart, Target and Trader Joe’s.

These changes left very few buyers for milk from organic family dairy farmers.

Organic Dairy Industry Becomes Another “Get Big or Get Out” Story

The dairy industry has been wholly transformed, from the cows to the cooperatives securing its prices and the processors packaging milk for consumers. Massive mega-dairies confine dairy cows and may use antibiotics and growth hormones to boost production. Then milk is shipped nationwide to be mechanically separated and resold as everything from ice cream to industrial protein concentrates. These days, consumers no longer know where their milk comes from — or what is actually in much of the dairy they consume.

It was hard for families like the Tripps who refused to use growth hormones like Monsanto’s Bovine Somatotropin (bST). And today’s industry doesn’t work for small- and mid-sized organic family farmers, either. They face pressure to “get big or get out.” The New York Times recently published a piece featuring the last New England organic family dairies. They struggle to survive in a market where just a few large cooperatives are the buyers — therefore setting the prices. Large processors also prefer to buy from a few large, polluting mega-dairy operations instead of family-scale ones with 60 cows. The growth of Western Goliaths producing organic milk on factory farms adds more pressure on small organic family dairies. They also happen to create massive amounts of liquid waste that jeopardize our air and water.

Higher Prices For Consumers, Smaller Profits For Farmers

While all this is happening, consumers are paying higher prices at the grocery store. It seems like everyone is losing, except for the corporate middlemen and speculators who skim off all the cream. 

The organic movement in the United States originally built support for sustainably-produced food. Sustainable methods preserve the health of the land, the animals and the farming families. At first, organic producers received great prices with standards administered by the USDA. But increasingly, even the organic label has been eroded by consolidation, the influence of corporate bullies and profiteering. Because of co-op Goliaths, the organic milk market is now dominated by factory farms, sometimes housing tens of thousands of cows. The almost total corporate control of prices and standards in our food system is a bad deal for farmers and consumers. 

The Crisis And Consolidation Of Organic Dairy Is A Policy Choice 

The good news is that with good policies, farming like Tamara’s family enjoyed is a possible vision for our future. We can have a real market for organic milk. Consumers, the environment, animals and farmers can all share in the abundance of a healthy food system. 

These changes will require shifting our food system using bold and essential federal legislation. The Farm System Reform Act will help us transition away from factory farms. Further, the Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Review Act will break the corporate stranglehold on our food system. Crisis and consolidation in organic dairy are policy choices that we can change.

Urge your Congressperson to support the Farm System Reform Act today!

Analysis Finds Midwest Carbon Pipelines Could Cost Taxpayers in Excess of $20 Billion

Categories

Food System

For Immediate Release

Today, the national advocacy group Food & Water Watch released a new analysis on the true cost of the three carbon pipelines proposed for the Midwest, finding that federal taxpayers could waste in excess of $20 billion dollars on these projects over the next 12 years. Summit Carbon Solutions’ proposal alone could cost taxpayers more than $7 billion — almost twice the amount the company claims its project will invest in the region.

Carbon capture schemes and the dangerous pipelines that feed them are propped up by public funding. A single federal tax credit called Section 45Q could funnel almost $2 billion a year to Summit, Navigator and Wolf/ADM to capture carbon from ethanol facilities to feed their pipeline projects. Over the 12 years that the projects are eligible to profit from the Section 45Q credit, the companies could make $23 billion.

Meanwhile, despite a failing track record, the federal government is only doubling down on carbon capture funding. Since 2010, the federal government has poured more than $8 billion into carbon capture projects via direct funding and tax credits, yet most federally-funded projects failed. Despite this, in the past year alone, legislators approved a record $12.2 billion in federal appropriations to finance carbon capture projects. 

While federal funding props up these projects, it leaves local communities to foot the bill should anything go wrong. Landowners whose property is affected by carbon pipeline construction can expect hefty costs from the aftereffects of pipeline damage. In the case of the Dakota Access Pipeline, some landowners reported farmland repairs upwards of $100,000 for a single property.

To date, hundreds of Iowans have submitted public comments against the costly and dangerous Summit carbon pipeline, the first proposed for the state and first in line to go through Iowa Utilities Board permitting. As of a March 8 review, 98.9 percent of comments filed are in opposition.

Food & Water Watch Senior Iowa Organizer Emma Schmit issued the following response:

“Carbon capture and its associated pipelines are designed to funnel wealth from communities to corporations. But Iowans see these schemes for what they are — greenwashing and corporate profiteering at our expense — and we are uniting to stop these projects from taking root.

“Regular people have already paid through the nose for carbon capture, only to watch the flawed technology fail time and time again. We refuse to also offer up our land, communities, health and safety so that corporations like Summit can make a quick buck. Governor Reynolds must ensure companies cannot use eminent domain to steal Iowans’ land for these projects, and she must direct her Iowa Utilities Board to put an end to carbon pipelines in Iowa for good.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

Carbon Capture Is Iowa’s New Problem Pipe Dream

Categories

PDFFood SystemClimate and Energy

Public Hearing on Use of Eminent Domain for Carbon Pipelines Draws Widespread Opposition

Categories

Food System

For Immediate Release

On Tuesday, legislators, landowners, advocates and experts from the mounting anti-pipeline movement staged a public hearing on the use of eminent domain for the controversial carbon pipelines proposed for Iowa. More than 150 people attended the hearing in person, with more than 90 additional viewers online, including impacted landowners, County Supervisors, State Senators and Representatives, and activists representing bipartisan opposition.

Citing widespread opposition from all corners of the state, speakers urged rapid legislative action to ban the use of eminent domain takings for the carbon pipeline projects. As the Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline moves into Iowa Utilities Board permitting, the threat of private land takings only increases: Recent news revealed that Summit Carbon Solutions has less than 2% of their proposed route secured via voluntary easements.

The event came on the heels of the House’s passage of House File 2565, with amendments from Rep. Kaufmann (R-Cedar) to establish a 12-month moratorium on eminent domain takings for the dangerous carbon pipeline projects. Legislators, landowners, advocates and experts are calling for additional amendments to make the ban on eminent domain takings permanent. Food & Water Watch Senior Iowa Organizer Emma Schmit said:

“Carbon capture is a costly false solution to our climate crisis, and the pipelines that support it spell danger for our communities. Until our legislature removes the legal ability for corporations to capture private land for dangerous carbon pipeline projects, Iowans will continue to live under threat of eminent domain takings for these unwanted projects. Governor Reynolds and legislative leadership must commit to passing legislation this session that permanently removes the threat of eminent domain takings for carbon pipelines. With less than a month remaining in session, it’s time to put this issue to bed.”

“A one-year delay on CO2 pipelines might sound like a good idea on the surface, but HF 2565 looks more like a political game to protect politicians during an election year,” said Julie Duhn of Eldora and member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. “Lawmakers need to get serious about this. They need to stand up for farmers and against this destruction of our land for private gain. We don’t need a bait and switch, we need actual leadership from our legislators and more than just lip service to our agricultural tradition.”

“Legislation to postpone eminent domain takings until next year kicks the can down the road. Pressure is already increasing on reluctant landowners to voluntarily sign carbon pipeline easements, with eminent domain framed to us as ‘inevitable,’” said George Cummins, of Vinton, retired agronomist and former director of the Floyd County Iowa State University Extension Office. “As voters, it is our responsibility to hold our elected officials accountable — and we will, both now and at the ballot box, demanding that eminent domain never be used for these unwanted carbon pipelines.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

Iowa House Passes Amendment to Delay Carbon Pipeline Eminent Domain Proceedings

Categories

Food System

For Immediate Release

Late Thursday evening, the Iowa House of Representatives passed legislation that would impede the approval process of proposed carbon pipelines in Iowa, as an amendment to an appropriations bill, House File 2565. The amendment would enact a moratorium on Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) hearings for carbon capture & storage (CCS) pipelines until February 1, 2023. This legislation would temporarily stop carbon sequestration companies from using eminent domain proceedings to condemn land along the pipeline routes for the length of the moratorium.

Carbon capture & storage is the process of liquefying carbon dioxide for transport and storage underground, though the carbon dioxide can also be used by the fossil fuel industry for enhanced oil recovery or the extraction of coalbed methane. The science behind this fairly new technology is unsound, and CCS pipelines have proved disastrous for communities where problems occur, such as the February 2020 rupture in Satartia, Mississippi. The thousands of miles of carbon pipelines proposed for construction in Iowa by Summit, Navigator, and Wolf/ADM have raised widespread opposition from a broad range of Iowa residents, landowners and organizations opposed to the use of eminent domain for the controversial projects.

The amendment, introduced by Rep. Bobby Kaufmann (R-Cedar), was met with bipartisan support, and passed via a voice vote. HF 2565 subsequently passed by a 60-30 chamber vote.

Food & Water Watch Senior Iowa Organizer Emma Schmit issued the following statement:

“While the House of Representatives was right in taking action to address the proposed carbon pipelines, we know the credit largely goes to the tireless efforts of Iowans who have been relentlessly demanding legislative action on this issue.

“Rep. Kaufmann’s amendment opened the door, and we are now looking to the Senate to strengthen this language to enact permanent measures that protect Iowans from the harms these pipelines cause and the manipulative tactics being employed by pipeline companies. Our rights, our land, and our lives are not for sale.” 

Sussex County Council Overrides DE Public Opposition, Approves Pipeline Expansion

Categories

Food System

For Immediate Release

This afternoon, despite more than 30 public comments filed in opposition to the project, the Sussex County Council voted 4-1 to approve the proposal to expand Eastern Shore Natural Gas’ pipeline capacity at a site near Bridgeville, Delaware. The proposal will require federal approval via the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to continue.

The pipeline expansion proposal is a part of an agreement with Bioenergy DevCo to accept factory farm biogas from their proposed methane refinery a few miles away near Seaford. The proposal has come under attack by community members and environmental advocates due to the dangers the pipeline and accompanying “bomb trucks” pose to the nearby elementary school, homes and community.

In response, Food & Water Watch Delaware Organizer Greg Layton issued the following statement:

“The Sussex County Council’s vote today to approve a dangerous gas pipeline expansion next door to an elementary school is shameful. This project will endanger Sussex County residents and our climate, all so that polluting fossil fuel and factory farm interests can profit at our expense. Simply put, we need less dirty fuels in Sussex County, not more.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

Sussex County Zoning Commission Unanimously Approves Dangerous DE Pipeline Expansion

Categories

Food System

For Immediate Release

Yesterday evening, the Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commission voted unanimously to approve the proposal to expand Eastern Shore Natural Gas’ pipeline capacity at a site near Bridgeville, Delaware. The proposal has come under attack by community members and environmental advocates due to the dangers the pipeline and accompanying “bomb trucks” pose to the nearby elementary school, homes and community.

The pipeline expansion proposal is a part of an agreement with Bioenergy DevCo to accept factory farm biogas from their proposed methane refinery a few miles away near Seaford. Advocates assert that the pipeline expansion would entrench both polluting fossil fuels and factory farms in the region for decades to come.

In response, Food & Water Watch Delaware Organizer Greg Layton issued the following statement:

“The decision to unanimously approve a dangerous gas pipeline expansion next door to a school and residential community is unconscionable. Not only will this project put Sussex County residents at risk, but it will also deepen our reliance on the dirty fossil fuels locking us into climate disaster.

“Luckily, this project isn’t a done deal. We look forward to a public debate on this pipeline proposal before the Sussex County Council, where our elected representatives will have the clear choice to side with their constituents over dirty energy interests.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

Lawmakers and State Attorneys General Weigh in on Preserving Federal Meat Inspection

Categories

Food System

Several attorneys general, members of U.S. Congress, and the meat inspectors’ union filed amici curiae or “friend of the court” briefs in a key food safety case, a move that signals the growing importance of strengthening food inspection systems. 

The Congressional brief was spearheaded by U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and U.S. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, and written by the non-profit law firm Public Justice. Representatives Dina Titus (D-Nev.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), and Jesús G. “Chuy” García (D-Ill.) also signed on to the brief.

The states’ brief was spearheaded by Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh and signed by the Attorneys General for Illinois, Massachusetts, and Michigan.

The case – Center for Food Safety, et al. v. Thomas Vilsack, No.4:20-cv-00256-JSW (N.D. Cal) – concerns the implementation of the USDA’s New Swine Inspection System (NSIS), a Trump administration rule that greatly undermines the ability of federal inspectors to protect consumers from foodborne illnesses.

National food-policy and consumer organizations – including the Center for Food Safety, Food & Water Watch and the Humane Farming Association – have argued that those rules violate the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA), one of our country’s cornerstone food safety laws.

The NSIS program relies in large part on meat company employees conducting inspections instead of government inspectors, part of a decades-old industry push for ‘self-regulation’ and a radical departure from long-established practice. This raises significant dangers to public health; an examination of USDA data showed that the plants that had piloted the new system had significantly more regulatory violations for fecal and digestive matter on carcasses than traditional plants.

​​The Congressional brief argues that USDA “promulgated rules related to meat inspection that run contrary to the congressional intent and purpose of enacting the Federal Meat Inspection Act (‘FMIA’),” and that the NSIS rules “are not only inconsistent with the ways Congress directed the FMIA be implemented, but also with the statute’s overarching goal of ensuring consumer confidence in a safe meat supply.”

The Attorneys General brief argues that the new rules “delegate[] many inspection duties to private plant employees, who must meet only minimal training requirements, effectively sidelining federal inspectors and placing the public at a greater risk of consuming suspect products.”

The American Federation of Government Employees, who represent the federal food safety inspectors employed by USDA, argued that the new rules improperly delegated inspection tasks to private companies.  They also “effectively prevent[] … inspectors from performing the required post-mortem examination of all carcasses, and parts thereof, by allowing establishment employees to trim carcasses prior to the required inspection.”

“The Trump administration implemented this outrageous self-policing initiative that hands over inspection duties to meat companies themselves, putting millions of Americans at risk from getting sick due to foodborne illness,” said Zach Corrigan, Senior Attorney for Food & Water Watch and lead counsel in the case. “We welcome the support of lawmakers and state officials who realize this case is about stopping a fundamentally unsafe food policy.”

“We are gratified to see our elected officials, state, and union allies step up to help us restore safety to our animal food system,” said Amy van Saun, Senior Attorney for Center for Food Safety. “This overwhelming support confirms how important public health and safe meat are to so many in this country.”

“This partnership between federal meat inspectors and the plaintiffs in this case is a natural,” said Bradley Miller, national director of the Humane Farming Association. “We’re also gratified to have several legislators and attorneys general standing with us. Clearly, USDA bureaucrats should not be relying upon the industry’s own employees to conduct federal meat inspection.  Food safety and humane slaughter laws should be vigorously enforced by federal inspectors for the sake of both animal welfare and public health.”

Delaware Is Doubling Down On Factory Farm Biogas. It’s Not A Good Thing.

Categories

Food SystemClimate and Energy

by Greg Layton

For more than a year, local residents and our allies have joined with Food & Water Watch in a critical mission. We’ve teamed up to fight the nation’s first poultry waste factory farm biogas facility in Delaware. Now a new front has emerged, and the community is fighting back.

Eastern Shore Natural Gas (ESNG) has proposed expanding its pipeline facility in Sussex County, right next to an elementary school. Why? To pipe in biogas from the Bioenergy DevCo facility we’ve been fighting a few miles away.

Factory Farm Biogas Is Just As Explosive As ‘Traditional Gas’

ESNG asked Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commission for a conditional use permit to expand its facility on Black Cherry Drive. Most significantly, the subsidiary of Chesapeake Utilities wants three new terminals to receive truckloads of “non-traditional” gas. We know what that means — factory farm biogas. Bioenergy DevCo has been teasing this expansion for months.

That could mean 18 truckloads of explosive gas daily to a site with almost no current traffic, a company spokesman said. The company could seek further expansion in the future, he said. All the while, local driverss and children at elementary school next door will be in harm’s way. After all, “non-traditional” biogas is just as explosive as “traditional gas.” In fact, factory farm biogas is absolutely identical to fracked gas.

This is a bad idea, and there are a lot of reasons why. 

Proximity To Schools And Neighborhoods Isn’t Smart When It Comes To Biogas

The proposed pipeline expansion is adjacent to Phillis Wheatley Elementary School. The school’s playground would lie less than 1,100 feet from the gas facility. The school itself would lie just 1,300 feet away, according to the ESNG spokesman. We’re not sure where these figures come from, because at a glance Google Maps suggests they are actually much closer. 

The nearest home would be just 330 feet from where the proposed facility meets the main gas line. This information is from a letter ESNG sent to the Planning & Zoning Commission. There are many additional homes in the area. 

The largest pipe would carry gas under 800 pounds of pressure per square inch, the ESNG spokesman said. He also mentioned a “catastrophic failure” of the facility would have an “impact radius” of 200 feet. History suggests this figure could be misleading. In 1974, a gas pipeline facility in Bealeton, Va. exploded, burning an area as wide as 700 feet. That blast originated from a pipeline also under 800 pounds of pressure. During his commission testimony, the spokesman didn’t say how far from the facility neighbors could expect damage from potential explosions. Given that these explosions could cause widespread burning, broken windows, and serious injury, we think these details matter.

And then there are the bomb trucks. Nearly 7,000 bomb trucks annually would carry factory farm biogas from Bioenergy DevCo through the residential community into the site. This transport is not safe. The recent explosion of a fuel-laden bomb truck in New York underscores the danger posed by these vehicles. This hazard is not only at the Black Cherry Drive location, but to motorists, homes and businesses all along the haul route.

Environmental Justice Issues Raise Concern About Factory Farm Biogas

Residents within one mile of the proposed facility are significantly more likely than the average Sussex County resident to be people of color. More than a third of these residents live in low-income households. And rounding out the inequity, more than a third of them are 65 years of age or older. Placing a potentially explosive facility in a vulnerable neighborhood would worsen community members’ difficulties, while lowering their property values. In testimony before the commission, one opponent said the fact that this project was even proposed constitutes “environmental racism.” They’re right.

It’s All So Bioenergy DevCo Can Make A Buck From A False ‘Climate Solution’

The proposed pipeline facility expansion is clearly tied to the Bioenergy DevCo factory farm gas facility proposed for Seaford. It’s no big secret. Chesapeake Utilities, ESNG’s parent company, struck an agreement with Bioenergy DevCo in June 2020, and announced it widely.

The Bioenergy DevCo proposal would bring 200,000 tons of poultry slaughterhouse waste annually from three states; Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. It would go to a digester and methane refinery near Seaford, all to sell biogas into regional pipelines. That gas would be trucked to Bridgeville to be injected into the Chesapeake Utilities pipeline. Without this pipeline facility expansion, Bioenergy DevCo has nowhere to take their bomb trucks, and nowhere to sell their gas.

This proposal would justify the pollution of factory-farmed poultry and amplify the contamination it already causes. Rather than solving the climate crisis, its damage would manifest in other toxic byproducts, some worse than the original issue.

Concerned Residents Will Speak Out Against This Dirty Biogas Scheme

Concerned Delawareans submitted nearly 30 written comments to the Sussex Planning & Zoning Commission in opposition to the ESNG pipeline proposal. Several also spoke out at the hearing. After this pressure, the Commission deferred its decision until March 10. But Food & Water Watch is prepared.

Food & Water Watch and allies will be protesting outside the Sussex Planning & Zoning Commission meeting on March 10. 

Join us in protest at the Commission meeting on March 10.

Bring a sign opposing pipeline expansion, and join Food & Water Watch on March 10, 2022. We will gather outside the Sussex County Administration Building at 2 The Circle in Georgetown, DE.

USDA Grants Cargill Beef Self-Inspection, Raising Food Safety Concerns

Categories

Food System

A Cargill cattle slaughter plant in Schuyler, Nebraska has been granted a regulatory waiver by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that will allow the plant’s employees to perform several critical safety inspections instead of federal inspectors.  

USDA informed union officials representing inspectors that the switch will start next week, with full implementation to begin the week of May 2.

It is only the second beef plant to be granted this permission, and the first under the Biden administration. Last year, Food & Water Watch released agency documents showing that pork plants operating in a similar pilot program for swine had significantly more regulatory violations for fecal and digestive matter on carcasses than traditional plants. 

The USDA’s waiver occurs at the same time that the USDA has been defending the pig slaughter system in court.

In response, Food & Water Watch Senior Attorney Zach Corrigan issued the following statement: 

“By transferring critical inspection duties to plant employees, the USDA is allowing plants to essentially inspect their own beef.  This is fundamentally dangerous for consumers. Pork plants that switched to this system saw a two-fold increase in violations for contamination of fecal matter and digestive contents. While this is only one plant, it is the second pilot plant for a program the Biden administration plans to implement for the entire industry.  At a time when consumers are already wrestling with the high prices due to industry consolidation, the USDA is asking consumers to jeopardize their health.”

New Mexico Rejects Clean Fuels Standard Act And Promotion Of Factory Farm Gas 

Categories

Food SystemClimate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Santa Fe, NM –  The New Mexico legislature rejected the Clean Fuels Standard Act Thursday morning, which would have set up a market for factory farm gas, among other dirty fuels,  similar to California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). The California credit system allows factory farms like mega-dairies to sell the equivalent of fracked gas to be used as fuel for vehicles. New Mexico’s bill would have allowed factory farm gas to count towards the state’s “clean fuels” goal. The only farms capable of producing as much manure as is necessary to generate factory farm gas are massive in scale and a major source of greenhouse gas in New Mexico as well as the rest of the U.S. The average New Mexico mega-dairy confines more than 3,000 cows. This represents some of the largest herds in the country.

“New Mexico needs real climate solutions and not scams that only truly benefit the factory farming and fossil fuel industries,” said Food & Water Watch Southern Region Director Jorge Aguilar. “We’re hopeful that any future attempts to address the legitimate problems with emissions in transportation will protect communities from the factory farm expansion that would undoubtedly follow any clean fuel standard that allows biogas. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and the New Mexico legislature must pursue real solutions that slash methane emissions and protect communities from the pollution of industrial agriculture.”

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Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

Landowners Protest at IA State Capitol Demanding Senate President Give Eminent Domain Bill A Fair Shot

Categories

Food System

For Immediate Release

Despite a subcommittee vote on Tuesday to advance SF 2160, legislation to adjust Iowa eminent domain laws, the bill was pulled Wednesday from its scheduled committee hearing. This afternoon, landowners whose property could be seized under eminent domain for the proposed carbon pipelines rallied with advocates from the Iowa Carbon Pipeline Resistance Coalition at the State Capitol, demanding Senate President Jake Chapman reassign the bill to the Ways & Means Committee to give it a fair shot.

The group marched from the West Capitol Terrace to Governor Reynolds office demanding SF 2160 receive a committee hearing this week. Photos and video are available here. Food & Water Watch Senior Iowa Organizer Emma Schmit said:

“Iowa’s elected officials have copped out of protecting Iowans, our land and our communities from eminent domain abuse. It’s outrageous that Gov. Reynolds and our legislature would let private corporations steal land from Iowa’s landowners and farmers for their own private gain. Senate President Jake Chapman must stand up to this nonsense and give this bill a fair shot for a vote. We demand Sen. Chapman reassign SF 2160 to the Senate Ways & Means committee before the week is out.”

“I’ve worked my whole life to steward my land and property, and am not about to let that go without a fight,” said Dan Wahl, Landowner and Farmer from Dickinson County. “What Summit, Navigator and Wolf want to do is nothing short of property theft, and our legislators need to stand up to that nonsense. Landowners and farmers are constituents and voters — our needs cannot be silenced. SF 2160 deserves a fair shot.”

“Corruption is the abuse of power for private gain. Corruption is precisely what we have when government officials — whether the governor or legislators — abuse their power by handing their cronies the right of eminent domain for private gain,” said Carolyn Raffensperger, Science and Environmental Health Network Executive Director. “The only people who gain from blocking eminent domain reform legislation are pipeline companies and the politicians who will get big campaign donations. We stand with the landowners and farmers whose land will be hijacked through eminent domain for a false climate solution unless SF 2160 is passed.

“It’s time for Governor Reynolds to make a decision: will she stand with Iowa’s landowners and everyday folks in opposition to the carbon pipelines, or will she side with the corporate, political elite?” said Tom Mohan, president of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Linn Co. resident. “She needs to use her power to protect Iowans and the land we love, not sell us out.”

“What we see before us is a mad rush to push these carbon pipelines on the people of Iowa,” said Mahmud Fitil, Great Plains Action Society. “Pipeline companies and their corrupt state sponsors are engaged in a green-washed scheme to funnel hazardous waste around the region; in effect, trading Iowa’s environment for state & federal tax incentives which drive profits of corporations like Summit and line pockets of people like Bruce Rastetter. We know that when the Earth becomes objectified and commodified then so do we.”

“There is no excuse for the legislature to ignore this looming threat to thousands of everyday Iowans. These carbon pipeline projects are profiting off the exploitation of Iowans, our land, and our communities,” said Jess Mazour, Sierra Club Iowa Chapter. “We expect Governor Reynolds, Senator Chapman, Senator Whitver, and Representative Grassley to put Iowa before these greedy companies and pass the bill.”

“The Capitol in Des Moines is the People’s House. The vast majority of the people in Iowa want, and are entitled to, clear air, clean water and a livable future, and are opposed to the CCS pipelines. The landowners/farmers of Iowa are entitled to have their land protected from eminent domain for private gain. Carbon Capture and Sequestration is a greenwashing scam, designed to perpetuate CAFOs, ethanol production, fossil fuel extraction and to put more money into the hands of those who have already profited mightily from exploiting our natural resources, family farmers, and Iowans,” said Miriam Kashia, 100 Grannies for a Livable Future. “It is time to stop the exploitation and the profiteering and give the power back to the people where it belongs, not the corporations.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

Groups Urge Congress to Require EPA to Regulate Climate Pollution from Factory Farms

Categories

Food System

In a letter sent to House and Senate Appropriations Committee leaders, a coalition of groups are urging Congress to include the mandatory reporting and regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from factory farms and manure management in the FY 2022 Appropriation for the Environmental Protection Agency.

The letter was organized in collaboration by food, farm and environmental groups: Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment, Food & Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, Indigenous Environmental Network, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and the National Family Farm Coalition.

The letter notes that while EPA has the authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate air emissions from factory farms, the routine inclusion of appropriations riders prevents the agency from utilizing funds to implement much-needed regulations.

Rep. Staed Joins Picket Line at IA State Capitol; Announces Independent Hearing on Factory Farm Moratorium

Categories

Food System

For Immediate Release

DES MOINES, IA — This afternoon, dozens of advocates from the Iowa Alliance for Responsible Agriculture picketed the State Capitol, demanding a legislative moratorium on factory farms. Representative Art Staed (D-Cedar Rapids), the prime bill sponsor of HF 2305, the 2022 factory farm moratorium bill, joined the picket line to announce a peoples’ hearing for the legislation.

“This must be the last year my colleagues in the legislature debate Iowans’ fundamental right to a clean environment,” said Representative Art Staed (D-Cedar Rapids). “I call for an independent hearing this Spring to clearly debate in a public forum the necessity of a moratorium on factory farms in Iowa — it’s high time this issue received the attention it deserves.”

This year marks the fifth that Iowa legislators and advocates have collaborated to introduce legislation stemming the predatory growth of factory farms in Iowa. Despite the legislation’s popularity, backed by 63% of Iowa voters and boasting 20 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, this is expected to be the fifth year that the Republican-dominated legislature stops factory farm moratorium legislation from getting a hearing. In lieu of a legislative hearing to debate the merits of the bill, boasting expanded provisions to protect contract growers and the environment, Rep. Staed committed today to host an independent hearing on the bill, expected in April.

Picketers cheered the announcement, holding Valentine’s Day themed signage calling on the legislature to pass a factory farm moratorium, out of love for Iowa’s farmers, communities, environment, and future generations. John Aspray, Food & Water Watch Senior Iowa Organizer and Chair of the Iowa Alliance for Responsible Agriculture said:

“For the love of all things we hold dear, from Iowa’s farmers and our communities to our drinking water and the climate, it is time to pass a moratorium on factory farms in Iowa. With each year that the legislature fails to address the issue, hundreds more factory farms take root in our state. It’s no wonder a vast majority of us want to stop this industry’s predatory growth. We look forward to a public hearing where Iowans can shed light on the truth about factory farms — and why they must be stopped.”

“Decades of market consolidation have displaced many of Iowa’s independent family livestock farms, replacing them with contract production, industrial-scale facilities, and out-of-state corporate ownership,” said Deborah Bunka, Iowa Farmers Union Representative to the Iowa Alliance for Responsible Agriculture. “Iowa Farmers Union supports the creation of a plan for rural development that prioritizes the role of locally-owned family farms in stewarding our natural resources, promoting quality of life in rural communities, and serving as engines for the rural economy. We believe a CAFO moratorium must be part of that.”

“Not only do factory farms pose a threat to Iowa’s waterways, as reports from the Iowa DNR of more than 700 impairments in our rivers, streams, and lakes demonstrate, but they also create inhumane conditions for the livestock raised in them,” said Jan Corderman of the Des Moines Branch of the Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom. “The cramped conditions inside these facilities prevent animals from engaging in natural behaviors and instead create high levels of stress and suffering that simply aren’t as common on independent farms.”

The independent hearing on the 2022 factory farm moratorium bill is expected to be held in April, offering legislators the opportunity to hear from Iowans about the urgent need for a factory farm moratorium in Iowa.

Photos of the event will be available here. Watch the livestream and event recording here.

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

Drying Up: How Factory Farms Worsen New Mexico’s Water Crisis

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PDFFood System

New Research: Mega-Dairies Contribute to New Mexico’s Drought and Contaminate Groundwater

Categories

Food SystemClean Water

For Immediate Release

Santa Fe, NM – In a new paper, Food & Water Watch researchers found that New Mexico’s large dairies are fueling  the state’s widespread drought crisis through excessive water usage and contamination of drinking water sources. The paper estimates that every day, the mega-dairy industry uses a colossal 32 million gallons of water to operate, and generates over 8 million gallons of wastewater that jeopardizes underground aquifers, even as the state struggles with limited groundwater supply.  Read the full report here.

“Not only do New Mexico’s mega-dairies deplete the scarce water supplies on which New Mexicans rely, they also contaminate the water adjacent to their facilities,” said Food & Water Watch’s Southern Organizing Director Jorge Aguilar. “New Mexico’s water resources should benefit its people, not corporate interests. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham must protect her constituents’ right to water and direct the Office of the State Engineer and the New Mexico Environment Department to hold this industry accountable for its destructive impact on the water supply.. ”

New Mexico currently has the worst drought outlook of any state in the U.S., and the recent resignation of State Engineer and top water official John D’Antonio has focused attention on the state’s ability to address the drought crisis. D’Antonio cited frustration with a chronic lack of funding to protect water resources as the reason for his departure. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has since called for an overhaul of New Mexico’s water policy and stressed the need “to rewrite what the state engineer’s office looks like.” 

The paper’s findings also underscore the heightened risk of nitrate contamination mega-dairies pose to New Mexico’s freshwater drinking supplies.  

A few key findings of the paper:

  • 80 percent of New Mexico’s mega-dairies have only half the land needed to properly absorb the manure produced by the cows. The excess nutrients can contaminate drinking water sources in New Mexico.
  • According to the New Mexico Environment Department’s (NMED) map of mega-dairies, most if not all are situated on “high sensitivity” aquifers. NMED has acknowledged that leaching from mega-dairies could contaminate groundwater sources. 

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Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

Iowa Legislator Introduces Expanded Factory Farm Moratorium Legislation

Categories

Food System

For Immediate Release

Des Moines, IA — Today, Iowa state legislator Representative Art Staed (D-Cedar Rapids) announced the introduction of new legislation to establish an immediate moratorium on the expansion of factory farming in the state. This year marks the fifth that Iowa legislators and advocates have collaborated to introduce legislation stemming the predatory growth of factory farms in Iowa. As the factory farm moratorium movement grows, this legislation continues to be a rallying cry for the 63% of Iowa voters and counting who support a legislative moratorium on factory farms.

Iowa’s rural landscapes are pockmarked with more than 10,000 factory farms, with anywhere from 300-500 new facilities added to the state each year. As factory farm numbers have increased, so too has the number of hogs confined in Iowa and the amount of waste produced in the state. As of 2017, hogs on Iowa’s factory farms annually produce 72 billion pounds of manure — two and a half times the weight in human sewage produced by the New York City metropolitan area.

Thanks to factory farms and their unabated expansion, Iowa’s water crisis has deepened over the past year. In 2021, the Raccoon River, a drinking water source to more than half a million Iowans, ranked as one of the nation’s most endangered rivers, thanks to the factory farms that pollute its watershed.

The 2022 CAFO Moratorium Bill includes provisions to expand the reach of the bill, expanding the Department of Natural Resources’ authority to regulate factory farm water pollution, while holding corporate integrators jointly responsible for this pollution. This new provision takes the burden off the shoulders of contract growers trapped in the current system.

“I will not see our state sacrificed so corporations can make a quick buck,” said Representative Art Staed (D-Cedar Rapids). “My 2022 CAFO moratorium bill will stymie corporate ag’s predatory growth in Iowa, confront our water quality crisis, and rectify the unfair treatment of contract growers — all by stopping the new construction of factory farms. My colleagues in the state legislature need to stand up to Big Ag, and hold these corporate players accountable for their environmental degradation. It’s time for a moratorium on factory farms in Iowa.”

John Aspray, Food & Water Watch Senior Iowa Organizer and Chair of the Iowa Alliance for Responsible Agriculture said:

“Factory farms are expanding unchecked in Iowa, and with it our water pollution is reaching crisis levels. For too long, the weight of that pollution burden has fallen on the contract farmers trapped within our industrialized agricultural system. The 2022 CAFO Moratorium Bill will put an end to factory farm expansion and to this glaring inequity, making sure the companies from JBS to Tyson, whose profit-hoarding creates this pollution, can be held responsible for its clean-up.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

Iowa’s Senator Taylor Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Stop Carbon Pipelines

Categories

Food System

For Immediate Release

Des Moines, IA — Today, Senator Taylor (R-2) introduced S.F. 2160, legislation which, if passed, would stop the carbon pipeline projects proposed for Iowa. To date, three carbon pipelines have been proposed, covering hundreds of miles of the state. If built, the carbon pipeline network would be the world’s largest.

S.F. 2160 would adjust the definition of public use as it relates to eminent domain, a legal tool that pipeline developers are relying on to force landowners to allow these dangerous projects on their property. S.F. 2160 curbs the ability of private corporations to forcibly take Iowans’ land. 

Food & Water Watch Senior Iowa Organizer Emma Schmit issued the following statement:

“Carbon capture is a false climate solution and a waste of public money. Where Wall Street sees profit, Iowans see a home worth fighting for. People of all stripes are coming together to protect our land for future generations. We are proud to stand with allies on both sides of the aisle in supporting legislation to keep Iowans safe, and stop dangerous carbon pipelines from taking root in our communities.

“Private pipeline companies are abusing eminent domain laws that were created long before projects like this were on the consciousness of lawmakers. It is critical that the Iowa legislature act now to update the laws and prevent private CO2 pipeline companies from abusing Iowa’s outdated eminent domain laws for nothing other than private profit. We call on the Iowa state legislature to pass S.F. 2160 with haste, and put the needs of Iowans before the profits of private corporations.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

On Eve of Congressional Hearing, Data Shows Egregious Profiteering in Food, Energy Sectors

Categories

Food SystemClimate and Energy

New data analysis from the advocacy group Food & Water Watch shows that pandemic-era inflation is being largely driven by the food and energy industries, where price increases over the past two years have grossly out-scaled economy-wide increases, and where corporate revenues in these sectors are soaring. 

This analysis comes ahead of tomorrow’s hearing in the House Energy & Commerce Committee on corporate price gouging during the pandemic.

“Companies are hiding behind the pandemic and supply chain disruptions as an excuse to gouge consumers. But in reality, 2021 revenues among the largest food and energy corporations topped pre-pandemic levels,” said Amanda Starbuck, research director at Food & Water Watch. “Many companies have subsequently fattened executive compensation while worker wages have stagnated or even dropped.” 

Over the past two years (Dec. ‘19 – Dec. ‘21) the Consumer Price Index (CPI) has increased by 8.5 percent. However:

  • Energy costs have increased by 20.3 percent.
  • The cost to feed a family of four on a “thrifty” food plan has increased by 33.5 percent.

More specifically:

  • Gasoline: +31.7% per gallon unleaded.
  • Beef: +19.2% for ground beef and +25.5% for beef roast.
  • Pork: +31.7% for bacon and +18.6% for pork chops.
  • Poultry: +19.7% for chicken breasts and +15.5% for broiler composite.
  • Milk: +17.4% for whole milk (gallon).
  • Eggs: +16.5% for Grade A eggs (dozen).

Meanwhile, corporate revenues in the food and energy sectors are growing rapidly.

Oil and gas industry revenues, by quarter (*in millions):

 Q4 2019Q1 2020Q2 2020Q3 2020Q4 2020Q1 2021Q2 2021Q3 2021Q4 2021
ExxonMobil$67,173$56,158$32,605$46,199$46,540$59,147$67,742$73,786$84,965
Chevron$36,350$31,501$13,494$24,451$25,246$32,029$37,597$44,710$48,130

Meat and poultry industry revenues:

  • Tyson Foods (FY ending 10/3/20): +1.8% over FY 2019. 2021 FY revenue +11% over FY 2019 (pre-pandemic levels).
  • WH Group (parent company of Smithfield): 2020 revenue +6.2% over 2019. 
  • Perdue (FY ending 3/30/21): +12.7% over FY 2020.
  • Cargill (FY ending 5/30/21): +17.3% over FY 2020.

Grocery industry revenues – top four grocery retailers in the U.S., controlling about 70% of the market:

  • Walmart (FY ending 1/31/21): +6.7% over FY 2019.
  • Kroger (FY ending 1/30/21): +8.4% over FY 2019.
  • Costco (FY ending 8/30/20): +9.2% over FY 2019. Costco’s FY 2021 numbers which have been released show +17.5% revenue increase over FY 2020, and 28.3% over FY 2019 (pre-pandemic levels).
  • Albertsons (FY ending 2/27/21): +11.6% over FY 2019

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]

Summit Carbon Solutions Files for IA Permits for World’s Largest Carbon Pipeline Scam

Categories

Food System

For Immediate Release

On January 28, Summit Carbon Solutions officially filed for a permit with the Iowa Utilities Board to construct a Hazardous Liquid Pipeline stretching across 681 miles in Iowa. The petition to the Utilities Board is the requisite next step for the company to advance its $4.5 billion carbon capture and storage (CCS) project. It is anticipated that the Board will take 12 to 18 months to issue a ruling.

In response, Food & Water Watch Senior Iowa Organizer Emma Schmit issued the following statement:

“Despite immense resistance from every corner of the state, Summit is moving forward with their dangerous carbon pipeline scam. The opposition to this project has united Iowans from all backgrounds – Republican and Democrat, rural and urban, young and old. It could not be made any clearer that Iowans do not support Summit’s reckless land-grabbing scheme. We are not willing to risk our lives or our land for Summit to rake in millions of dollars on a false climate solution.

“The fight to stop the construction of hazardous carbon pipelines is only beginning. The people of Iowa will continue to stand against Summit’s greedy maneuvering to protect our communities, our land, and our futures. From the halls of Congress to the courtroom floor, we will use our collective power to ensure the needs and interests of Iowans are placed before that of a destructive, opportunistic corporation.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

California Rejects Petition to Drop Factory Farm Gas From Energy Credit System

Categories

Food SystemClimate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Sacramento, CA — Executive Officer of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) Richard Corey unilaterally rejected a petition request from a coalition of environmental justice, animal protection, and community groups to immediately initiate a rulemaking to eliminate credits for factory farm gas from one of California’s premier climate programs, the Low Carbon Fuel Standard. The decision ignores ample evidence that the lucrative credit system is dramatically overstating the climate benefit of using methane sourced from factory farms as a transportation fuel, and illegally disregards the disproportionate environmental and health impacts that dairy digesters inflict on low-income communities and communities of color.

Advocates suggest that instead of investing millions in a credit system that incentivizes factory farm expansion and the use of more polluting manure management practices, California should instead use its climate dollars to invest in renewable energy solutions that cut pollution in environmental justice communities. 

Members of the coalition released the following statements:

“Governor Newsom and CARB have rejected this opportunity to stop California’s flagship climate program from incentivizing and entrenching the factory farm industry and the hosts of harms that come along with it. CARB’s decision to keep factory farm gas in the Low Carbon Fuel Standard and kick the can down the road ensures that the program will remain fundamentally compromised and California will fall further behind its climate goals.” said Food & Water Watch Staff Attorney Tyler Lobdell.

“The California Air Resources Board’s decision to delay the rulemaking our petition asks for represents a failure to meet its environmental justice commitments. The continued development of factory farm gas schemes will only serve to entrench a system that illegally and disproportionately harms low-income communities and communities of color,” said Brent Newell, Senior Attorney at the Public Justice Food Project.

“Some of the largest and most polluting dairy operations in California may already be making more money from factory farm gas than they do from milk. This manure gold rush incentivizes factory farm expansion, which increases air and water pollution — not to mention increased odor and flies — in environmental justice communities, all while failing to address the impacts of climate-warming methane emissions. It’s extremely disappointing that California regulators have decided not to address with adequate urgency the significant deficiencies and injustices inherent in this particular pollution subsidy, as petitioners requested,” said Phoebe Seaton, co-executive director with Leadership Counsel. 

“Incentivizing factory farming and Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) — and rewarding the industry for the mass amounts of pollution it causes — is a dangerous position for The California Air Resources Board to take. It is vital that government agencies work toward solutions to the climate crisis — not exacerbate it,” said Cristina Stella, Managing Attorney with the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

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Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]

Dangerous Hog Slaughter Self-Inspection Program Should Be Stopped, Advocates Tell Court

Categories

Food System

National food-policy and consumer organizations filed a motion asking for a federal court to rule in a case that could have major ramifications for food safety.

The case, filed in 2020 (Center for Food Safety, et al. v. Sonny Perdue, No.4:20-cv-00256-JSW (N.D. Cal) ) concerns the implementation of the USDA’s New Swine Inspection System (NSIS), a Trump administration rule that greatly undermines the ability of federal inspectors to protect consumers from foodborne illnesses. 

In the brief to the US District Court for the Northern District of California, the Center for Food Safety, Food & Water Watch and the Humane Farming Association argue that the 2019 rules violate the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA), one of our country’s cornerstone food safety laws.

“The Trump administration implemented this outrageous self-policing initiative that hands over inspection duties to meat companies themselves — even though 48 million Americans get sick every year due to foodborne illness,” said Zach Corrigan, Senior Attorney for Food & Water Watch and lead counsel in the case. “Enough is enough. We are asking a federal court to throw out the unlawful rules the Biden administration continues to defend.”

The NSIS program relies in large part on meat company employees conducting inspections instead of government inspectors, a radical departure from long-established practice. The brief argues that this raises significant dangers to public health: for example, an examination of USDA data showed that the plants that had piloted the new system had significantly more regulatory violations for fecal and digestive matter on carcasses than traditional plants. Since the government projects widespread adoption of the NSIS rules (plants producing over 90 percent of the U.S. pork supply), these policies will greatly impact consumers.

“The powerful meat processing industry wants to turn back time to Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, but Congress required federal inspectors to ensure that meat processing is safe for the public,” said Amy van Saun, senior attorney with Center for Food Safety. “USDA’s new rules gut that assurance of safety and allow the fox to guard the henhouse.” 

“Turning over meat inspection duties to the regulated industry flies in the face of federal law and consumer safety,” said Bradley Miller, national director of the Humane Farming Association. “The Biden Administration’s refusal to reverse this Trump era rollback poses a significant danger to public health and animal welfare.”

The industry push for ‘self-regulation’ goes back decades, and in the 1990s the USDA began moving in that direction. This eventually led to the creation of a pilot program; 15 years later, government investigators found major problems, including lack of proper oversight and persistent regulatory violations. Whistleblower employees also came forward to document serious violations, and called for a halt to the program.

Despite these issues, USDA has continued to move forward with the NSIS program. As the filing documents, a Clemons Food Group plant in Coldwater, Michigan, was granted a waiver in 2017 so that it could begin to operate with these relaxed inspection rules. Despite a series of well-documented and serious problems, USDA decided to allow the plant to continue operating under the NSIS rules. 

The brief showed that employees in plants such as the one in Coldwater repeatedly could not perform newly assigned inspection tasks, such as slicing and feeling lymph nodes, that are  critical to identify animal conditions and diseases. These are tasks that are usually the responsibility of trained federal USDA inspectors. Employees in these plants also regularly missed fecal matter on carcasses, contamination that contains dangerous pathogens that can make people sick. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates that 48 million people suffer from foodborne illness each year, while 128,000 people are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from it.

The motion notes the widespread opposition to the NSIS rules. The vast majority of the over 80,000 comments filed on the program — from consumer groups, animal welfare groups, and dozens of members of Congress — were critical of the proposal. 

One State’s Faulty Energy Plan Is Incentivizing Pollution Nationwide — Biden Wants To Make It The National Model

Categories

Food System

California’s clean energy program is leading to the unprecedented growth of factory farm biogas facilities nationwide, an emerging sector of the fossil fuel industry that creates methane gas from factory farm pollution to inject straight into pipelines alongside fracked gas.  

The nascent industry has secured allies in high places, from California Governor Gavin Newsom to President Biden, whose USDA is set to unveil a plan to expand the flawed program. 

How “Renewable Natural Gas” (RNG) Props Up Polluters

Big Ag is teaming up with the fossil fuel industry to bail out their stranded fracked gas assets. The false climate solution they misleadingly call “renewable natural gas” (RNG) incentivizes the worst practices of the polluting industries. From pipelines to gas hookups in buildings, factory farm biogas keeps gas infrastructure on the grid and provides the rationale to build more. While industry touts RNG as a way to eventually supplant fossil fuel gas, the numbers tell a different story: This is an energy source that, at full potential, with 2019 data, accounts for just one percent of total natural gas use. At a time when we need to move off fossil fuels, factory farm biogas extends a lifeline to the fracked gas industry.

Biogas also drives polluting factory farm expansion, driving increased industry pollution and hampering efforts to transition our food and agriculture system away from emissions-intensive factory farming. Factory farm air pollution includes the release of ammonia, a smog-forming particle linked to more than 12,000 premature deaths annually — anaerobic digestion has been proven to concentrate the pollutant further. Further, the waste left over from the anaerobic digestion process is often land-applied, leaching harmful pollutants like nitrates into drinking water supplies, cropland and regional ecosystems.

How California Is Driving National Biogas Growth

In 2018, there was not a single factory farm biogas facility in California’s low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) program. Today, at least 66 facilities in nine states profit off the credit system. More than 30 large-scale projects are under construction explicitly to generate pipeline gas eligible to profit from the California program. 

California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) is the nation’s largest and most lucrative carbon credit system for factory farm biogas. Intended to incentivize the production and use of low-carbon fuel sources for the transportation sector, the LCFS determines credits based on the life cycle emissions of each energy source. Under the LCFS, factory farm biogas lifecycle emissions don’t include many of the greenhouse gas emissions attributable to factory farming, resulting in calculations that the fuel has a vastly lower emissions intensity than in reality. This faulty accounting attributes a greater supposed climate benefit to factory farm biogas that can be sold as a “credit”.

In his November Methane Emissions Reduction Action Plan, Biden charged his USDA with developing a plan which we anticipate will borrow language from California’s faulty LCFS. This threatens to extend the system’s faulty accounting nationwide, broadening the market and profit horizon for the polluting industry.

How Taxpayers’ Clean Energy Money Goes to Polluters

Factory farm biogas digesters need public funding to turn a profit. Unsubsidized and outside of a credit system, factory farm biogas costs between four and six times as much as fracked gas, per energy unit generated. With LCFS credits, digester facility operators can pay off their startup costs in no time — as much as a few years to profit, despite the hefty startup price tag, which ranges from $3-10 million.

Yet public money flows freely to the false solution. In his 2022 budget, California’s Governor Newsom directed $48 million to factory farm biogas facility development, and the facilities carry President Biden’s endorsement. Federal efforts to prop up the false solution of factory farm biogas spell disaster for our climate. Seeing lucrative public investment, tax credits and pollution trading programs like California’s LCFS, private investment in the biogas scam has tripled since 2017 to $1.6 billion.

Food & Water Watch is tracking the factory farm biogas industry’s growth nationwide, and is engaged both in local fights to stop these methane refineries, in legal action to stop the buildout, and organizing to ban factory farms federally and in states across the country. In October, we worked in coalition to file a petition calling on California to remove factory farm biogas from its LCFS.

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

Third Carbon Capture Pipeline Scam Proposed For Iowa

Categories

Food System

For Immediate Release

Today, news broke of plans to develop a third carbon capture pipeline in Iowa. The new project, proposed by Archer Daniel Midland and Wolf Carbon Solutions, marks the third carbon capture pipeline project proposed for Iowa. The efforts have garnered widespread resistance from thousands of impacted landowners and Iowans.

In response, Food & Water Watch Senior Iowa Organizer Emma Schmit issued the following statement:

“Carbon capture and storage is an unproven and unsound technology that will do nothing to mitigate the climate crisis — it’s an industry scam and distraction from the real work of reforming our agricultural and energy sectors to combat the looming climate emergency.

We envision an Iowa where communities work together to care for our land, climate and communities alike — carbon capture has no part in that future. We will continue our sustained resistance to these corporate fat cats looking to profit at our peril. We urge our state legislators to introduce legislation this session to put an end to this destructive profiteering, and keep carbon capture out of Iowa. It’s time to focus instead on the real solutions to our climate and agriculture crisis by stopping destructive, emissions-intensive agricultural practices from factory farming to monocropping and ethanol production.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

35 Groups Urge Governor Carney to Oppose Biogas Infrastructure Development in Delaware

Categories

Food System

For Immediate Release

Today, 35 groups from across the Delmarva region issued a letter to Governor Carney, urging his opposition to factory farm biogas infrastructure development moving forward in Delaware. The controversial Bioenergy DevCo biogas scheme in Sussex County currently seeking state permits will be the first facility of its kind in the state and region. Groups warn that the project is only the start of what could be a destructive regional industry buildout, if allowed unchecked.

Letter signatories cited a host of concerns with the Bioenergy DevCo biogas operation, including:

  • Traffic and the safety of public roads: The methane refinery Bioenergy DevCo has planned would bring at least 20,000 heavy-duty truck trips per year (or more than 50 every day) to local roads. A yet undisclosed number of the trucks added to local roads would be hauling explosive gas – sometimes called “truck bombs.” 
  • Air quality: Biogas facilities emit smog-forming nitrogen oxides, ammonia, and hydrogen sulfide. These chemicals are known to cause chronic lung disease and other respiratory ailments like asthma, and would directly affect health in nearby neighborhoods.
  • Water quality: The waste at biogas facilities inevitably seeps into the soil either through mismanagement at the site or land application to fields, and has the potential to poison local drinking water with nitrate contamination that is linked to birth defects, miscarriages, various cancers and blue baby syndrome.
  • Environmental justice: The community surrounding Bioenergy DevCo’s proposed biogas facility is home to people of color at almost twice the rate of Sussex County as a whole and home to people living in poverty at almost three times the rate of Sussex County as a whole. To place a dirty and dangerous industrial plant for the sole purpose of extracting gas (and generating profit) from slaughterhouse sludge in this community is simply unjust.

In the letter, groups requested that Governor Carney direct the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to reject Bioenergy DevCo’s sought-after permits and oppose all buildout of biogas infrastructure. Food & Water Watch Delaware Organizer Greg Layton said:

“Delaware is facing the crises of a destructively expansive factory farm poultry industry and the imminent doom of the climate crisis. As they always do, Big Ag is looking to profit off the situation by peddling a false solution in factory farm biogas. But make no mistake — factory farm biogas will do nothing to aid our poultry waste overload, and everything to further entrench both factory farms and fossil fuel infrastructure in our communities. Governor Carney must say no to Bioenergy DevCo and no to biogas.”

“Biogas is a threat not only to the environment, but to the health of the communities in which our members live and work,” said Javiel Nazario, UFCW Local 27 VP & Executive Asst. to the President. “We call on Governor Carney to oppose the buildout of biogas infrastructure in favor of safer, cleaner energy alternatives.”

“Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice (SDARJ), supports fellow environmental justice advocates and, therefore, opposes the construction of an anaerobic digestion system in Sussex County,” said SDARJ Chair Charlotte King. “The hazards associated with the proposed methane refinery site that have been shared with state agencies responsible for protecting the environment and the health of Delawareans, state and county legislators and residents, raise serious concerns that the project would import and concentrate massive quantities of pollutants, and would threaten local and regional water quality. In addition, given our mission, SDARJ is especially concerned about people of color who live near the proposed plant. As a matter of fact, in Seaford, Delaware, people of color make up about 32 percent of the population within the three-mile radius of the proposed anaerobic digester. Indeed, an extensive and expanding body of scientific evidence finds that people of color are located more often in communities that are exposed to disproportionately higher levels of pollution.”

“The Sierra Club Delaware Chapter strongly opposes this methane refinery in Sussex Co,” said Sherri Evans-Stanton, Sierra Club Delaware Chapter director. “The facility would send toxic chemicals in the air and would poison our local drinking water. This would result in significant increased health impacts. Additionally, the facility would be located next to some of our most vulnerable communities. Biogas is not a renewable energy and this project should be denied.”

“Factory farm gas or so called ‘biogas’ is a dirty energy with serious safety and health concerns for the minority communities where this project is being sited,” said Maria Payan, Socially Responsible Agriculture Project senior regional representative. “Furthermore, to represent this as an Environmental Justice solution for frontline communities is reprehensible. “

“The Community Housing & Empowerment Connections Inc. (CHEC) stands with Food & Water Watch and other nearby residents in Seaford in preventing Bioenergy DevCo’s project from moving forward. While there are a number of reasons why this project should not be located there, the primary one is that it’s harmful to people’s health,” said Penny Dryden, Community Housing & Environment Connections, Inc. Executive Director. “Low income communities of color already face higher pollution burdens than their more affluent and whiter neighbors, as highlighted in our 2017 EJ for Delaware report. The placement of dirty digesters in these communities is unjust, detrimental to health and will only exacerbate the existing environmental hazards facing these vulnerable communities in Sussex County Delaware. CHEC Inc. urges the governor and all other public officials to put the people above profits and reject this project.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]

Food & Water Watch v. United States Environmental Protection Agency

Categories

Food SystemClean Water

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a long history of failing to adequately regulate factory farms under the Clean Water Act. That’s why Food & Water Watch and Snake River Waterkeeper filed suit against the EPA in the federal Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit for issuing a permit for Idaho factory farms that contained essentially no pollution monitoring, as required by the Clean Water Act. And we won, with the Court sending the permit back to EPA to add monitoring because there was no way to know whether a factory farm was violating the Clean Water Act without monitoring in place.

This National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) General Permit is meant to ensure that factory farms comply with pollution restrictions that protect waterways for recreation, fishing, wildlife, and other uses. In Idaho alone, there are several hundred factory farms that produce vast quantities of pollutants like E.coli, nitrogen, phosphorus, pharmaceuticals, and heavy metals. This industry, which has largely avoided any regulation by federal environmental laws, has contributed to the 2,000 miles of streams and rivers that are now considered impaired by pollutants commonly associated with factory farm waste. The Clean Water Act is meant to control this kind of pollution from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs, or factory farms) and other “point source” dischargers, and that system relies on the monitoring that factory farm permits habitually lack across the country.

The lack of monitoring problem is pervasive across Clean Water Act permits for factory farms, and this case dispels the myth that it’s okay for regulators to just assume compliance with our bedrock water protection laws.

While this is an Idaho-specific permit and an important win on the path to accountability in the state, the Court’s ruling should also have national impact. The lack of monitoring problem is pervasive across Clean Water Act permits for factory farms, and this case dispels the myth that it’s okay for regulators to just assume compliance with our bedrock water protection laws.

Following this critical win, we will continue fighting for stronger regulation and enforcement across the country to protect our rivers, lakes, and streams from factory farm pollution.

We don’t shy away from the right fights. Make a donation today to fund work like this in the future!

7. Farms vs. factory farms

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Food System

Farms vs. factory farms

See the difference between independent farms and factory farms.

Take a tour on our site Farm Vs. Factory to see how they compare.

The Economic Cost of Food Monopolies: The Grocery Cartels

Categories

PDFFood System

IA Landowner Names Impacted by Carbon Pipelines Must be Public, Legal Filing States