Humanity received a stark warning this week. The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was released on August 9, 2021 and it was a grave moment of recognition for those who are paying attention to climate change. Like previous reports, but in more urgent and clear terms, the scientific report was a devastating account of the impact of fossil fuels on our climate, and what the future holds if we do not radically shift course.
While the key messages from the report are far from new (scientists have been warning about the impact of human activity on the climate for generations), the urgency of the writing and call to action — as we are in the midst of climate change supercharged fires, droughts, extreme heat, and an impending hurricane season — was more clear than ever.
As the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said, the report “is a code red for humanity. The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk.”
The report is long and detailed — the summary version alone is 42 pages — with lots of interesting, devastating, and somewhat depressing scientific reality. Ultimately, though, that reality shows us why we must act now. Here are five key takeaways you should know about.
1. Climate Change is Here, Escalating, and Being Driven by Fossil Fuels
The report lays out in great detail the scientific consensus that not only have fossil fuels driven the climate crisis, but that because of the tremendous amount of carbon pumped into the atmosphere, 1.5 degrees of warming is already a certainty, regardless of what policies we enact. According to the report, “many changes due to past and future greenhouse gas emissions are irreversible for centuries to millennia, especially changes in the ocean, ice sheets and global sea level.”
This does not mean action is futile — to the contrary the report highlights how much worse things will get if we continue on our present course and how much destruction will be avoided if we make major changes now. But in the short term, droughts, fires, extreme heat, and other climate impacts will continue to increase. As climate scientist Michael Mann said in response to the report, “Bottom line is that we have zero years left to avoid dangerous climate change, because it’s here.”
2. Methane in Particular is A Key Driver of Climate Chaos
In addition to the need to dramatically reduce carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere, the report also focused on the need to slash methane emissions. Methane is the core component of natural gas and as a greenhouse gas is 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide over a 20 year period. Fracking and factory farms have been key drivers of methane increases — it’s no coincidence that these are the two bans we’ve been calling for nationally.
Food & Water Watch has been warning about the impact of methane from fracking and fracked gas infrastructure for years and the IPCC concurred. According to the report, “strong, rapid and sustained reductions in CH4 (methane) emissions” would help limit warming and improve air quality.
As IPCC report reviewer Durwood Zaelke told Reuters, “cutting methane is the single biggest and fastest strategy for slowing down warming.”
3. We Can Still Avoid the Worst Impacts of Runaway Climate change, But We Must Act Now
Despite the bleak outlook, the report does have one silver lining and that is if we act now — and act boldly — we can still avoid a much worse climate future, which will make a tremendous difference in how livable our planet is and in the lives of millions of people.
According to the report, “with every additional increment of global warming, changes in extremes continue to become larger.” We have a chance to significantly limit warming if we act now to rein in fossil fuels. It will make the difference between 1.5 degrees of warming and 4.4 degrees. In practical terms, this will mean significantly less drought, extreme weather, fires, flooding, and overall destruction.
4. We Must Immediately Stop Subsidizing the Fossil Fuel Industry and Halt New Fracking, Pipelines and Other Fossil Fuel Infrastructure
There is a clear path back from the climate cliff, but it will entail bold action at every level of government. It will mean we stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industry, ban fracking, halt new fossil fuel power plants, pipelines, and other fossil fuel infrastructure, ban factory farms and transition away from industrial agriculture, and make bold investments in renewable energy, regional sustainable agriculture, and invest to make our water systems, housing, and other infrastructure climate resilient.
Meaningfully taking on and dismantling the fossil fuel industry as we transition to a 100% renewable energy system must be a core focus. As the United Nations Secretary General said on the release of the report, “This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet. There must be no new coal plants built after 2021… Countries should also end all new fossil fuel exploration and production, and shift fossil fuel subsidies into renewable energy.”
5. Biden Must Take Bold Action to Lead Us Back From the Climate Cliff
The climate crisis requires bold leadership. The United States has been responsible for more emissions than any other country on earth and is the largest economy in the world. President Biden could use his platform and executive powers as President of the United States to rally the global community to take on this crisis head on.
He could look at the science and call for an immediate halt to new fossil fuel projects, he could call for an immediate ban on fracking to tackle the methane issue head on, and he could lead a quick and immediate transition away from fossil fuels.
Unfortunately, President Biden, despite calling climate change an existential threat, continues to advance half measures and in many cases continues to approve oil and gas projects. We have been tracking the moves by his administration and they include approving massive amounts of fracking and drilling permits, backing the dirty and destructive Dakota Access and Line 3 pipelines, promoting fracked gas exports, and supporting a project in Alaska that will produce 100,000 barrels of oil a day for 30 years.
Taking action against these projects does not require congressional approval. They are all within President Biden’s executive authority.
The day the report was released, Biden tweeted, “We can’t wait to tackle the climate crisis. The signs are unmistakable. The science is undeniable. And the cost of inaction keeps mounting.” We couldn’t agree more. President Biden needs to lead with his actions and it’s up to us to compel him to do it.
Your friends need to see this and we all need to demand more of President Biden.
The idea of using technology to take carbon out of the air may at first blush sound like an attractive solution to our escalating climate crisis. But if you examine the details, the carbon capture “solution” is a mirage.
Betting on carbon capture as a primary solution to the climate crisis is essentially the same as giving up. The only solution is to rapidly transition to 100% renewable energy in combination with energy efficiency and a less energy-intensive food system.
Recently, carbon capture has been getting a lot of attention. It is a centerpiece of the oil and gas industry’s greenwashing efforts, the White House includes it as part of its climate agenda, and even some progressive media figures have promoted carbon capture and encouraged the left to embrace it as a so-called solution.
But as attractive as it may sound in theory, there are many good reasons to reject this failed energy-intensive so-called solution. Carbon capture will lock us into decades more of fossil fuels, is not feasible at scale, and diverts money and political attention from the real, bold solutions we need.
Here are five reasons embracing carbon capture is a fool’s errand.
1. Carbon Capture is an Expensive Failure
After billions of dollars in public and private investments over decades, there are no carbon capture success stories — only colossal failures. One of the largest was the Petra Nova coal plant in Texas, once the poster child for CO2 removal. But the plant consistently underperformed, before it finally closed for good last year. Another high-profile example — the San Juan Generating Station in New Mexico, touted as the largest capture project in the world — may already be headed to a similar fate.
Between 2005 and 2012, the DOE spent $6.9 billion attempting to demonstrate the feasibility of CCS for coal, but little came of this investment, and between 2014 and 2016, less than 4 percent of the planned CCS capacity was deployed. The Biden administration wants to shift its focus to carbon capture for gas-fired power plants, but there’s no reason to think the outcome will be any different.
2. Carbon Capture is Energy Intensive
Running a carbon capture system is incredibly energy-intensive — it essentially requires building a new power plant to run the system, which would create another new source of air and carbon pollution. That undermines the whole goal of capturing carbon in the first place. While our country emits roughly 5 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere every year, removing 1 billion tons of that through direct air capture would require nearly the entire electricity output of the United States.
It’s also important to consider the scale of what would be needed. The Energy Department recently announced $12 million to fund ‘direct air capture’ projects and touted the possible removal of 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. To put this in perspective, the largest corporate polluter in 2018 was responsible for releasing 119 million tons of CO2 equivalent — and that’s only one of them.
3. Carbon Capture Actually Increases Emissions
A recent review of relevant research shows that due to the large amount of energy required to power carbon capture and the life cycle of fossil fuels, carbon capture in this country has actually put more CO2 into the atmosphere than it has removed.
That’s not an accident. To the extent that there are successful capture projects, they exist at facilities where the carbon is injected into existing wells in order to extract more oil — a practice known as ‘enhanced oil recovery.’ While an oil company CEO might argue that doubling down on fossil fuels is an effective climate solution, the planet begs to differ.
4. Storage Presents Significant Risks
There are also other significant risks related to the disposal and storage of carbon. Well failure during injection or a blowout could result in a release of large amounts of CO2; storage locations can leak CO2, as they are located close to fossil fuel reservoirs, where oil and gas wellbores provide a pathway for CO2 to escape to the surface. Those storage leaks could contaminate groundwater and soil; and injection of CO2 could cause earthquakes, which have already been measured at injection sites.
As Friends of the Earth noted recently, when a CO2 pipeline in a majority Black community in Mississippi ruptured last year, residents had to seek medical treatment, and the incident killed local plants and wildlife.
5. Carbon Capture Trades Off with Other Critical Solutions
Wishful thinking about carbon capture isn’t just an ineffective response to the climate crisis — it’s dangerous. We have a small window where we can take the bold action needed to avert runaway climate chaos; counting on carbon capture’s effectiveness squanders the opportunity to enact actual emissions reductions (a phenomenon known as “mitigation deterrence”).
The reason that the oil and gas industry loves carbon capture is simple: It extends the fossil fuel era instead of ending it. Already, dirty energy companies are pitching the construction of new pipelines and fracked gas power plants and making totally empty promises about their ability to install capture technology to make them ‘clean.’ If carbon capture continues to fail to work, it doesn’t matter much to the company running the dirty power plant; they will just continue on with business as usual.
So long as fossil fuel companies, government officials, and even some progressive advocates are being fooled by carbon capture, there will be less pressure to actually stop climate pollution by putting an end to drilling and fracking and creating the political will needed for a rapid and just transition to 100% renewable energy.
President Biden has promised to address the climate crisis, which he has called the “existential threat of our times.”
His administration claims to be pushing to achieve carbon-free power by 2035, and has set a goal of having a “net zero” economy by the year 2050. And he repeatedly vowed that he would stop fracking on public lands: “No more fracking on public lands. Period. Period.”
And when Biden signed his climate-focused executive orders in January, he declared: “It’s not time for small measures. We need to be bold.”
But do his administration’s words and actions meet his promises? In short, no. We have receipts and we’ll keep tracking them — check them out below.
During a Senate confirmation hearing, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm argued that fossil fuels aren’t going anywhere: “If we are going to get to net carbon zero emissions by 2050, we cannot do it without coal, oil, and gas being part of the mix.”
When announcing his executive order on public lands drilling, Biden declared:
“Let me be clear, and I know this always comes up: We’re not going to ban fracking.”
Joe, we already know you don’t support a ban on fracking. You should.
In written answers submitted as part of her Senate confirmation hearings, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm promotes the export of fracked gas as a clean energy solution:
“I believe U.S. LNG exports can have an important role to play in reducing international consumption of fuels that have greater contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.”
Swapping one form of dirty energy for another is not progress.
Tell the Biden Administration that our future MUST be fracking-free. Our existence depends on it.
E&E News reports on an Oval Office meeting with labor leaders, one of whom recounts their conversation:
“I brought up natural gas specifically to him, we spoke about pipelines … and he says, ‘I’m all for natural gas.'”
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm touts the potential of carbon capture — a false solution that only perpetuates dirty energy and fossil fuel profits:
“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said that you can’t get to net-zero carbon emissions without carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS). We are excited about that. Obviously, it’s still nascent technology in capturing CO2 emissions, but we’ve got to do it on all types of fuel, if we’re going to get to net zero. I’m really excited about it, especially for communities in transition. You think of Appalachia, for example: They have coal; they have natural gas. Those workers, if they’re interested, could shift skills to be able to do installation of this technology. The CO2 pipelines that will be necessary for it could put lots of people to work, so I think it’s a big job opportunity, I think it’s a big carbon reduction opportunity, and we’re going to be bullish about it.”
Many billions have been spent on carbon capture — with essentially zero to show for it. The only people more excited to tout CCUS are the fossil fuel corporations who use it in their greenwashing ads.
Despite his vow to rein in fracking on public lands, Argus Media reports that the Biden Interior Department “has approved 200 drilling permits over the past two weeks… The surge in activity brings the number of approved drilling permits to 229 since Biden took office.”
Reports surface that White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy met privately with oil industry representatives to discuss “shared priorities.” The White House declined to provide a list of the attendees, but did explain that McCarthy “made clear that the Administration is not fighting the oil and gas sector,” and asked the oil industry representatives to present “ideas for addressing the climate crisis and reducing emissions.”
Climate envoy John Kerry tells a finance group:
“No government is going to solve this problem…The solutions are going to come from the private sector.”
He added: “What the government needs to do is create a framework within which the private sector can do what it does best, which is allocate capital and innovate.”
Kerry was also quoted as saying, “I think we’re on the cusp of a massive transformation… And ultimately, the market is going to make the decisions, not the government.”
Of course, decisions made by the market are what created the problem in the first place.
In a court filing, Biden’s Army Corps of Engineers re-affirms its opposition to shutting down the controversial oil pipeline while a court-ordered environmental review is underway. In response, Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman said, “It’s baffling that when it comes to the Dakota Access Pipeline, Biden’s Army Corps is standing in the way of justice for Standing Rock by opposing a court order to shut down this infrastructure while environmental and safety consequences are fully evaluated.”
The Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management are appealing a court ruling that found the government failed to adequately assess the environmental impacts of issuing new fracking leases in Wayne National Forest in Ohio. Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity told Reuters:
“There’s a wide and dangerous chasm between the Biden administration’s climate rhetoric and its defense of unlawful fracking.”
“We want to be a partner. And first, let me be clear, in our position as a global supplier of crude oil and natural gas and other forms of energy, that traditional fossil energy is going to remain important, even as we work to reduce carbon emissions.”
Under the headline “Biden’s Drilling Moratorium Is Not A Moratorium,” the Daily Poster reports:
“the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management has already broken Biden’s campaign promise by approving more than five hundred new drilling permits for previously existing leases since Biden took office.”
According to E&E News, the Interior Department has “issued dozens of oil leases sold in the final weeks of the Trump administration — and could issue over 200 more — drawing the ire of an environmental group that argues the move is a violation of the Biden administration’s leasing freeze.”
Jeremy Nichols of the group WildEarth Guardians told the outlet that a lawsuit is “definitely on the table.”
E&E News reports:
The Biden administration yesterday advanced a proposal for oil and gas exploration on the back steps of the Dinosaur National Monument, sparking criticism from Utah public land advocates.
The permits were approved two years ago, but thanks to pressure from environmental groups the Trump administration remanded them for additional environmental analysis.
The Biden administration is defending a huge Trump-era oil and gas project in the North Slope of Alaska designed to produce more than 100,000 barrels of oil a day for the next 30 years, despite President Biden’s pledge to pivot the country away from fossil fuels.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm visited a hydrogen facility in Texas to promote fossil fuels:
“We want to be able to promote and sell clean technologies… That could be natural gas that has been decarbonized, or that could be natural gas where the methane flaring has been eliminated.”
This rhetoric is basically indistinguishable from industry PR.
According to statistics from the Bureau of Land Management, from the start of February to the end of April, the administration approved 1,179 drilling permits on federal lands, not far from the four-year high of nearly 1,400 approved over a similar three-month period at the end of Trump’s term.
While national media cover a series of intense grassroots actions demanding that the White House stop the Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline in Minnesota, the administration studiously refuses to comment. Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that a group of oil executives was having a private meeting at the White House with climate advisor Gina McCarthy.
Speaking at a nuclear industry conference, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm calls nuclear power “an absolutely critical part of our decarbonization equation” and touts the administration’s nearly $2 billion nuclear power budget request. “The administration is ready to walk the walk,” she added.
“Advanced nuclear holds so much potential,” she said, adding that she envisions small nuclear reactors working with renewables and carbon capture as part of a zero-carbon grid of the future.
The Washington Examiner reports that Andrew Light — Biden’s nominee to be the deputy assistant secretary for international affairs at the Energy Department — wants to see more fracked gas exports:
“My job in this role is to make sure U.S. gas is competitive around the world…Russia has the dirtiest source of gas right now. We’ve got to make sure ours is cleaner and that ours fill those markets around the world. That’s what I intend to do.”
He added that he seeks to make the United States the leaders in “abated natural gas technology around the world.” Fracking without the pollution — what a concept. Too bad it’s fiction.
Gizmodo reports that the administration is nominating Neil MacBride for Treasury general counsel — who recently sued the Treasury Department on behalf of Exxon.
Reporting from a G7 summit focused on climate action, Politico reports that the Biden administration helped to block more forceful action on phasing out coal:
“The Biden administration — fixated on cultivating the Democrats’ razor-thin Senate majority and the coal mining sympathies of West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin — was wary of any language specifically clamping down on coal.”
The Energy Department announced $12 million to fund ‘direct air capture’ projects, which it touted as a chance to remove 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. DAC is a highly expensive and mostly theoretical enterprise, but to put this in perspective, the largest corporate polluter in 2018 was responsible for 119 million tons of CO2 equivalent.
Speaking about the White House’s vision for a clean energy standard, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said that fracked gas would qualify if paired with some form of carbon capture:
“I think that if you combined natural gas with carbon removal so that it was really clean and that you had zero carbon emissions.”
There is no such technology to remove emissions from gas power plants. And even if it did exist, that would still leave all of the other associated problems with fracking — methane leakage, water contamination and pollution at the well sites — as well as the other air pollutants created by gas-fired power plants.
At a House committee hearing, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland told lawmakers,
“I don’t think there is a plan right now for a permanent ban” on oil and gas drilling on public lands. Those comments directly contradict Biden’s repeated promises to ban fracking on public lands.
Haaland added that “gas and oil production will continue well into the future.”
A growing, powerful grassroots movement is demanding that President Biden stop the Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline under construction in Minnesota. The White House responds by filing a brief backing the Trump administration’s approval of the project. The Justice Department, as Gizmodo reported, “asked the court to reject any more arguments from environmental and Indigenous groups and allow the pipeline to move forward.”
The case, brought by Earthjustice on behalf of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe and the Red Lake Band of Chippewa, seeks to challenge a US Army Corps of Engineers water permit. As Tara Houska of Giniw Collective put it, “This is a horrific failure of the government’s duty to tribal nations, to climate science, to the sacred.”
In an interview with Bloomberg TV, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm boasts that the White House support for “significant” carbon capture research funding is good news:
“These kinds of technologies will help for the oil and gas sector to be able to ramp up production, but in a way that’s clean.”
This is welcome news for the fossil fuel industry — which loves to tout carbon capture as a climate solution, even though there’s basically no such thing. Granholm is correct that this could easily ramp up oil and gas drilling — which is the opposite of what we should be doing right now.
The White House Council on Environmental Quality submits a report to Congress laying out the ways it could support the fossil fuel industry’s carbon capture plans. The report envisions an array of options, including efforts to streamline permitting for carbon storage facilities and new pipelines.
White House national climate advisor Gina McCarthy released a memo that was intended to demonstrate the Biden administration’s commitment to its climate and clean energy goals. But the memo actually does the opposite. Instead of explicitly supporting a bonafide standard for clean, renewable energy, the memo touts the leveraging of ‘market signals’ and other technocratic rhetoric that is decades out of date.
According to a report from Bloomberg Government, a draft of a long-awaited White House report on fracking on public lands “falls short of the outright ban,” promised during the campaign, and will only recommend changes to the royalty rates paid by drillers and other minor tweaks. Increasing royalty rates for drilling only entrenches our dependence on fossil fuels.
The Associated Press reports that “approvals for companies to drill for oil and gas on U.S. public lands are on pace this year to reach their highest level since George W. Bush was president.” The Interior Department approved about 2,500 permits to drill on public and tribal lands in the first six months of the year — more than 2,100 drilling approvals since Biden took office on Jan. 20.
DeSmog publishes a lengthy investigation into Obama Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz’s blueprint to build a massive new network of carbon dioxide pipelines, a plan that is being promoted within the Biden administration, with Deputy Energy Secretary Dave Turk appearing at the launch event to offer supportive commentary.
As DeSmog notes, building a vast array of new pipelines and storage facilities will be a boon to fossil fuel polluters “by enabling aging coal-fired power plants to remain in service longer, produce pipes that could wind up carrying fossil fuels if carbon capture efforts fall through, and represent an expensive waste of federal funds intended to encourage a meaningful energy transition.”
Nonetheless, the report impressed Turk who said the report “is incredibly helpful to show that we need to do more from the DOE side, other agencies, and Congress.” Turk added that the administration was pushing for billions of dollars to fund carbon capture: So we’ve got some tools on the table right now at the Department of Energy but we’re really hoping and it’s encouraging to see the bipartisan support for CCUS up on the Hill.”
Climate envoy John Kerry gives a speech in London where he endorses the argument that we do not need to build any new fossil fuel infrastructure — which is a welcome message indeed. But he also endorsed some much less worthwhile ideas:
“We’ll also need to develop the equivalent of installing the largest carbon capture storage facility currently in operation, but we have to do that every 9 days through 2030.”
Given that such facilities basically do not exist, we shouldn’t be building a new one every week or so. This kind of carbon capture rhetoric exists to lengthen the life of fossil fuel corporations, instead of ending the dirty energy era.
In an E & E News piece about how Biden’s EPA still does not have a clear policy on regulating power plant emissions, climate adviser Gina McCarthy applauds the utility industry’s various ‘net zero’ plans and voluntary emissions reduction goals (which critics have derided for being weak).
“They’re doing it because they’re good capitalists … They know where the money is. They know where the future is.”
E&E News/Politico reports that the White House is doing favors for a major coal operator:
“The Biden administration this spring cut the royalty fees a mining company is required to pay on coal dug up at two major operations on public land in the West, an Interior Department database shows.”
The requests came last year for two of the company’s mines. The report suggests the Biden administration slashed the royalty rate to 2% at the Coal Creek mine in Wyoming. Arch did not comment on the decision, but the company’s latest earnings report showed them posting a net income of $30 million in the second quarter.
Another coal company — Peabody — is awaiting word on its own application for royalty relief from the Biden administration.
The Intercept reports that the White House-backed Senate infrastructure plan “would make fossil fuel companies eligible for at least $25 billion in new subsidies, according to an analysis by the Center for International Environmental Law.” That total does not include the existing $15 billion in fossil fuel subsidies, and would serve to lay the groundwork for a major expansion of polluting petrochemical facilities.
E & E Daily reports that the Biden administration remains steadfast boosters of carbon capture. Speaking at an industry roundtable event, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm reiterates that the White House-backed infrastructure plan could “kick carbon capture development and deployment into high gear.” She adds that the White House is looking to “turbocharge” carbon capture and “press hard on the accelerator.” Secretary Granholm touts carbon capture as a way to involve the “fossil energy communities that have powered this nation for over a century,” and went on to say, “Once we can get these technologies out of the lab and into the real world, it will be a game-changer for the climate.”
The problem is that carbon capture has been in the ‘real world’ for a long time — and the dismal results speak for themselves. Carbon capture isn’t a ‘game changer’ at all, and any climate policy that relies heavily on its success should be considered game over.
Just 2 days after the release of a IPCC climate report that urges an immediate shift away from fossil fuels, the White House announced that it is calling on OPEC+ nations to increase oil production.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki is asked this question:
“How does this White House square a push for OPEC — or Saudi Arabia — to increase production of oil, which is a fossil fuel, with your climate change agenda, which is basically to get away from fossil fuels?”
“Well, first I’d say that experts have consistently debunked the notion that efforts we’re undertaking to transition to net zero by 2050 and a clean power sector by 2035 are related to domestic production at home. I would just note. I know that wasn’t exactly your question, but I wanted to get that in there.”
Whatever the intent, It’s nonetheless revealing that the White House seems to be saying that domestic production of fossil fuels can continue no matter what. ‘Net zero’ goals mean very little if the administration does not plan to rein in the production of dirty energy.
The Guardian reports on new research, co-authored by Food & Water Watch board member and Cornell professor Robert Howarth, which shows that the Biden-backed plan to promote so-called ‘blue hydrogen’ will produce climate pollution on par with burning coal. The production of blue hydrogen relies on splitting gas into hydrogen and carbon dioxide, with the goal of capturing that CO2. But this process releases substantial methane, and will require an enormous amount of energy. As Howarth puts it, “Blue hydrogen is a nice marketing term that the oil and gas industry is keen to push but it’s far from carbon free.” The Biden-backed infrastructure plan would devote $8 billion to supporting this fossil fuel-friendly technology.
Max Moran writesin the American Prospect about President Biden’s decision to appoint Amos Hochstein as the State Department’s senior adviser for energy security. As Moran writes, this could be a re-run of Hochstein’s role in the Obama administration:
“Back then, his title was ‘Special Envoy for International Energy Affairs,’ but his actual job was essentially to be the point man for securing American access to foreign oil fields. Hochstein’s devotion to planet-killing fuels hasn’t wavered in the years since: He spent all four of the Trump years as a marketing executive for Tellurian, a fossil gas company.”
The White House announced that it will appeal a federal judge’s decision to block the administration’s pause on new oil and gas leases on public lands. But in the meantime, the Interior Department will issue new leases as the legal case unfolds. Politico sums up the shift with the headline “Unpausing the Pause.” In a statement, House Natural Resources Chair Raúl Grijalva says, “Holding more lease sales under today’s outdated standards is economically wasteful and environmentally destructive, and everyone not sitting in a fossil fuel boardroom knows it.”
The White House announces that it will use its power at the World Bank and other multilateral development banks to vote down financing plans for fossil fuel projects. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellin says these are “bold, proactive steps to address the climate crisis,” but the policy includes numerous exceptions. Carbon capture projects could still be financed, and The Hill reports that “the guidance said that the administration will oppose financing production, but may support its transportation and distribution.” These details led Friends of the Earth International Policy Campaigner Luisa Galvao to say, “The Treasury guidance leaves loopholes for continued fossil fuel financing that are so big, you can drive an LNG ship through them.”
Jeff St. John digs into the details of the Senate infrastructure plan for Canary Media and finds some alarming cuts to clean energy funding. While the White House had initially touted $73 billion for grid upgrades and transmission, a subsequent fact sheet pegged that funding at $65 billion to ”facilitate the expansion of renewable energy.” But that total is misleading, since it includes billions for nuclear power, carbon capture and hydrogen. The actual funding for new transmission is closer to $2.5 billion — a small fraction of what will be necessary to achieve the administration’s stated clean energy goals.
White House climate advisor Gina McCarthy is asked about the role of fracked gas in the administration’s energy plan, and she gives this response:
“The president’s plan is an all-of-the-above’ strategy and we are looking at every opportunity, of course, to get renewable energy into the marketplace as fast as we can but we are not picking and choosing winners. We are investing in every winner we can find.”
When it comes to climate action, leadership requires making choices. Fracked gas is a loser.
The Biden administration announces that it will undertake a review of the federal policies that govern the leasing of public lands for coal extraction, similar to the review of the oil and gas leasing program they launched shortly after taking office. But as the Washington Post reports, the administration will not put the coal program on hold in the meantime:
“While previous reviews of the federal coal program under Presidents Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan and Richard M. Nixon resulted in pauses on leasing, the Biden administration will continue to hold coal auctions and issue permits.”
E&E News reports that the Biden administration has once again slashed royalty rates for a coal company. This time around the break went to the Deseret Power Electric Cooperative company, to help with production at one of its Colorado mines. While underground mines typically pay an 8 percent royalty rate, Biden’s Bureau of Land Management agreed to a 2 percent rate. Jeremy Nichols of WildEarth Guardians tells E & E that the move “highlights the economic lunacy of the federal coal program and the shameful willingness of the Bureau of Land Management to bend over backward to give the coal industry handouts.”
Reuters take note of the Biden administration announcement that it
“would take steps to restart the federal oil and gas leasing program in the next week and plans to hold a Gulf of Mexico auction as soon as October.”
In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm is asked if the administration’s clean energy standard would allow for “high efficiency natural gas plants without carbon capture systems — something oil lobbyists are pushing for — in that program.”
“You can incentivize utilities to do natural gas with carbon capture. That would be clean. But for no carbon capture and allowing methane to be flared, that would not be incentivized.”
In reality, neither option is ‘clean.’ Gas-fired power plants equipped with carbon capture — which do not exist, despite heavy subsidies and years of research — would still require new fracking wells and new pipelines, which will all result in new methane emissions. And capture technologies do not address any other air pollution linked to power plants.
The Interior Department announces a massive sale of leases in the Gulf of Mexico. According to Reuters, the 90 million acres could yield “up to 1.1 billion barrels of crude oil and 4.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.” To add insult to injury, the administration’s announcement found that the climate threat of this new drilling “does not present sufficient cause” to revise the Trump administration’s environmental analysis of the offshore drilling leases.
Earthjustice files suit against the plan, arguing that the plan violates federal law by failing to account for the greenhouse gas emissions associated with all of this new drilling. As the Center for Biological Diversity points out,“The environmental analysis of the proposed sale relies on improper modeling to conclude that not having the lease sale will result in more greenhouse gases.”
The Energy Department announces the nomination of Brad Crabtree as Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy and Carbon Management. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm calls Crabtree “one of the nation’s top practitioners on carbon capture and storage and carbon utilization,” and the department’s press release touts his role as Vice President for Carbon Management at the Great Plains Institute (GPI), where he “helped launch the State Carbon Capture Work Group, a 16-state initiative… to foster commercial deployment of carbon capture and CO2 transport infrastructure.”
Carbon capture has quickly become one of the industry’s most popular talking points, as dirty energy corporations look for ways to fool the public into thinking they care about the climate crisis. The White House appears determined to help them.
The White House announces that it will nominate Willie L. Phillips to fill the vacancy at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), an agency that wields enormous power over approving new fossil fuel infrastructure projects. Phillips, who currently serves as chairman of the Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia, has worked for electric utility giants and the oil and gas industry.
Climate and community groups actively campaigning for a climate champion at the agency were disappointed. As Food & Water Watch’s Mitch Jones says, “Unfortunately, nothing in Phillips’ career thus far has shown that he will be that champion; in fact, quite the opposite.”
Tell the Biden Administration that our future MUST be fracking-free. Our existence depends on it.
Last week, a startup made headlines by claiming it is developing a vaccine that provides domestic honeybees with immunity towards a group of pesticides called organophosphates. The company wants to market the product as a solution to honeybee colony collapse.
Was this an early gift for National Pollinator Week? Hardly. At Food & Water Watch, we know that to truly protect bees from lethal pesticides, the duty falls on our legislators and regulators — not our beekeepers. Moreover, we need to systematically reform our food and farming systems, if we have any hope of saving our precious pollinators. This is why we support legislation like the Saving America’s Pollinators Act. It is also why we are fighting for a just transition to regional, sustainable food systems.
The Humble Honeybee Isn’t The Only Threatened Pollinator
Honeybees often come to mind when we think of pollinators. But did you know there are more than 100,000 species of animals across the globe that pollinate flowering plants? In fact, the vast majority of crops we eat are not pollinated by domesticated honeybees but by other wildlife, ranging from wild bees and moths to hummingbirds and fruit bats. We need to safeguard all of these unsung heroes that make it possible for us to eat.
Pesticides are just one threat facing pollinators. Climate change is another. Extreme weather destroys plants that pollinators depend on. It also disrupts the timing of plant flowering and the migration patterns of pollinators. Last year, the number of monarch butterflies that over-wintered in Mexico fell by a quarter from the previous year. Our government’s refusal to take bold action on climate change is threatening the survival of monarchs and other pollinators.
Our farming systems are also destroying vital pollinator habitat. Industrial practices like monocropping and chemical pesticide spraying reduce biodiversity. Over the past few decades, the U.S. significantly expanded its corn and soy acreage, mostly for non-food uses like ethanol and livestock feed. This took more land out of conservation reserve, reducing pollinator habitat. And nearly all of these corn and soybean acres are GMO varieties resistant to glyphosate (Roundup) herbicides. Glyphosate use is linked to steep declines in milkweed and other plant species crucial to pollinator survival.
Only a System-Wide Approach Will Save Our Pollinators
First, we can pass the Saving America’s Pollinators Act, reintroduced this week. The bill would immediately cancel the registration of neonicotinoids, a group of pesticides that are lethal to bees. It would also direct the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to create a Pollinator Protection Board. The Board would independently review pesticides for their threats to pollinators and their habitats, and monitor pollinator populations. That way, we can ensure that no harmful pesticides make it into the field in the first place.
Second, we need bold solutions to the climate crisis, including ending fossil fuel subsidies and transitioning to 100 percent clean and renewable energy by 2030. We cannot hope to protect pollinators if we do not address this imminent threat to all species’ survival.
Finally, Food & Water Watch is advocating for a radical transformation of our food and farming systems, to reduce climate emissions and promote biodiversity. We need to reestablish supply management for commodity crops, to stop the overproduction of corn and soy and end the glut of cheap grain that props up factory farms. We need to realign our farm safety net so that it encourages the adoption of regenerative practices that return biodiversity to the farm. Diverse, integrated crop-and-livestock operations will eliminate the need for pesticides while providing vital habitat for pollinators and other wildlife.We have the blueprints for making this transition happen. Help us celebrate National Pollinator Week by joining with us in demanding bold action to save our bees and other pollinators.
Of all the dark truths the pandemic has exposed about our society and food system, meatpacking companies’ greed and shocking disregard for workers’ health and safety makes our blood boil the most. And one corporation, in particular, has repeatedly and egregiously lied to the public throughout the crisis to protect its bottom line: Smithfield Foods.
Food & Water Watch Sues Smithfield For Misleading Claims
At the height of the pandemic, slaughterhouses became ground zero for massive COVID-19 outbreaks. Thousands of meatpacking workers across the country contracted the virus — in some cases, even forcing plants to temporarily shut down. The crisis not only exposed the vulnerability of a food system controlled by a few powerful and highly consolidated corporations, but also accelerated nationwide transmission of the virus.
Enough is enough. Last week, Food & Water Watch brought suit against the multinational meat processing company on behalf of the general public for its violations of the District of Columbia’s consumer protection law, which prohibits corporate bad actors from lying to consumers for profit. Our Executive Director Wenonah Hauter explains why:
“Corporations like Smithfield routinely choose profit over people. The company utterly failed to protect its workers as the coronavirus spread like wildfire throughout its meat processing facilities, and its fear mongering about meat shortages was designed to exploit consumer panic and boost sales. Smithfield put workers’ lives at risk all in the name of corporate greed and turned already notoriously dangerous workplaces into deadly ones.”
Our complaint lists in detail the numerous and specific false claims Smithfield has peddled to consumers and the general public about its pandemic response. Here’s a summary of what our lawsuit alleges:
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Smithfield has mounted a distinctly aggressive public relations campaign geared toward leveraging the pandemic to increase its profits. Through advertisements, social media statements, and website representations, Smithfield has adopted a two-step press offensive to mislead consumers and salvage its image — and its bottom line.
First, Smithfield has misrepresented to consumers that a countrywide meat shortage was imminent. This fear-mongering is designed to create a revenue-generating feedback loop; It stokes and exploits consumer panic, in turn causing demand for Smithfield’s meat products to surge.
Second, Smithfield has misrepresented working conditions in its plants in an effort to allay heightened consumer concerns for worker safety. Line-level meatpacking workers, in part due to false fears of a meat shortage, have been required to work in person throughout the pandemic — often in cramped conditions on crowded production lines. Smithfield has repeatedly assured consumers through advertisements and a comprehensive social media campaign that the company is keeping its workers safe. Indeed, the company has prominently featured workplace safety as an integral part of its marketing and branding efforts during the pandemic.
Here are two facts that are important to understand so that Smithfield is held accountable.
FACT: OUR MEAT SUPPLY WAS NEVER IN DANGER
However, Smithfield’s messaging could not be further from the truth. To stoke fears of a meat shortage, Smithfield gravely warned American consumers in April 2020 that the nation was “perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply.” But at the same time, Smithfield’s foreign exports were surging — with multiple studies showing the company’s pork exports to China hitting record highs that same month. Government data further refute Smithfield’s doom-and-gloom warnings, showing that pork inventory held in “cold storage” warehouses was well into the hundreds of millions of pounds, which analysts have estimated could have kept grocery stores stocked with pork for months, even without any additional production.
FACT: THE LIVES OF SMITHFIELD WORKERS WERE AT RISK
Smithfield’s reassurances on workplace safety were equally deceptive. On this score, Smithfield’s track record speaks for itself, with company slaughterhouses repeatedly emerging as epicenters for COVID-19 outbreaks. Moreover, Smithfield’s representations to consumers regarding specific workplace safety protocols — depicted in detailed photographs, videos, and promotional copy amplified through Smithfield’s website and social media accounts — are consistently refuted by safety citations issued by government regulators and the accounts of actual Smithfield workers.
In all, Smithfield chose to leverage the pandemic to its advantage. Its PR team loudly beat the drum on issues of enormous significance, exploiting consumers’ fears about meat shortages and calming their concerns about workplace safety. And while the company’s campaign on these fronts has no doubt helped it profit, it is built on a series of egregious misrepresentations, deceptions, and falsehoods.
What Happens If We Win?
If the court agrees that Smithfield’s repeated and frequent misrepresentations violated D.C.’s consumer protection law, it could not only order Smithfield to publicly retract its lies, but also pay a penalty for its deceit.
Help our attorneys make Smithfield pay for its pandemic falsehoods!
As climate change accelerates, the science is clear that we need to move off fossil fuels in the next decade if we hope to avoid runaway climate chaos. It is critical that Congress pass a robust infrastructure package that invests in renewable energy, but in order to facilitate a rapid transition off oil, gas, and coal, the package must also include provisions that halt current massive subsidies for the fossil fuel industry. We simply cannot afford to keep subsidizing an industry that is poisoning our climate and communities — congress must pass the End Polluter Welfare Act either as a stand alone measure or as part of Biden’s infrastructure package.
Handouts Help Fossil Fuel Corporations Expand Their Footprint
The federal government currently provides about $15 billion in direct subsidies to the fossil fuel industry each year in the form of tax breaks, loans and loan guarantees, research and development and aid for dirty energy projects abroad. These corporate handouts are driving an unprecedented expansion of U.S. fossil fuel development – over the next 10 years, the U.S. is on track to account for 60 percent of global growth in oil and gas production — and every dollar the federal government spends to support dirty energy makes it more difficult to achieve the 100% renewable energy future we need to avoid climate chaos.
Some examples of the special tax breaks that oil and gas companies receive include:
Deduction of costs for new drilling: Oil and gas companies can deduct the majority of costs associated with drilling new wells. Eliminating this tax break would save $13.3 billion over 10 years
Deduction of royalties paid as foreign tax: U.S. companies that pay royalties for leases abroad are allowed to deduct that cost as a foreign tax. In 2009 Exxon Mobil paid zero federal income taxes, in large part by taking advantage of this tax break.
Percentage depletion: Companies are typically allowed to deduct depreciation of certain assets over time, but fossil fuel companies are able to deduct a set percentage from their taxable income that is not related to the capital costs. This can allow deductions that exceed the total capital costs. Eliminating percentage depletion would secure $12.9 billion over a 10 year period.
Our Tax Dollars Fund Loans For Their Research Into Perpetuating Dirty Energy
In addition these fossil fuel corporations also receive assistance and support for research, development and deployment of their projects through the Department of Energy, including $8 billion in loans for fossil fuel projects to avoid the release of or to sequester carbon and $2.66 billion for research and development projects between 2001 – 2017, 91% of which went to coal projects.
As a candidate, President Biden promised to end subsidies for the fossil fuel industry and recently the American Petroleum Institute testified that fossil fuel corporations wanted to be treated like any other industry. It’s time for Congress to do just that and end special subsidies, both direct and indirect, for fossil fuels. Congress can fulfill this promise by passing the End Polluter Welfare Act.
The centerpiece of the White House climate plan is something called a Clean Electricity Standard (CES), which the Biden administration wants to use to reach the goal of 80 percent carbon-free power by the year 2030.
For many Democrats and policy analysts, the CES is not only attractive as a way to reduce emissions — they also believe they have a political path to make it reality. Thanks to Senate budget reconciliation rules, CES proponents argue they can steer around the filibuster and pass a national clean power benchmark with 50 votes in the Senate.
But how clean would a clean electricity standard really be? Most people might assume that “clean energy” means renewables like wind and solar. Not necessarily. In fact, some of the leading CES proposals rely on nuclear power, fracked gas and complicated pollution trading schemes to reach their goals — calling into question whether these plans are really what they claim to be.
Fracked Gas and Nukes: Dirty Energy Has No Place In A Clean Energy Standard
For decades, many states already have what are known as renewable portfolio standards (RPS), which set benchmarks for sourcing clean energy. Like the proposals for a national standard, though, these programs can vary widely; some count wood burning or trash incineration as “renewable” power.
A truly clean program for the whole country would, ideally, avoid these dirty loopholes. But some of the leading proposals fail that simple test. The CLEAN Future Act — a bill championed by moderate Democrats as a supposed alternative to the Green New Deal — actually finds a complicated way to give fracked gas power plants “partial credit” as a clean energy source. This nonsensical scheme could form the basis for a national CES. The same goes for factory farm “biogas,” mentioned as a possible renewable source in some CES models — which is a grotesque and absurd reach.
Some CES plans rely on the idea that gas-fired power plants will eventually be equipped with “carbon capture” technologies that might trap climate pollution before it enters the atmosphere. There are no workable models for this yet; most of the current capture systems used the limited carbon they captured to extract additional oil from wells.
Polluter ‘Penalties’ And Credits Schemes: Dirty Dealing Is Part Of A Clean Energy Standard?
A clean standard should encourage clean, renewable energy. That much seems obvious. But some proposals set up complex pollution credit trading systems that will give dirty utilities a way to simply buy credits from utilities that have stockpiled “extra” credits. This is a system that invites abuse of the rules.
There’s also the matter of what to do with the power companies that choose not to meet the goals. Some CES models allow for “alternative compliance payments,” which are fines paid in lieu of meaningful action. Like permit trading, pollution fines will be attractive to utilities that want to maintain the status quo — especially if it is economically attractive to pursue that course of action. After all, they can just jack up prices for the consumers and create a new line item in their budgets. For those who are determined, it’s simply the “cost of doing business.”
Let’s Set Some Real Standards — A Renewable Portfolio Standard
Instead of passing a CES that allows and rewards the continued use of fracked gas, nuclear energy, and factory farm “biogas,” Congress should pass a real Renewable Portfolio Standard. This RPS must have as its target 100 percent renewable energy by 2030. It must strictly define the acceptable forms of truly renewable energy and must not include any fossil fuels or other props and giveaways to dirty energy. These include:
Factory farm “biogas” and other bioenergy including biomass, biofuels, and wood pellets;
Nuclear; waste incineration and other combustion-based technologies;
New, large-scale and ecosystem-altering hydropower.
Any RPS must also reject all market-based accounting systems like offsets.
Congress has the opportunity to take the bold action we need to stave off the ever worsening effects of our climate crisis. But in doing so, it must resist the temptation to settle for half measures and new systems that prolong the life of the fossil fuel system.
by Adam Carlesco, Food & Water Watch Staff Attorney
On the campaign trail, Joe Biden was adamant about stopping oil and gas drilling on public lands. Now it’s time to actually make it happen.
Biden Has Laid The Groundwork To End Leasing Of Public Lands For Fossil Fuel Extraction
In the first few days of his presidency, President Biden signed two executive orders which directed the Department of Interior to temporarily halt the leasing of public lands for fossil fuel extraction. During that time, the administration pledged that it would review how to reform its lands leasing policy to best fight climate change in a scientifically informed manner.
While that new policy is still months away, the pause was a significant start. While public lands have the potential to be a major global carbon sink, federal lands currently produce nearly a quarter of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions due to decades of extensive land leasing to private oil, gas, and coal extraction corporations at bargain basement rates. As one of the largest single historical contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions, the Interior Department’s continued leasing of public lands for the extraction of fossil fuels would threaten climatological stability which, in turn, would drastically impact endangered plant and animal species, exacerbate wildfires, degrade air quality, and threaten many freshwater sources.
The Department Of Interior Can – and Should – Ban Fracking
The continued degradation of public lands and the global ecosphere is not simply unacceptable, it is contrary to the laws that govern the Department of Interior. As the largest landholder in the U.S. and the principal public land management agency, the department is tasked under the Federal Land Policy Management Act with ensuring that public lands preserve “multiple uses” which requires lands be used for “a combination of balanced and diverse resource uses that take into account the long-term needs of future generations.” It must also ensure that a sustained yield of “renewable resources” (i.e., freshwater, fish, wildlife, plants) be maintained in perpetuity. In order to see that public lands are managed accordingly, Interior is mandated to “take any action necessary to prevent unnecessary or undue degradation of the lands” it manages, and has great latitude in how it prevents such degradation.
The continued leasing of these lands for fossil fuels amidst a global climate emergency simply does not comport with Interior’s multiple use and sustained yield management requirements and, in fact, would lead to undue and unnecessary degradation of public lands.
Food & Water Watch Spelled Out The Legal Case For Ending Fossil Fuel Leasing On Public Lands
In comments filed with Interior on April 15, 2021, Food & Water Watch laid out how the agency is legally required to cease its destructive leasing practices if it is to truly comply with its statutory requirements while living up to President Biden’s directive to “to listen to the science; to improve public health and protect our environment; to ensure access to clean air and water; … to hold polluters accountable, including those who disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities; [and] to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
Food & Water Watch further countered common industry talking points which seek simple “reform” of Interior’s leasing program, via the false solutions of carbon taxes and implementing carbon capture and sequestration systems which do not address the gravity of the climate crisis while still allowing continued extraction and combustion of polluting fossil fuels.
This comment period was an informal method to solicit input from the concerned public, but the Interior Department will need to engage in robust public outreach and environmental review of its leasing program as it goes forward with its next steps. As the department is legally required to pursue the least-harm alternative in land management, a thorough and candid environmental review of this program can only result in one outcome – a halt to all fossil fuel extraction on public lands. As this process unfolds, Food & Water Watch will continue its work of ensuring that ordinary people, when organizing together, have their voices heard by those in power. Together we can stop fossil fuel extraction on public lands and work towards a greener future.
Become a part of the movement to save our planet. A monthly donation of any amount powers this work.
Washington, D.C. – A comprehensive report released today by the national advocacy organization Food & Water Watch outlines the crisis state of the country’s food system, including detailed analysis on the severe damage levied on society by unchecked corporate monopolies dominating the system.
The report, “Well-Fed: A Roadmap to a Sustainable Food System that Works For All,” offers a corrective policy blueprint that includes sweeping federal legislation and an overhaul of the country’s farm safety net. It also features a number of case studies from across the country featuring family farmers, ranchers and food hubs that have enacted safe, healthy, sustainable and profitable business models.
The report outlines the alarming degree of corporate consolidation in the food industry and its impact on consumers and small farms. For example:
83 percent of all beef is produced by just four processing companies;
65 percent of consumer grocery market share is held by just four retailers; and
67 percent of crop seed market share is held by just four corporations.
These and other conditions have had a devastating effect on consumer choice and costs, and small farm income and stability.
“The COVID pandemic laid bare many of the systemic crises in our food system today, all of which are exacerbated by unchecked corporate consolidation,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “But there is a clear path forward. Small, diversified family farms are already raising healthy, sustainable food for their local communities. We need bold action from the federal government to help rebuild our regional food infrastructure — our small slaughterhouses, grain mills and grocery cooperatives — to support the growth of more independent, sustainable farms.”
The report recommends a number of robust policy prescriptions that would help to move the country to a safer, healthier and more sustainable food future by addressing the unchecked power of mega-corporations and creating systems to adequately sustain small farms and ranches. Among these prescriptions are:
Federal legislation like the Farm System Reform Act, which would ban new factory farms and the expansion of existing ones, and phase out the most egregious factory farm operations by 2040;
Reinstating federal supply management programs for commodities, including price floors;
Enacting through legislation a moratorium on corporate mergers in the food system; and
Redirecting public agriculture funding to encourage and support organic and regenerative farming practices.
Food & Water Watch mobilizes people to build political power to move bold and uncompromised solutions to the most pressing food, water and climate problems of our time. We work to protect people’s health, communities and democracy from the growing destructive power of the most powerful economic interests.
Deciding what and how to farm should be left to farmers, not corporations
2: From Extractive To Regenerative Food Systems
The farmers at the forefront of this movement
3: Rebuilding Regional Food Hubs
Rebuilding regional food hubs connects farmers and eaters, and reduces the monopoly corporate agribusiness has on the food system.
4: Policy Recommendations: A Roadmap To A Just Transition
Here are our policy recommendations on how to pivot to this much-needed systemic change.
We can build regenerative food systems
Our Food System Is Broken
Deciding what and how to farm should be left to farmers, not corporations.
Corporate monopolies control food production.
Today’s supermarkets seem like the pinnacle of choice and variety. But consumers might be surprised to learn that this choice is really a façade, and that a few companies dominate the market in each food category. Your steak? Just four companies slaughter 83 percent of all U.S. cattle (see Figure 1).1 Your flour? It likely comes from Ardent Mills or ADM Milling, which together mill half of all U.S. wheat.2 And then there are companies that profit from value-added processing of raw ingredients. The jars of Gerber, boxes of Cheerios and Lean Cuisine, and tins of Fancy Feast in your shopping cart are all Nestlé-owned brands.3 Agribusinesses make consumers feel like they have ample choices, while forcing them to buy much of their food from just a handful of corporations.
Livestock Farmers Sell into Highly Concentrated Markets
Market share of top four processing firms
Even supermarkets themselves have gobbled up competitors and secured huge market shares. Four companies — Walmart, Kroger, Costco and Ahold Delhaizea — control 65 percent of the grocery market.5 This stranglehold raises food prices and wipes out local grocery stores, reducing food access in both rural and urban communities (see Figure 2).6
Supersizing the Supermarket: National Market Share
Less competition among agribusinesses means higher prices and fewer choices for consumers. But for farmers and the rural communities they support, it is a fight to survive.
Corporate agribusinesses gut rural America.
Market consolidation has wiped out competition, giving farmers fewer choices when they buy seed and feed and when they bring products to market (see Figure 3 on page 3). As a result, they face both rising costs and stagnating income.8 In fact, today’s median farm income is negative $1,840; many farms manage to stay afloat through off-farm income.9
Ironically, while farmers have little power in our industrial food system, they often receive much of the blame for that broken system. Misguided policymakers and others deride farmers for overproduction, for receiving subsidies, or for participating in contract farming when all of these are symptoms of the underlying dysfunction in the food system.
Market Share Of Top Four Seed Firms
Market Share Of Top Four Agrochemical Firms
Corporate consolidation also hurts rural communities. Local slaughterhouses and flour mills have shuttered as processing facilities became fewer and larger. Revenue that once circulated in rural communities and built thriving main streets is now funneled to Wall Street and far-away corporate headquarters.11
Corporate agriculture perpetuates exploitation and racism.
Our farming system rests on stolen land, stolen labor and stolen resources, including forced removal of Indigenous peoples, the enslavement of African Americans and the sharecropping model. These systems persist today in vertically-integrated livestock systems that lock farmers into abusive contracts and high debt, the patenting of Indigenous seed varieties, the freezing-out of farmers of color from federal loans and subsidies, and the exploitation of low-wage labor in dangerous conditions in our nation’s produce fields and slaughterhouses.12
Industrial agriculture is extractive.
The industrial farming system focuses on squeezing out as much profit as possible, with little regard for long-term environmental ecological or public health impacts. Planting monocultures year-after-year can impair soil health.13 So does spraying synthetic pesticides. Intensive practices also harm bees and other pollinators and microorganisms that make up healthy ecosystems.14
Factory Hog Farm Counties Produce as Much Waste as Metropolitan Areas
Industrial agriculture pollutes the environment and fuels climate change.
Factory farms confine thousands of animals in inhumane, unsanitary conditions. They produce more manure waste than can be sustainably disposed and increase the risk of diseases jumping from livestock to humans (See Figure 4).16 In many parts of the country, factory farms are concentrated around communities of color and low- income communities, making them environmental justice catastrophes.17
Rural communities bear the brunt of pollution from industrial farming, from pesticide exposure to toxic emissions from factory farms.18 Yet these impacts reach far beyond the farm; nutrient runoff from manure and pesticide application pollutes waterways, contributing to fish kills and aquatic “dead zones” from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.19 Pesticide residue is found on all food types of food, from organic produce that was never sprayed with pesticides to human breast milk.20
Agriculture is also one of the largest human sources of climate change; across the entire production chain, it contributes 19 to 29 percent of all human-sourced emissions. Overproduction of commodities and meat, food waste, growing crops for fuel, and use of synthetic fertilizers produced from fossil fuels all enlarge this footprint.21
Our food production chain is not resilient.
Decades of unchecked corporate consolidation has worn away our food system’s resilience.22 For instance, large, centralized processing facilities replaced the regional slaughterhouses and dairy processors that once dotted the rural landscape, leaving farmers with fewer options for marketing their products.23 When some of these large facilities closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, many farmers were left with no choice but to euthanize livestock or dump milk — gut-wrenching scenarios that would not have been as widespread if we still had networks of smaller facilities serving local markets.24
Our food system does a poor job of feeding people.
Even after accounting for commodities grown to feed livestock and produce energy, the U.S. still has roughly 4,000 calories of nutrients available per day per capita.25 Yet nearly one in seven children live in food-insecure households.26
Much of what goes into deciding what and how to farm is shaped by agribusiness, not farmers. Corporations set farm markets and policy.27 We need to join farmers and food chain workers to break Big Ag’s stranglehold and rebuild our food systems so they work for everyone. It can be difficult to imagine what alternatives to the industrial system might look like. We can start by learning from those at forefront of this movement, who are building healthy farmland and rural communities through regenerative agriculture.
From Extractive to Regenerative Food Systems
The farmers at the forefront of this movement
Regenerative agriculture is generating a lot of buzz today, with everyone from food activists to big agribusinesses floating the term. But with no unifying definition, the term “regenerative” can take on different meanings.28 So let’s start by defining what we mean by “regenerative food systems.”
Regenerative food systems are those that invest in the long-term health and fertility of farmland; build soil and prioritize soil health; and rely on natural rather than synthetic inputs. They embody these principles along each step of the food supply chain — investing in local economies; providing farmers and food chain workers with living wages and safe working conditions; and addressing racial and economic injustice. The regenerative movement shares roots with organic farming, a reaction against the environmental degradation caused by industrial farming. Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversees the National Organic Program, creating standards for the organic label and certifying compliance. Regenerative farming, on the other hand, has no federal standards or label any farmer or food company can market their products as regenerative.
Can we feed the world through organic agriculture?
Can we feed the world through organic agriculture?
The giant agribusinesses that profit off of the current industrial system claim that it is the only way to feed a global population that is estimated to reach nearly 10 billion by 2050.109 This is simply not true; a growing body of research affirms that regenerative practices can increase long-term yields and potentially close yield gaps with conventional systems.110 In fact, the United Nations urges a rapid shift to regenerative practices to increase productivity, reduce hunger and avoid catastrophic climate change.111
Simply put, giant agribusinesses exploit hungry people for profit. If they were truly motivated to end hunger, they would not support a farming system that prioritizes growing crops for fuel, fiber and animal feed. Likewise, they would not prevent farmers from saving seed nor would they appropriate and patent native seed varieties.112 And they would not support global trade policies that drive traditional farmers off their land and create new generations of impoverished, hungry people.113
Poverty and inequality drive hunger, not scarcity. We grow more than enough calories to feed the world, yet roughly 815 million people worldwide go hungry, 75 percent of them family farmers who together produce the majority of the world’s food.114 According to the United Nations, regenerative agricultural practices can help close this hunger gap. Centering family farmers and breaking the stranglehold that corporate agribusinesses have on farmers are key to this transformation.115
Some regenerative advocates market it as a new concept that goes beyond the limits of organic agriculture.29 This is a disservice to the organic community and its decades of work in strengthening the integrity of the organic label and increasing federal funding for organic research and adoption. It also erases centuries of contributions from indigenous and other farmers of color who farmed regeneratively long before the term emerged.30
In this piece, we use the term “regenerative” as an umbrella term for sustainable farming systems. Some of the farms featured are certified organic whereas others have not sought certification. What unites them is a holistic method of farming that seeks to regenerate, rather than extract, natural resources.
Putting animals back on the farm: Keenbell Farm
One vital shift in repairing our food system is to move live-stock off of factory farms and back onto pasture. Managed grazing distributes manure in sustainable amounts, building soil and recycling nutrients. And integrating livestock into crop rotations can control weeds, increase yields and reduce fertilizer use. Extensive research concludes that “livestock provide the missing element needed to develop sustainable systems, particularly in terms of soil health.”32
Keenbell Farm near Rockville, Virginia embraces this approach. Co-owner CJ raises cows, pigs and chickens on pasture as well as specialty grains. CJ sustainably manages the cows’ grazing to allow pasture to regrow and prevent manure accumulation. The chickens follow the cows to manage flies, sleeping in mobile chicken coops and spending their days foraging for insects. Keenbell’s hogs are also on pasture 100 percent of the time, rooting for much of their food.
Both chickens and hogs supplement their forage with a blend of grain byproducts from the farm’s fields — one more way to “keep the closed loop,” according to CJ. They manage these grain fields regeneratively, planting just one harvestable crop each year, as opposed to the two-year rotation of corn, wheat and soybeans typical in Virginia. This allows Keenbell to avoid tilling the soil and virtually eliminates the need for chemical herbicides.
Keenbell harkens back to an earlier era, before chemical inputs compensated for a lack of agricultural diversity and poor soil management.33 In fact, CJ finds a wealth of knowledge from farming books published before the 1950s. “A lot of what is going on today with regenerative agriculture is the way my grandfather farmed, minus the tillage,” he says. However, farms like Keenbell have had to relearn many of these practices, often reembracing diversification after experiencing firsthand the ecological and economic damages from industrial, specialized farming systems.
CJ’s grandparents purchased the farm in the 1950s, raising cattle and producing eggs for the local market. In the 1970s, they expanded to include hogs, but the hog market crash of the 1980s convinced them to keep the focus on cattle and cropland. CJ took over in the early 2000s and began an effort to restore land that was previously rented to a conventional grain farmer. They converted hundreds of acres to pasture and to specialty, non-GMO grains sold to local bakers and distillers.
“I don’t tell you I’m a cattle farmer or chicken farmer,” says CJ. “I’m a soil farmer: My goal is to use the animals, the crops, the forage as tools to manage the soil.” For instance, CJ restored a degraded piece of land by using regenerative practices to double the soil’s organic matter and increase its water-holding capacity. “You couldn’t put a dollar figure on that,” says CJ. “You have to look beyond the checkbook register to really calculate the true benefits of conservation.” Numerous studies confirm what CJ has experienced firsthand: Regenerative practices can repair degraded soil, reduce costs and close yield gaps between conventional systems.34
Keenbell Farm is a glimpse into regenerative farming systems in the 21st century. But it can be risky for farmers to embrace new production systems, especially when public funding is geared to propping up industrial agriculture’s status quo. CJ believes that if more farmers were able to participate in cost-sharing programs that incentivize sustainable practices, they would understand the economic benefits for their operations.
Lack of access to open, competitive markets is another barrier to shifting to more diversified farms. Open cattle markets and regional flour mills have been largely wiped out by corporate consolidation, leaving farmers with few potential buyers.35 Keenbell solves this problem by selling meat directly to consumers and grains to local bakeries and distilleries. CJ recognizes they are fortunate enough to be located near Richmond, Virginia, with ample middle- and upper-income customers eager for locally-produced food. This direct-to-consumer model is less feasible for farms located in more remote or impoverished areas.
One-third of U.S. farmers are 65 or older.36 Whether or not the next generation will want to take over family farms remains to be seen, especially considering that the average farm income is in the negative.37 “We are facing the potentially largest transition of land in history,” says CJ. “We’re at the pinnacle of opportunity to empower farmers and increase the number of farmers by having a more regionalized food economy, or further go down the path of a global, centralized food system.”
Taking advantage of that opportunity requires public investment in regenerative, diversified practices. We also need to boost funding for the infrastructure needed to connect farmers to local eaters and raise farm income. As CJ puts it, “Sustainability is also about economic stability: Making sure you’re commanding enough prices to cover your cost of goods with enough profit to maintain your operation and gain a living wage.”
The secret handbook on successful farming: Master Blend Family Farms
When you think of a North Carolina hog farm, you might picture rows of confinement barns and manure lagoons. Factory farms displaced many of North Carolina’s smaller, family-scale hog farms, with a third fewer today compared to twenty years ago.39However, independent hog producers are meeting the growing hunger for local, pasture-raised pork — and building robust communities in the process.
Ron Simmons grew up in urban areas, and visiting his great-grandmothers’ hog farm persuaded him against a farming career. “Whenever I saw her pigs, I promised myself I would never do it.” He worked a regular day job for a couple of decades. Eventually, he gravitated towards the country, where he found a unique business opportunity: Meeting the growing demand for healthy, pasture-based meat. He switched careers and dove headfirst into hog farming, opening up Master Blend Family Farms38outside of Kenansville, North Carolina in 2012. “I’m sure that my grandparents are laughing now,” he jokes.
As a beginning farmer, Ron sought out seasoned hog farmers. He wanted to know whether there was a secret handbook or blueprint on how to be successful. “Naw, dude, you have to wing it!” they laughed. So he asked every question he could and took advantage of the nearby cooperative extension office and community college classes. And he learned about humane and sustainable practices through the Animal Welfare Approved label, where farmers commit to standards such as avoiding animal byproducts in feed and implementing pasture rotation.40
Ron quickly learned that there is more to farming than simply playing in the dirt. “Farmers wear so many varieties of hats,” he says, from livestock breeders and caretakers to accountants. They also need to be willing to take risks and seek out opportunities to diversify their income. Essentially, independent farmers like Ron are like other entrepreneurs, just with a bit more dirt under their nails.
Ron has a natural head for business, contributing to his farm’s success. He forges relationships with restaurants, caters events and even sells to churches to create more exposure to the Master Blend brand. He also runs an on-farm store where he sells small cuts to customers. This diverse customer base proved an invaluable asset at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, when demand from local restaurants bottomed out. The farm store was “the saving grace,” allowing him to sell meat originally destined for restaurants. In fact, spurred on by supermarket shortages of meat, he got calls from customers in cities as far away as Raleigh and Chapel Hill looking to buy pork in bulk.
Independent hog farms are not tied down by contracts with meatpacking giants, which dictate all aspects of production and set prices. As small businesses, they tend to make more purchases locally and recirculate revenue into their communities.41 A wealth of data shows that small- and mid-sized family farms are vital to the economic and social health of rural communities.42 But independent growers need processors to work with and markets in which to sell. Both are barriers preventing many farmers from operating more humane operations like Master Blend.43
As the meat packing industry consolidated, slaughterhouses and processing plants became fewer but larger, and increasingly relied on exclusive contracts with large-scale operations. Consolidation also drove down the prices farmers received for their hogs. Many farmers were faced with the choice between expanding their operations through contract production or abandoning hog farming altogether.44
“The very first time I entered a processing plant and said I want them to process for me,” says Ron, “they bust out laughing. ‘It’s amusing and cute but you aren’t big enough.’” He didn’t back down, but invested in breeding sows and production boars to grow his operation, giving careful consideration to genetics to produce a healthy and desirable product. Today, he raises around 150 market hogs — significantly smaller than the 8,000 or more on the average North Carolina factory farm45 — but large enough to find a processor. Going independent is challenging but “one of the pros is you get to name your price, and still be able to offer a wholesome, premium quality product.”
We need to shift to smaller, family-scale livestock farms like Master Blend Family Farms to rebuild rural communities and stop the environmental destruction caused by factory farms. And farmers need training from those who have already gone down this path. Ron’s success sparked speaking opportunities across the state. Reluctant at first, he soon recognized that being a spokesperson for pasture-based farms is just as important as his roles on the farm. “I read all the time that farmers are a dying breed, so if I have the opportunity to speak at a university or a local school, I always try to push the idea of finding more farmers and diversifying the pool.”
Connecting to our roots: Flowering Tree Permaculture Institute
Whenever an alternative to the polluting, industrial agri- cultural system gains traction, Big Ag schemes to profit from the hype. Today, agribusinesses are appropriating the term “regenerative” into their existing industrial models.
General Mills pledged to advance regenerative agriculture on a million acres of farmland, while chemical giant Syngenta claims that their pesticides complement regenerative practices.47 But regenerative farming is nothing new; societies across the millennia fined-tuned agricultural practices and seeds in response to their environments — all without the quick fixes peddled by Big Ag.
Native American communities of the Southwest cultivated numerous varieties of seeds and agricultural practices rooted in the desert climate, where thirsty crops like corn thrived.48 These interconnected agricultural systems were the fabric of Indigenous southwestern cultures and communities. But Spanish colonial domination, followed by violent U.S. policies of relocation and assimilation, tore communities away from their cultural roots. Government rations replaced traditional diets for many Indigenous peoples. Reconnecting with traditional Native food systems can improve health49 while continuing cultural practices and environmental sustainability.
Roxanne Swentzell, an artist from Santa Clara Pueblo in northern New Mexico, founded the Flowering Tree Permaculture Institute in 1989 with these goals in mind. Flowering Tree’s first project transformed the barren driveway into a forest of fruit trees, not a small under-taking in the desert with its cold winters and short, hot growing seasons. They started with nitrogen-fixing shrubs and trees, and the belief that a plant “will grow if you take care of it,” says Roxanne. “And after 30 years things get pretty big.” Today, the 1/8-acre permaculture site boasts fruit trees, vegetable crops, and even goats and chickens. It is a testament to how careful attention to the local ecosystem’s needs can help agriculture flourish even in the most challenging environments.
“It’s really important that people identify with place,” says Roxanne, explaining how Flowering Tree works to continue Pueblo culture by encouraging the Tewa language, teaching pottery and growing traditional foods. Pueblo people were not displaced from their original homelands like many other Native American tribes, but still lost ties to their food culture. “When we lost our farmers, we lost our health,” says Roxane, addressing the rise in diet-related diseases as community members purchased more and more food in town. She and other participants of Pueblo descent undertook an experiment where they ate nothing but pre-contact foods of their ancestors for three months. Participants showed significant weight loss and lower levels of cholesterol and blood sugar after the study. Moreover, “because the diet was based on a cultural identity — this is the food our people used to eat — there was also a reconnecting that none of us realized would happen.”50
Roxanne works to cultivate connection to the Pueblo land and traditions in the next generation. She shares seeds with schoolchildren, emphasizing that they are the plants’ “caretakers” in order to encourage a sense of responsibility for carrying on the tradition. She also plants traditional Pueblo crops at risk of extinction and saves seeds in her seed bank. “Traditionally, those crops belong to us, or we belong to them; we see them as sisters and brothers, and we’ve grown and evolved together.”
Indigenous Americans’ contributions to global agriculture are substantial: Many crops eaten worldwide originated in the Americas, including staples like corn and potatoes.51 There were nearly 300 varieties of corn alone by the onset of European colonization, cultivated for both subsistence and ceremony.52Today, however, over 99 percent of U.S. corn acreage is “field corn” destined for cattle feed, processed food or ethanol, with only a sliver of sweet corn grown for direct human consumption.53 Most field corn is genetically modified to be resistant to herbicides like Roundup and is grown on soil-depleting monocultures, making these systems vulnerable to plant pests and diseases.54
Juxtaposed to this are Indigenous communities like the Santa Clara Pueblo, where agricultural practices are rooted in the local ecosystem and seeds are chosen for their nutritional benefits and local adaptiveness. But we must also take care not to appropriate Indigenous knowledge. Colonialism’s long shadow extends into today’s food system, including with “biopiracy,” when agribusinesses patent Indigenous seeds or practices without permission or compensation.55 Treating regenerative agriculture as a “new,” profit-generating scheme risks further exploitation of Indigenous seeds and practices.
“Let’s take it back from corporate America,” says Roxanne. She adds, “I do think women are leading this big movement. We’re coming together to say we’ve had enough.” In the summer of 2020, she and other women from her tribe grew ceremonial corn on a communal field, providing a rare opportunity during the COVID-19 pandemic to socialize at safe distances. “It’s a beautiful event, and when you hand that to a big corporate whatever to produce our food, we don’t have these amazing gathering moments.”
Restoring prairie with regenerative grazing: The Rider Ranch
Jed Rider didn’t grow up raising cattle, but on an irrigated sugar beet farm near Trenton, North Dakota. In high school, he went to work for a nearby rancher, and later married Melissa, whose family raised cattle and grains outside of nearby Alexander. This introduced him to conventional ranching in the Great Plains, where most cattle begin life on pasture-based cow/calf operations before being “finished” on grains in feedlots.
Managing Melissa’s father’s herd and helping his uncle farm sugar beets proved to be an impossible balancing act, and it began to take a toll on Jed’s health. At the time, his sister Kalie was finishing her Master’s thesis on the health benefits of grass-finished beef. Their conversations around the health implications of different ranching systems led to a deeper one about holistic cattle operations. “That year, I quit raising sugar beets and started eating better and ranching better, and it just kinda exploded from there,” says Jed.
Soil health is at the heart of the Rider’s ranch.56 They move the 200+ cow/calf herd every one to three days during the growing season, leaving some vegetation behind and allowing it to regrow before it is grazed again. They bale fields not yet ready for grazing, providing winter feed; but unlike most ranches, they leave the bales in the fields and bring the cows to them. This allows the Rider’s cows to be on pasture even throughout North Dakota’s long winter months, where they are protected from the weather through coulees and shelter belts.
In turn, these practices have provided many benefits to the Rider’s land. “When somebody asks me how much rain I got, I say ‘all of it’,” Jed jokes, referring to improved water retention thanks to regenerative management. Managed grazing can restore degraded rangeland, improve soil health and avoid excessive manure accumulation associated with factory farms. Additionally, grass-finished beef systems have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and in some instances are carbon-sinks.57
The Rider’s ranch, for instance, is virtually input-free. Cattle feed on pastures of perennial grass, much like the bison that once roamed the Great Plains. This is in sharp contrast to the industrial agriculture system, where large agribusinesses profit from technological and chemical “fixes” for problems stemming from poor land management. For instance, planting feed corn for factory farms on continuous monocultures makes these systems vulnerable to weeds.58 Agribusinesses peddle chemical herbicides, putting farmers on a never-ending treadmill that requires greater application rates and newer formulations when herbicide resistance predictably develops.59 As Jed succinctly puts it: “We as a society have an economy of making profit centers out of Band-Aids and treating symptoms of things.”
Jed knows firsthand the stubborn nature of farmers, many of whom are resistant to deviating from the practices used by their parents and grandparents. Even grass-finished beef was practically a “cuss word” when the Riders started out, an unconventional approach that to some seemed to eschew the state’s grain economy. However, Jed notes that “if agriculture doesn’t change, there’s not gonna be one.” Poor soil management increases the number of acres needed to farm, while also increasing overhead costs, including more chemicals and expensive machinery. “What kid can afford $3 million in equipment to haul off and start farming?”
This is where farmer-to-farmer knowledge sharing is invaluable. Jed and his sister Kalie serve as mentors in the North Dakota Grazing Lands Coalition, where they promote the benefits of regenerative grazing. “Farmers don’t want to go listen to someone who’s never made mistakes and is just getting their experience from reading a book.” says Jed. He hopes that the narrative around farming is changing, a crucial shift in order to mentor the next generation of farmers. “What kid is gonna want to go into something when all we do is complain about how awful it is… Let’s start telling some good stories.”
“Dairy based on our belief systems”: Pure Éire Dairy
Organic certification remains an important pathway for farmers to shift to regenerative systems. Today, farmers who seek to sell their products as organic must go through the certification process and commit to standards including avoiding synthetic inputs and GMOs. This allows them to earn the “organic premium” from their products — the extra money consumers are willing to pay for food carrying the USDA organic seal.61
At its heart, organic is not simply “farming without chemicals,” but a holistic approach to agriculture that builds healthy ecosystems and promotes sustainability.62 Farmers like Jill and Richard of Pure Éire Dairy60 were drawn to organic farming because they believe in these principles and in the importance of providing organic, grass-fed milk to their children. Though they both came from larger dairy operations, they started Pure Éire with just seven cows to see if others wanted the same kind of milk.
Jill describes her organic dairy as a “closed loop”: The cows feed on pasture during eastern Washington State’s long growing season and eat grasses and forage grown on their farm during the winter months. In turn, the cows fertilize the pasture, enriching the soil and avoiding the problem of manure waste disposal that confined dairy operations face. In line with organic regulations, Pure Éire Dairy also refrains from administering artificial growth hormones (used to increase milk production) and antibiotics, whose routine use on conventional farms is linked to the rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria.63
Today, Jill and Richard raise a couple of hundred cows and also own their onsite processing facility. They sell Pure Éire’s products across eastern Washington, and a private-label yogurt to the Seattle cooperative PCC Community Markets. Despite this impressive growth, Jill says, “We’ve never strayed from our mission from when we started this with just seven cows.” Jill and Richard continue to raise 100 percent grass-fed dairy cows, going above what is required by organic standards.64 This results in what she describes as a “fabulously creamy, rich milk,” with higher levels of nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids than both conventional and organic milk.65 Demand for grass-fed milk is growing among consumers who want food that aligns with their values of healthy food and sustainable practices.66
The higher premiums consumers pay for organic milk can sometimes offset higher production costs. In 2016, organic dairy farms showed higher returns than conventional ones of similar sizes,67 although Jill notes that the last few years have also been tough for organic dairy as oversupply has driven down prices. But before a farm can achieve organic certification, it must implement organic practices for three years while still selling into conventional markets. This transition period is a “huge challenge for entering the marketplace,” says Jill. Moreover, once a farm achieves organic certification, “you need a contract with an organic handler to ship your milk.” Organic dairies have fewer options for selling their milk, with organic milk products making up less than 6 percent of all fluid milk sold in the U.S.68 Fewer buyers also means less competition that can potentially impact milk prices.
Pure Éire Dairy benefits from having its own processing facility to provide them with more control over their products. They work directly with retailers and consumers to meet their needs, allowing them to operate a successful business. However, most dairy farmers — organic and conventional alike — are “price takers,” with little to no leverage in determining milk prices. And while farmer-owned cooperatives still market the majority of domestic milk, their consolidation in recent years has impacted farmer control and wages.69 As Jill elaborates, cooperatives may increasingly favor contracting with a few large farms rather than several small ones to find efficiencies and economies of scale. Today, the average U.S. dairy cannot even make up the cost of production.70
Farms like Pure Éire Dairy demonstrate the vital role of smaller, family-scale dairies in advancing organic practices and boosting local economies. But thousands of others risk foreclosure in the face of low milk prices and industry consolidation.71 We need to realign our federal farm policy, including creating a meaningful dairy safety net, in order to level the playing field for family farms and rebuild regional food hubs.72
Diversity builds resilience: Graise Farm
Many of us take for granted being able to walk into a supermarket and purchase every variety of food imaginable. We rarely think about where it came from or who produced it. But the COVID-19 pandemic put our food system at the forefront of everyone’s minds, disrupting the supply chain and provoking panic-buying.74
“For some people, farming is a hidden world,” says Tiffany, who runs a small livestock farm with her husband, Andy, south of Minneapolis, Minnesota. When the pandemic hit, they saw a surge in interest from people who wanted to purchase food locally, with some customers commenting, “I never knew this was an option to buy direct from farmers. I never knew all these farmers were out there.”
Tiffany and Andy started GRAISE Farm73 in 2015 as a way to become more self-sufficient and to contribute to the local food economy. Their farm demonstrates that smaller, regionally-based farms and food systems that promote animal welfare and soil restoration can thrive — even in northern regions like Minnesota where the temperature can range from 100° F to -30° F.
GRAISE stands for “Grass-fed Raised humanely Animals In a Sustainable Environment,” a name that is guiding principle for owners Tiffany and Andy. “We raise our animals with respect and allow them to be themselves,” says Tiffany. This includes providing year-round access to the outdoors, where they can express their natural inclinations to root, scratch and peck. Raising their animals on pasture in sustainable numbers aerates the soil and promotes biodiversity. “We’ve moved our pigs across land that hasn’t been touched in 20 years,” says Tiffany, “and it’s helped dig up native seeds, so we’re seeing more diversity in the plants that are growing. We’re seeing more diversity in the birds and the butterflies, insect population, all those things that are important for the farm.”
GRAISE Farm raises hogs and meat chickens for direct sale to customers. They also raise duck eggs that are sold in cooperatives, specialty stores and restaurants across Minnesota and neighboring states. This variety in products and markets helps diversify their income and make their farm more resilient to supply chain disruptions — a literal example of not putting all of your (duck) eggs in one basket.
Smaller, diversified farms like GRAISE that serve local markets can increase the resiliency of our food systems.75 During the pandemic, GRAISE continued to process their livestock since they rely on smaller slaughterhouses — not the crowded mega-slaughterhouses that became COVID-19 hotspots.76 Other local farms across the country demonstrated their resiliency and flexibility by quickly pivoting from supplying restaurants and caterers to direct sales to consumers, often through social media.77
Even so, many other small farms suffered economic losses during the pandemic, especially those producing highly perishable food like dairy and produce.78 And federal pandemic relief funds largely overlooked smaller farms and those run by beginning farmers and people of color.79 This is part of a wider problem with farm safety net programs that prop up large-scale production of commodities at the expense of small-scale and historically underserved farmers.80
Small, diversified farms can serve local communities and raise animals humanely. But we need to widen our farm safety net to cover more specialty crops and diversified operations, and assist smaller farms and those run by women, people of color and beginning farmers. A wider program of rural revitalization would also tackle issues like broadband and health care access in order to provide the resources for regional food systems to thrive.
Regional Food Hubs
Rebuilding regional food hubs connects farmers and eaters, and reduces the monopoly corporate agribusiness has on the food system.
Farms need access to open, competitive markets to thrive. However, agribusiness consolidation has all but wiped out the nation’s smaller-scale slaughterhouses, grain mills and mom-and-pop grocery stores,81 making it increasingly difficult to imagine a food system that is not dependent on highly consolidated supply chains. The truth is, agri- businesses built the industrial food system over a few decades; we can similarly rebuild this broken system to ensure justice for all farmers, food chain workers and consumers.
Building just, regenerative food systems will not happen overnight. It requires significant public investment and political will. Direct sales and farmers markets are important but insufficient; we must also connect local farms to the grocery stores and restaurants where consumers spend the majority of their food dollars.82 Regional food hubs can play a vital role, aiding smaller farms with distribution and marketing of their products so they can reach new markets that would otherwise be difficult to enter on their own.83
Common Grain Alliance
How Food Hubs Work
The idea for Common Grain Alliance98 emerged in the winter of 2018, as a group of friends were baking bread together and discussing how difficult it is to find local grain. “If you go to the Shenandoah Valley, you see all this grain infrastructure, silos, row crops,” says founder Heather Coiner.
“The landscape suggests that grains should be growing here, so how come we can’t find any?”
SCROLL SIDEWAYS TO NAVIGATE
Common Grain Alliance
Heather, who owns Little Hat Creek Farm and bakery, started by looking for growers who produced and processed grain in the mid-Atlantic. “We feel strongly that grain is a missing part of the local food table and we want to change that in this area,” she says. In just a couple of years, Common Grain Alliance grew to include over 60 members, connecting wheat growers and millers to local restaurants, brewers and distillers.
Common Grain Alliance’s mission is to revitalize the mid-Atlantic’s grain economy. “We’re trying to tap into the historical infrastructure and skills that got pushed aside by industrial agriculture in the last half of the 20th century,” says Heather. For example, some millers have restored existing stone mills while incorporating modern equipment to take advantage of recent advances in grain milling.
Common Grain Alliance
Common Grain Alliance has received some federal funding to grow its network, including a grant through a USDA program called SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education). But while some Farm Bill programs directly target small-scale growers, Heather says that non-commodity crops are still largely off the radar of most academics and policy experts. “Even with this support, the vibe I get is, this is a fun idea but you are not going to feed millions of people.” Heather hopes that as the Common Grain Alliance grows, so will the political will of its growers and buyers who want grain that is transparently sourced, traceable and grown without chemicals.
Common Grain Alliance
In fact, the pandemic showed the importance of local food chains like those created by Common Grain Alliance. “One thing the pandemic laid bare is the flaws in the global food supply chain. Americans saw empty grocery store shelves — that’s not something most people have seen in their lifetimes. And your local farmers are like, we have grain, we have vegetables… Our supply chain isn’t interrupted because it’s shorter.” Heather is optimistic that for some people, the trends that led people to seek out local food and support nearby farms might endure past the pandemic. “It is worth going out of your way to invest in your local food producers, because when crisis hits, they’re the ones that are still going to have food.”
Small farms often lack the volume and consistency of products to sell directly to a retailer or foodservice institution. Larger institutions prefer to purchase from a single entity rather than several small farms. A food hub can help bridge this divide by connecting several smaller farms with regional buyers. Some food hubs even invest in infrastructure farmers need to bring products to market, like warehouses where food is stored, packed and labeled. What distinguishes food hubs from other local distributors is that they are formed with the goal of improving the economic, social and environmental health of their communities. As such, they are committed to providing farmers with fair prices and longstanding relationships rather than undercutting them in search of the cheapest alternative.84
There are many current efforts to revitalize local food systems through the food hub model. Public investment and incentives can help create similar food hubs across the country that are unique to each region’s geography and food culture.
Paying it forward: Mandela Grocery Cooperative
Before Mandela Grocery Cooperative85 opened a decade ago, the West Oakland, California neighborhood had not had a grocery store for 50 years. Food deserts — or food apartheid, a term preferred by many activists86 — are largely a result of grocery consolidation that wiped out smaller grocers in urban and rural areas alike. Large chains restructured and put more resources into stores in more profitable areas, reducing food access in lower-income communities.87
Grocery cooperatives combat food apartheid while building local economies. Employees can become “worker-owners,” sharing in profits and losses and participating in oversight. Decisions, therefore, are not made by far-away corporate shareholders, but by the communities themselves. Worker-ownership can also create sustainable, good-paying jobs for employees.88 “Our workers are thinking about long-term and intergenerational wealth,” says Adrionna Fike, one of Mandela’s founders, noting that they look beyond next month’s sales to create goals like building retirement plans.
Cooperatives have long been an act of resistance in our food and farming systems, especially within Black communities. Farmers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries engaged in informal cooperatives to purchase inputs, share machinery and market products. During the Civil Rights Movement, Black-owned credit unions extended credit to farmers. These efforts addressed the numerous institutional and economic barriers that prevented Black farmers from owning and maintaining farmland, a fight that continues to this day.89
Notably, the local food movement has largely failed to include people of diverse racial and economic backgrounds. Farmers markets and other local food venues remain predominantly white, middle class spaces.90 Our alternative food systems will perpetuate systemic inequality if we do not actively work to break down these barriers.
Mandela makes a point of connecting with local and regional Black farmers. “You can get okra, yams, purple hull peas, collards greens,“ says Adrionna. “Those legacy foods that we’ve been trying to reconnect our African American neighbors with for years.” The cooperative pays farmers fair prices and cultivates relationships that go beyond the current season. “More than anything, the future of our food system is planning with farmers and organizations that are working to support farmers, so that we can be consistent and prepared to sure up revenue on both ends.”
Mandela works to make fresh produce universally accessible. They participate in a state program that provides a 50 percent discount on California-grown produce for residents who use SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits. Employees also encourage customers to try new foods and recipes and connect with younger generations that may not have learned cooking skills in school or at home. Employees “engage people through their baskets,” inquiring on what they plan to cook with their purchases and encouraging them to try new things. Mandela also hosts a bimonthly online cooking show, sharing how easy and affordable it can be to cook using fresh, whole ingredients. “We are really trying to do well by our bodies,” says Adrionna. “As Black bodies are being terrorized and mangled, in overt and subtle ways, our minds are porous to manipulation; we’re doing our best to combat that and to be living examples of community healthcare and community wealth building.”
The supermarket giants built their empires by pricing out competitors. But cooperatives operate under a different paradigm altogether. “For co-ops, it’s about cooperation, not competition,” Adrionna says. “We’re focused on making a bigger pie rather than slicing and dicing it up.” For example, Mandela grew its store through a grant provided by Rainbow Grocery Cooperative in San Francisco. “Now it’s our turn to share that with the DEEP Grocery Co-op in East Oakland,” a burgeoning cooperative “whose workers are of a similar demographic, in a similarly challenged location in terms of poor health and lack of quality grocery stores.” Mandela recently provided on-the-job training for East Oakland employees and continues to serve as a resource for them on how to operate successfully.
Adrionna is confident that the worker-owned grocery cooperative model is replicable in communities beyond the Bay area. “Hopefully, the growth of the grocery co-op markets will spawn the growth of more local and independent, regionally-based companies that stick around and don’t sell out because they have more local markets that value their ethics.” Neighborhoods benefit from access to fresh, local and fairly-priced produce. Community blossoms in the interactions between farmers, workers and their customers. And worker-owners can take pride in a vocation that provides dignity and financial stability.91
“Worker co-ops are the future of food!” insists Adrionna, while stressing the need for more institutional support from governments for the cooperative model. Moreover, activists in the local food movement must work alongside communities of color that have been advancing this model for generations — not to make a white movement more diverse, but to build new food and farming systems together, where everyone has a seat at the table.
Helping new farmers thrive: Hmong American Farmers Association
In the 1970s, thousands of Hmong refugees fled the aftermath of the Vietnam War and resettled in the United States, many in Minnesota and Wisconsin.93 They brought their agricultural traditions, introducing new foods to their Midwestern neighbors. Yet Hmong American farmers found themselves in a landscape dominated by large farms with expensive machinery and inputs. They faced similar challenges in accessing land and resources as other beginning farmers, in addition to cultural and language barriers.
In 2011, a group of farm families in the Twin Cities started the Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA)92 to create opportunities and build intergenerational wealth within the Hmong American community. HAFA provides bilingual training on not just sustainable farming practices, but also on improving business skills and creating market opportunities. The nonprofit also helps farmers access credit through state and federal agricultural programs. “Our work is a game-changer because it looks holistically at what farming families need to succeed,” said Executive Director Emeritus Pakou Hang.94
In addition, HAFA acquired 155 acres south of the Twin Cities in 2013, which is subleased in 5-acre plots to the local Hmong community. Families enter a ten-year lease on one or two plots, providing long-term stability and allowing them to plant perennial crops. The HAFA Farm also runs demonstration plots and offers access to irrigation water, composting and refrigerated trucks for hauling fresh produce. Together, HAFA Farm families grow more than a hundred different crops, the majority of which are vegetables and flowers sold in local farmers markets.
Over the past few decades, the Hmong American community has transformed Minnesota’s local food economy. Today, more than half of all farmers who sell in Twin Cities farmers markets are Hmong American. “Without Hmong farmers,” the nonprofit says, “this explosion of awareness and interest in local foods and small-scale farming in Minnesota would not be possible.”95
With farmers markets becoming saturated with local produce, HAFA is also expanding alternative marketing opportunities. HAFA helps its members sell in local community supported agriculture (CSA) shares, schools, businesses, groceries and co-ops.
HAFA is working to purchase additional land to transform into agricultural trusts for lease by the Hmong American community. Land access remains a significant barrier to beginning farmers, with one estimate suggesting it would cost more than $5 million to purchase the land and capital needed to start a 500-acre grain farm in the Midwest.96 Without access to family-held land or unlimited credit, starting a farm can be an insurmountable challenge. But nonprofits like HAFA work to overcome these obstacles while building healthy, vibrant local food economies. HAFA believes that “the best people to support Hmong farmers are Hmong farmers themselves, and that we are all lifted up when those who are affected by an unfair food system lead the change we seek.”97
Rebuilding western North Carolina’s local food economy
Tobacco was a major cash crop for much of the 20th century. But by the new millennium, it had declined in the face of global competition, changing attitudes about smoking, and the elimination of federal tobacco quotas and price supports. The federal “tobacco buyout” program provided some relief, but farmers still faced financial uncertainty, especially in economically distressed counties in western North Carolina. But with farmers so dependent on tobacco production, few alternative market opportunities existed.99
Across the region, forward-thinking leaders and community groups worked together to help tobacco farmers diversify their operations and sell into local markets. Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP)98 created the “Appalachian Grown” brand as part of a larger effort to grow the local food economy and connect farmers to consumers.100 The Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) awarded grants funded by the state’s Tobacco Trust Fund to help farmers diversify their farms and create new markets.101 And county extension offices administered grants and held seminars on growing “everything from goats, to llamas, to cabbage, to broccoli.”102
Tobacco acreage in North Carolina’s tobacco-dependent regions dropped 95 percent from 1997 to 2012, and the total number of farms of all types dropped; however, the rate of decline following the implementation of the buyout program in 2004 was still lower compared to state and national trends.103Thanks to the efforts of groups like ASAP and RAFI, the region’s farms diversified and reached new markets. Over roughly the same time period (2002 to 2012), the number of farms that grew fresh produce doubled, and those that sold direct to consumers more than doubled.104 An impact study of RAFI’s grant program found it helped create more than 4,100 jobs and produced an economic impact of more than $700 million in just the three years analyzed (2008 to 2011).105 Local produce production has yet to eclipse tobacco’s economic importance but “has emerged as a leading new direction for agriculture.”106
Crucial to these efforts are North Carolina’s burgeoning local food hubs. The nonprofit TRACTOR works with farmers in two western counties that previously relied on tobacco as a cash crop, and now serve as a broker between local produce farms and nearby retailers and restaurants. Farmers receive 80 cents per dollar spent on their produce — compared to the mere 15 cents the average U.S. farmer receives per food dollar — with the remaining 20 cents covering TRACTOR’s operating expenses.107 An effort led by Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture began in 2003 when its founders were told “women can’t be farmers.” The group worked to cultivate a network of women farmers and gardeners who were interested in rebuilding the local food economy. In 2016, they launched the High Country Food Hub. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the food hub served as a crucial outlet for farms that could no longer sell to restaurants.108
Western North Carolina’s tobacco transition is a case study in how a region can transition over a few years to encompass more diversified markets — if state and local leaders are willing to work with grassroots efforts and invest the resources. Similarly, contract growers locked into contracts with meat companies can transition from factory farms to smaller, pasture-based systems or diversified produce farms. Policy reform and public funding will make this happen.
Those of us with the resources may choose to be conscientious consumers by purchasing meat from local farms or abstaining from animal products altogether. But “voting with our forks” is not enough.116 U.S. factory farms already overproduce meat and export much of it.117 Even if everyone in the U.S. went vegan tomorrow, the industry would likely continue to produce meat. Likewise, reducing or eliminating meat consumption will not change the incentives that drive other ecologically-depleting farming systems that prop up factory farms, such as the overproduction of commodity crops on monocultures.
Moreover, animals have long played important roles in healthy, diversified farming systems, and “provide the missing element needed to develop sustainable systems, particularly in terms of soil health.”118 Integrating cattle into crop rotations can build soil organic matter and increase yields while reducing fertilizer use.119 Grazing livestock can clear fields of noxious weeds that might otherwise be killed through chemical herbicides.120 And sustainable grazing can be done on land not suitable for crop production, such as prairie grasslands, where cattle meet the ecological needs that bison once filled and help restore soil function.121 Diversification also increases a farm’s economic resiliency by not focusing on one or two products alone.122
Nevertheless, shifting to smaller, pasture-based livestock systems will ultimately reduce the amount of meat available and quite possibly raise the price of meat.123 However, many Americans are already rethinking the role of meat in their diets, with two-thirds reporting reduced consumption for health and environmental reasons.124 In fact, reducing protein intake to recommended levels by cutting back on animal products would slash per person agricultural greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. by 40 to 45 percent.125 A shift to sustainably produced, better quality meat is a win-win-win for our health, farmers and the climate.
Simply put, the forces behind what we grow and eat are too powerfully entrenched for us to “shop our way out of it.” We need to enforce our antitrust laws and overhaul farm policy — and this will only occur when we elect decision-makers not beholden to corporate agribusinesses.
A Roadmap For a Just Transition
Here are our policy recommendations on how to pivot to this much-needed systemic change.
Regenerative and organic farming are economically viable and already working to feed people, invest in local communities and create jobs. But federal farm policy is not designed to serve “alternative” or smaller-scale farming systems. Powerful agribusinesses have spent billions of dollars influencing lawmakers and regulators to serve their economic interests.126 But we can fight back against corporate control and reshape farm policy to achieve social and economic justice.
A handful of state legislatures have introduced factory farm moratoriums in recent years; the moment is growing. But to enact systemic change, we need a national moratorium on all new and expanding factory farms.
Models for federal legislation include the Farm System Reform Act (FSRA),127 introduced by Senator Cory Booker and Representative Ro Khanna. The FSRA would immediately ban all new large factory farms and the expansion of existing ones, and would phase out existing large factory farms by 2040.
Moreover, the FSRA would invest in a “just transition” by creating a $10 billion buy-out program for factory farm operators to pay off debt (an obstacle for farmers wishing to exit contract growing) or transition to more sustainable systems, such as pasture-based livestock or specialty crops. Notably, this funding would only be available to farmers for projects on land they own which ensures that corporate giants that created the problem do not pocket the funds.
Send a note to your Congressperson asking them to support the Farm System Reform Act today!
The COVID-19 pandemic makes hitting the pause button on mega-mergers all the more critical, to ensure that agribusinesses do not use the pandemic recovery to buy out struggling competitors and further entrench market power.
Federal lawmakers are targeting agribusiness consolidation. This includes Senator Cory Booker and Representative Marc Pocan’s Food and Agribusiness Merger Moratorium and Antitrust Review Act.128 The legislation would enact a moratorium on all agribusiness and grocery mega-mergers and create a commission to recommend steps to strengthen antitrust and merger rules and enforcement. The moratorium would be in place until Congress passes comprehensive legislation to address market consolidation in the agribusiness sector.
End discrimination within USDA programs and support farmers of color.
Black farmers faced disproportionately higher rates of farmland loss throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries. This was accelerated by systemic racism within federal agencies like USDA.129
Legislation like the Justice for Black Farmers Act,130 introduced by Senators Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand, seeks to end discrimination by establishing an independent civil rights board to review reports of and appeals to civil rights complaints filed against USDA. It would also create a number of initiatives to address Black farmer land loss, including creating a land trust to provide the next generation of Black farmers with land and resources to farm.
Overhaul the Federal Farm Safety Net
The current farm safety net is just a Band-Aid on a broken system. Crop insurance provides some economic relief to farmers, but does not address overproduction, a key contributor to price slumps. And farmers are not incentivized to implement sustainable practices that make land more resilient to future disasters in a changing climate.
Reinstate federal supply management for commodities.
The first Farm Bill enacted a federal supply management program, saving countless farmers from bankruptcy during the Dust Bowl.131 The program took marginal farmland out of production and provided farmers with living wages — until it was systematically dismantled by Big Ag.132
USDA used to set a price floor for grains that achieved parity, an income that both covers the cost of production while providing farmers with a living wage. USDA provided farmers loans based on this price floor, which farmers repaid after harvest. In years when market prices dropped below the price floor, 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, USDA sold grains from the federal reserve into the market,133 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.134 We can reinstate supply management for grain crops and extend it to dairy, if our elected officials stand up to the corporate agribusinesses greedy for artificially-cheap commodities.
Require farmers to implement organic practices in order to participate in safety net programs.
This would provide a huge incentive for farmers to shift from ecologically-depleting monocultures to ones that incorporate cover crops, crop rotation and no-till farming. Safety net programs should also promote crop and livestock systems that are appropriate and sustainable for each region. In turn, organic practices would build soil and help make farmland more resilient to future climate change events, reducing reliance on disaster insurance.
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,135 while many fruits, vegetables and nuts are not eligible under many programs.136 Expanding safety net coverage to more specialty crops supports farmers in shifting to new production systems and diversifying their operations.
These crucial changes will encourage organic practices and stop propping up factory farms with taxpayer-subsidized feed. However, we must also correct past failures of safety net programs to include historically underserved farmers, including farmers of color, female and beginning farmers.137
Redirect Public Funding To Support Organic And Regenerative Agriculture
Big Ag has perfected the art of funneling public dollars into maintaining industrial agriculture’s status quo. Money earmarked for conservation programs flows to factory farms, and agribusinesses court public universities to develop patented seeds.138 It is time to end public research for private gain and instead invest in building a food system that works for every farmer, food chain worker and consumer.
Increase funding for regenerative practices.
USDA spends billions of dollars each year on agricultural research, yet only a small slice of this goes into regenerative systems.139 Federally funded research should prioritize practices that reduce chemical inputs, build soil and help farmers adapt to a changing climate. Similarly, state legislatures should follow the example of states like Maryland and California and earmark funding for regenerative practices.140
Farmers must also have access to information on regenerative practices. State extension services have long played vital roles in sharing new practices with farmers. They can be important facilitators in connecting farmers with the growing body of research on climate-friendly practices.141 We should also provide financial and technical support to help farmers — especially those historically under-served — transition to USDA Organic certified operations.
Develop climate-resilient seeds and livestock breeds and make them publicly-available.
Land-grant universities have long been incubators of new farming practices and seed varieties that were once shared widely with farmers, with each public dollar invested paying out $10 in benefits.142 But when public funding lagged, federal policies increasingly encouraged private corporations to partner with universities. Today, agribusinesses develop new seeds at public universities which they then patent. This raises seed costs and prevents farmers from seed-saving.143 Corporations are more interested in developing seeds that lock farmers into costly, poisonous pesticides than those that adapt to climate change.
Federal dollars should instead fund research into non-GMO, patent-free seeds and livestock breeds through traditional breeding methods. We must increase funding for land-grant universities and discourage so-called public-private partnerships. Seeds should be developed to respond to specific geographical conditions and to be climate-resilient. State extension services can help distribute innovative seeds and breeds to farmers and encourage farmers to save seed in order to break free from buying expensive patented seeds year after year.
Reject false solutions and close “conservation” loopholes that fund factory farms.
Money from conservation programs flows to false solutions, such as anaerobic digesters, which generate factory farm gas from manure and other waste.144 Factory farm gas is a dirty, polluting energy. 145 Digesters built with taxpayer money simply prop up factory farms and entrench fossil fuel infrastructure. Instead, we should encourage farmers to shift to smaller, integrated crop-and-livestock systems where they can sustainably recycle manure as crop fertilizer.
Another false solution peddled by corporate interests are carbon pricing schemes for farmers. Carbon pricing — or “pay-to-pollute” schemes — allow polluting industries to avoid emissions reduction by purchasing “offsets” from another source, such as a farmer who sequesters carbon in her soil. But pollution trading doesn’t meaningfully reduce carbon emissions and instead allows companies to pay to pollute.146 The practice is unfair to farmers who have already been practicing climate-friendly agriculture and are unable to claim new offsets. Instead, we must leverage existing conservation programs to implement sustainable practices and tie their adoption to safety net participation, while investing in a rapid transition to a 100 percent clean energy economy.
We Can Build Regenerative Food Systems
This is a window into what regenerative farming systems and food hubs in the United States can look like. It is meant to start a conversation, not offer a prescription, as there is no “one-size-fits-all” model for regenerative farming. We can build new farming and food systems that work for everyone if we embrace a few core principles:
Communities of color are leaders — not afterthoughts — in rebuilding food systems.
Our great-grandparents modeled many of the farming systems and practices we strive for today, with diverse farms serving local markets. But we must not romanticize the past; our farm systems have largely benefitted white male farmers with the most capital. We need to ensure that everyone has a seat at the table, and work alongside communities of color that have been in this fight for generations. There is no food justice without racial justice.
Everyone must be able to afford to participate.
Food hubs that provide farmers and food chain workers with living wages should be accessible to everyone. In the short term, we must increase Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and extend benefits to farmers markets, co-ops and online purchasing. We must also reform labor laws to raise the minimum wage, eliminate wage theft and provide universal paid sick and family leave, so that everyone can afford healthy food.
Reform will bring choice, variety and availability.
Reforming the way we produce animal products will impact cost and availability. We can embrace a “less-is-better” approach, choosing high-quality meat, dairy and eggs produced sustainably while increasing our consumption of whole produce and grains.
Food policies must promote food sovereignty at home and abroad.
This means empowering communities to feed themselves with fresh, local, healthy food. We must also reorient our trade policies so they do not undermine the ability of farmers and rural communities in the developing world to feed themselves.147
Perhaps the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic will be this generation’s “Dust Bowl” that forces a systemic overhaul. Let’s seize the moment and pressure our leaders to enact policies and make investments in food systems that work for all farmers, food chain workers and consumers.
Send a note to your Congressperson asking them to support the Farm System Reform Act today!
CBRE. “2019 U.S. Food in Demand Series: Grocery.” May 2019 at 16.
Sage, Jeremy L. et al. Washington State University. “Bridging the Gap: Do Farmers’ Markets Help Alleviate Impacts of Food Deserts?” Submitted to the Research on Poverty, RIDGE Center for National Food and Nutrition Assistance Research. February 2012 at 5 to 6.
CBRE (2019) at figure 4 at 16.
USDA (2019) at 9; Kelloway, Claire and Sarah Miller. Open Markets Institute. “Food and Power: Addressing Monopolization in America’s Food System.” March 2019 at 2 and 6.
USDA. Economic Research Service (ERS). “Highlights from the February 2020 Farm Income Forecast.” Updated February 5, 2020.
Mooney, Pat. ETC Group. “Blocking the Chain: Industrial Food Chain Concentration, Big Data Platforms and Food Sovereignty Solutions.” October 2018 at 8.
MacDonald, James M. et al. USDA ERS. “Consolidation in U.S. Meatpacking.” AER-785. February 2000 at iii; Williams, Gregory D. and Kurt A. Rosentrater. Tyson Foods and USDA. “Design Considerations for the Construction and Operation of Flour Milling Facilities. Part I: Planning, Structural, and Life Safety Considerations.” Paper No. 074116. Written for presentation at the 2007 American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) Annual International Meeting. Minneapolis, Minnesota. June 17-20, 2007 at 1; USDA (2018); Willingham, Zoe and Andy Green. Center for American Progress. “A Fair Deal for Farmers: Raising Earnings and Rebalancing Power in Rural America.” May 2019 at 20 and 22; Andrews, David and Timothy J. Kautza. “Impact of Industrial Farm Animal Production on Rural Communities.” Report of the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production. 2008 at v to vii.
Manion, Jennifer T. “Cultivating farmworker injustice: The resurgence of sharecropping.” Ohio State Law Journal. Vol. 62, Iss. 5. 2001 at abstract; Drake University, USDA Farm Service Agency and National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. “Contracting in Agriculture: Making the Right Decision.” ND at 8; Andrews, Deborah. “Traditional Agriculture, Biopiracy and Indigenous Rights.” Written for the 2nd World Sustainability Forum. November 1-30 2012 at 2.
Liu, X. et al. “Effects of agricultural management on soil organic matter and carbon transformation — A review.” Plant, Soil and Environment. Vol. 52, No. 12. 2006 at 537 to 538; Horwath, William R. and J. G. Boswell. University of California — Davis. “How much can soil organic matter realistically be increased with cropping management in California?” Proceedings of the CA Plant and Soil Conference, 2018. Fresno, California. February 6-7, 2018 at 32.
Prashar, Pratibha and Shachi Shah. “Impact of fertilizers and pesticides on soil microflora in agriculture.” In Licht-fouse, Eric (Ed.). (2016). Sustainable Agriculture Reviews: Volume 19. Cham: Springer at 355; Deguines, Nicolas et al. “Large-scale trade-off between agricultural intensification and crop pollination services.” Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. Vol. 12, Iss. 4. May 2014 at abstract.
Food & Water Watch (FWW) analysis of USDA. National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Quick Stats. Available at https://quickstats.nass.usda.gov. Accessed August 2019; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “Literature Review of Contaminants in Livestock and Poultry Manure and Implications for Water Quality.” EPA 820-R-13-002. July 2013 at 109; U.S. Census Bureau. 2013-2017 American Community Survey (ACS) 5-year estimates. Available at https://factfinder.census.gov. Accessed December 2019.
Hollenbeck, James E. “Interaction of the role of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) in Emerging Infectious Diseases (EIDS). Infection, Genetics and Evolution. Vol. 38. March 2016 at 44.
Wing, Steve et al. “Environmental injustice in North Carolina’s hog industry.” Environmental Health Perspectives. Volume 108, No. 3. March 2000 at 229; Harun, S.M. Rafael and Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger. “Distribution of industrial farms in the United States and socioeconomic, health, and environmental characteristics of counties.” Geography Journal. Volume 2013. 2013 at 2 and 5; Wilson, Sacoby M. et al. “Environmental injustice and the Mississippi hog industry.” Environmental Health Perspectives. Vol. 110, Supplement 2. April 2002 at 199; Lenhardt, Julia and Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger. “Environmental injustice in the spatial distribution of concentrated animal feeding operations in Ohio.” Environmental Justice. Vol. 6, No. 4. August 22, 2013 at 134 and 137.
Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production. “Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America.” 2008 at 17; Fenske, Richard A. et al. “Strategies for assessing children’s organophosphorus pesticide exposures in agricultural communities.” Journal of Exposure Analysis and Environmental Epidemiology. Vol. 10. November-December 2000 at 662 to 663.
Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production. (2008) at 23 and 25; Ribaudo, Marc O. et al. “Nitrogen sources and Gulf hypoxia: Potential for environmental credit trading.” Ecological Economics. Vol. 52, Iss. 2. January 2005 at 160; Robertson, Dale M. and David A. Saad. “Nutrient inputs to the Laurentian Great Lakes by source and watershed estimated using SPARROW watershed models.” Journal of the American Water Resources Association. Vol. 47, No. 5. October 2011 at 1025 to 1026.
Baker, Brian P. et al. “Pesticide residues in conventional, IPM-grown and organic foods: Insights from three U.S. data sets.” Food Additives and Contaminants. Vol. 19, No. 5. May 2002 at discussion; Damgaard, Ida N. et al. “Persistent pesticides in human breast milk and cryptorchidism.” Environmental Health Perspectives. Vol. 114, No. 7. July 2006 at 1133.
Vermeulen, Sonja J. et al. “Climate change and food systems.” Annual Review of Environment and Resources. Vol. 37. October 2012 at 198 to 199.
Hendrickson, Mary. “Resilience in a concentrated and consolidated food system.” Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences. Iss. 5, No. 3. November 2014 at 3 to 4.
MacDonald et al. (2000) at iii and 12; U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). “Dairy Cooperatives: Potential Implications of Consolidation and Investments in Dairy Processing to Farmers.” GAO-19-695R. September 27, 2019 at 1, 3 and 4.
Corkery, Michael and David Yaffe-Bellany. “The food chain’s weakest link: Slaughterhouses.” New York Times. April 18, 2020; Corkery and Yaffe-Bellany. “Meat plant closures mean pigs are gassed or shot instead.” New York Times. May 14, 2020; Hendrickson, Mary. “Resilience in a concentrated and consolidated food system.” Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences. Iss. 5, No. 3. November 2014, at 15 to 16 and 19.
Coleman-Jensen, Alisha et al. USDA ERS. “Household Food Security in the United States in 2018.” ERR-270. September 2019 at 10.
Hendrickson (2014) at 16 to 17 and 22; Ayazi, Hossein and Elsadig Elsheikh. University of California Berkeley. Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society. “The US Farm Bill: Corporate Power and Structural Racialization in the United States Food System.” October 2015 at 14 to 15 and 26 to 32.
Ranganathan, Janet et al. World Resources Institute (WRI). “Regenerative agriculture: Good for soil health, but limited potential to mitigate climate change.” May 12, 2020; Ewing-Chow, Daphne. “This new food label will mainstream Whole Foods’ biggest trend for 2020.” Forbes. December 20, 2019.
Rhodes, Christopher J. “The imperative for regenerative agriculture.” Science Progress. Vol. 100, No. 1. 2017 at 84, 92, 105 and 108; Ewing-Chow (2019).
Wozniacka, Gosia. “Does regenerative agriculture have a race problem?” Civil Eats. January 5, 2021.
FWW staff interview with Isbell, CJ, Jr. Keenbell Farm. June 25, 2020.
Stanley, Paige L. et al. “Impacts of soil carbon sequestration on life cycle greenhouse gas emissions in Midwestern USA beef finishing systems.” Agricultural Systems. Vol. 162. 2018 at 251, 256 and 257; Şentürklü, Songül et al. “Enhancing soil productivity using a multi-crop rotation and beef cattle grazing.” Geophysical Research Abstracts. Vol. 18. 2016 at abstract; Clark, E. Ann. University of Guelph. Department of Plant Agriculture. “Benefits of Re-integrating Livestock and Forages in Crop Production Systems.” ND at 20 to 25 and 29.
Clark (ND) at 3 to 5.
Schrama, M. et al. “Crop yield gap and stability in organic and conventional farming systems.” Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment. Vol. 256. March 15, 2018 at 123 to 124; Ponisio, Lauren C. et al. “Diversification practices reduce organic to conventional yield gap.” Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Volume 282, Iss. 1799. January 22, 2015 at 5; USDA NRCS. Case studies: Economic benefits of applying soil health practices. Accessed September 2019. Available at https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/ detail/national/soils/health/?cid=NRCSEPRD1470394.
FWW staff interview with Simmons, Ronald. Master Blend Family Farms. September 2, 2020.
FWW analysis of USDA NASS. Quick Stats. Available at https://quickstats.nass.usda.gov. Accessed August 2019; Allen, Stuart et al. University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School. “North Carolina Hog Farming: From Family Farms to Corporate Factories.” W07-008. January 2007 at 1.
Animal Welfare Approved (AWA). “Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW standards for pigs.” August 2020 at 5 and 12.
Allen et al. (2007) at 1 and 10.
Durrenberger, Paul E. and Kendall M. Thu. “The expansion of large scale hog farming in Iowa: The applicability of Goldschmidt’s findings fifty years later.” Human Organization. Vol. 55, No. 4. Winter 1996 at 409 and 411 to 412; 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.
Allen et al. (2007) at 8 to 9.
MacDonald et al. (2000) at iii; Allen et al. (2007) at 8 to 10.
FWW staff interview with Swentzell, Roxanne. Flowering Tree Permaculture Institute. July 31, 2020.
Wozniacka, Gosia. “Agriculture to thwart climate change.” Civil Eats. October 29, 2019; Syngenta. “Syngenta Public Policy Position on Diverse Agricultural Systems.” November 2019 at 11.
Norton, Jay B. and Jonathan A. Sandor. “Combating desertification with Indigenous agricultural technology at Zuni Pueblo, New Mexico.” Arid Lands Newsletter. No. 41. Spring/Summer 1997 at 2; Henry, W. Brien and L. Jason Krutz. “Water in agriculture: Improving corn production practices to minimize climate risk and optimize profitability.” Current Climate Change Reports. Vol. 2, Iss. 2. April 2016 at 49.
Echo Hawk Consulting. “Feeding Ourselves: Food Access, Health Disparities, and the Pathways to Healthy Native American Communities.” 2015 at 30 to 32 and 46 to 47.
West-Barker, Patricia. “You are what your ancestors ate: ‘The Pueblo Food Experience Cookbook’.” Santa Fe New Mexican. August 19, 2016.
Park, Sunmin et al. “Native American foods: History, culture, and influence on modern diets.” Journal of Ethnic Foods. Vol. 3. August 2016 at 171; Khoury, Colin K. et al. “Data from: Origins of food crops connect countries worldwide.” Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Vol. 283, Iss. 1832. June 2016 at Table S1. Accessed August 2020. Available at https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.s08t2.
Hallauer, A.R. “Maize.” In Fehr, Walter R. (Ed.). (1987). Principles of Cultivar Development, Volume 2: Crop Species. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company at 266.
FWW analysis of USDA NASS. Quick Stats. Accessed July 2020. Available at https://quickstats.nass.usda.gov/; “Sweet corn vs. field corn: What’s the difference?” La Crosse Tribune. October 16, 2015.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). (2011). Report of the Panel of Eminent Experts on Ethics in Food and Agriculture: Fourth Session, 26-28 November 2007. FAO: Rome at 14 to 15; USDA ERS. [Table.] “Genetically engineered varieties of corn, upland cotton, and soybeans, by state and for the United States, 2000- 20.” Updated July 17, 2020.
Andrews (2012) at 2.
FWW staff interview with Rider, Jed. June 25, 2020.
Teague, W. R. et al. “The role of ruminants in reducing agriculture’s carbon footprint in North America.” Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. Vol. 71, No. 2. March/April 2016 at 157 to 160; Stanley et al. (2018) at 250 and 256 to 257; de Vries, M., C. E. Middelaar and I. J. M. de Boer. “Comparing environmental impacts of beef production systems: A review of life cycle assessments.” Livestock Science. Vol.178. 2015 at 285 to 286; Horrigan, Leo et al. “How sustainable agriculture can address the environmental and human health harms of industrial agriculture.” Environmental Health Perspectives. Vol. 110, No. 5. May 2002 at 452.
Ratnadass, Alain et al. “Plant species diversity for sustain- able management of crop pests and diseases in agroecosystems: A review.” Agronomy for Sustainable Development. Vol. 32, Iss. 1. January 2012 at 274 to 275; University of California, Davis. “Why insect pests love monocultures, and how plant diversity could change that.” ScienceDaily. October 12, 2016; Wetzel, William C. et al. “Variability in plant nutrients reduces insect herbivore performance.” Nature. 2016 at 1 and 2; Killebrew, Katherine and Hendrik Wolff. University of Washington. Evans School of Public Affairs. Evans School Policy Analysis and Research. Prepared for the Agricultural Policy and Statistics Team of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Environmental Impacts of Agricultural Technologies.” EPAR Brief No. 65. March 17, 2010 at 1, 3 and 4.
Price, A. J. et al. “Glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth: A threat to conservation tillage.” Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. Vol 66, No. 4. July/August 2011 at 268 to 269; Hendrickson (2014) at 13.
FWW staff interview with Smith, Jill. Pure Éire Dairy. July 24, 2020.
Kuepper, George. Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture. “A Brief Overview of the History and Philosophy of Organic Agriculture.” 2010 2 to 3.
Carlson (2016); Vicini, John et al. “Survey of retail milk composition as affected by label claims regarding farm-management practices.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Vol. 108, Iss. 7. July 2008 at 1198; Hribar, Carrie. National Association of Local Boards of Health. “Understanding Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations and Their Impact on Communities.” 2010 at 10.
USDA AMS. “Organic livestock requirements.” July 2013 at 2.
Benbrook, Charles M. “Enhancing the fatty acid profile of milk through forage-based rations, with nutrition modeling of diet outcomes.” Food Science & Nutrition. Vol. 6. 2018 at abstract.
Dunn, Elizabeth G. “With USDA organic dairy in decline, grass-fed sales are booming.” Medium. May 1, 2019.
MacDonald, James M. et al. USDA ERS. “Consolidation in U.S. Dairy Farming.” ERR-274. July 2020 at iv.
USDA AMS. “Estimated Fluid Milk Products Sales Report.” EFMS-1219. June 23, 2020 at 1.
U.S. GAO. “Dairy Cooperatives: Potential Implications of Consolidation and Investments in Dairy Processing to Farmers.” GAO-19-695R. September 27, 2019 at 1 and 4.
MacDonald, James M. et al. (2020) at 1.
MacDonald, James M. et al. (2020) at iii to iv.
National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC). Letter to Secretary Sonny Perdue. U.S. Department of Agriculture. April 23, 2018. On file with Food & Water Watch.
FWW staff interview with Tripp, Tiffany. GRAISE Farm. June 9, 2020.
Macias, Chris J. University of California — Davis. “Is the food supply strong enough to weather COVID-19?” Feeding a Growing Population. June 25, 2020.
Hendrickson (2014) at 18 to 19.
Waltenburg, Michelle A. et al. U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). “Update: COVID-19 among workers in meat and poultry processing facilities—United States, April-May 2020.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Vol. 69, No. 27. July 10, 2020.
Kelly, Heather. “Farm to parking lot to table: The pandemic is inspiring creative efforts to get locally sourced food.” Washington Post. July 9, 2020.
McLane Kuster, Ann et al. U.S. House of Representatives (NH-2nd District). Letter to Secretary Sonny Perdue. USDA. August 3, 2020. On file with Food & Water Watch.
Ayazi & Elsheikh (2015) at 58 to 59.
MacDonald, James M. et al. (2000) at iii; Williams & Rosen- trater (2007) at 1; USDA (2018); FWW. “Consolidation and buyer power in the grocery industry.” December 2010 at 1 to 2; Mooney, Pat. ETC Group. “Too Big to Feed: Exploring the Impacts of Mega-Mergers, Consolidation and Concentration of Power in the Agri-Food Sector.” International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (iPES). October 2017 at 17.
FWW analysis of USDA ERS. Food Expenditure Series. “Nominal food and alcohol expenditures, with taxes and tips, for all purchasers.” Updated June 2, 2020.
Barham, James et al. USDA AMS. “Regional Food Hub Resource Guide: Food Hub Impacts on Regional Food Systems, and the Resources Available to Support Their Growth and Development.” April 2012 at 1.
Barham (2012) at 4 to 7.
FWW staff interview with Fike, Adrionna. Mandela Grocery Cooperative. September 10, 2020.
Holt-Giménez, Eric and Yi Wang. “Reform or transforma- tion? The pivotal role of food justice in the U.S. food movement.” Race/Ethnicity: Multidisciplinary Global Contexts. Vol. 5. No. 1. Autumn 2011 at endnote 1.
Sage (2012) at 1, 2, 5 and 6.
U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives. “Worker coopera- tive definition.” 2015 at 1.
Reynolds, Bruce J. USDA. Rural Business-Cooperative Service. “A History of African-American Farmer Coopera- tives, 1938-2000.” Presented at the NCR-194 Research on Cooperatives Annual Meeting. Las Vegas, Nevada. October 30-31, 2001 at 1 and 8 to 18; Taylor, Dorceta E. “Black farm- ers in the USA and Michigan: Longevity, empowerment, and food sovereignty.” Journal of African American Stud- ies. Vol. 22, No. 2. March 2018 at 51 to 55.
Moore, Kelly and Marilyn E. Swisher. “The food movement: Growing white privilege, diversity, or empowerment?” Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development. Vol. 5, Iss. 4. Summer 2015 at 116; Kolavalli, Chhaya. “Confronting whiteness in Kansas City’s local food movement: Diversity work and discourse on privilege and power.” Grastronomica: The Journal for Food Studies. Vol. 20, No. 1. Spring 2020 at 60 to 61.
U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives (2015) at 1.
Based on information taken from the Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA) website, and reviewed by HAFA staff on August 18, 2020.
Holpuch, Amanda. “‘I almost got killed’: The Hmong refu- gees who call the US home.” Guardian. June 28, 2019.
Adler, Erin. “Farm prospers by providing land, larger markets for Hmong farmers.” Star Tribune. August 16, 2016.
Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA). “Our story.” Available at https://www.hmongfarmers.com/story/. Accessed August 2020 and on file with Food & Water Watch.
Williamson, Shawn. “How much $ does it take to become a farmer? Successful Farming. June 27, 2017.
Basinger Tuschak, Grace. University of North Carolina– Chapel Hill. “Food Hubs as Community Economic Development: Lessons from TRACTOR Food & Farms.” April 2018 at 6 to 7.
Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture. “About.” Available at https://www.brwia.org/about.html. Accessed August 2020 and on file with Food & Water Watch; Ham, Nathan. “High Country Food Hub sees major increases in customers sales and in food supply from local farmers.” High Country Press (NC). May 13, 2020.
Viertel, Josh. “Why big ag won’t feed the world.” Atlantic. January 20, 2010; Center for Consumer Freedom. “Organic agriculture cannot feed the world.” September 18, 2013; Center for Consumer Freedom. “About us.” Available at https://www.consumerfreedom.com/2012/02/convention- al-agriculture-still-feeds-the-world/. Accessed July 2020 and on file with Food & Water Watch.
Schrama, M. et al. (2018) at 123, 124 and 129; Ponisio, Lau- ren C. et al. (2015) at 1, 2 and 5; USDA. Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). “Cover Crops to Improve Soil in Prevented Planting Fields.” June 2013 at 1; Aktar, Md. Wasim. et al. “Impact of pesticides use in agriculture: Their benefits and hazards.” Interdisciplinary Toxicology. Vol. 2, Iss 1. 2009 at 1.
Arneth, Almut et al. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). [Summary for policymakers]. “Climate Change and Land: An IPCC Special Report on Climate Change, Desertification, Land Degradation, Sustainable Land Management, Food Security, and Greenhouse Gas Fluxes in Terrestrial Ecosystems.” August 7, 2019 at 20 to 26 and 40 to 41.
Martin, Allyson. “Seed savers v. Monsanto: Farmers need a victory for wilting diversity.” DePaul Journal of Art, Technology & Intellectual Property Law. Vol. 24, Iss. 1. Fall 2013 at 96; Andrews (2012) at 2 to 5.
Gonzalez, Carmen. “An environmental justice critique of comparative advantage: Indigenous peoples, trade policy, and the Mexican neoliberal economic reforms.” University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law. Vol. 32. 2011 at 755 to 758.
Holt-Giménez, Eric et al. “We already grow enough food for 10 billion people…and still can’t end hunger.” Journal of Sustainable Agriculture. Vol. 36, No. 6. July 2012 at 595; FAO. “FAO’s Work on Agroecology: A Pathway to Achieving the SDGs.” 2018 at 6.
FAO (2018) at 6 and 20.
Hendrickson (2014) at 20.
McGreal, Chris. “How America’s food giants swallowed the family farms.” Guardian. March 9, 2019; U.S. Meat Export Federation. “U.S. pork exports soared to new value, volume records in 2019.” National Hog Farmer. February 6, 2020.
Clark (ND) at 7 and 29.
Şentürklü et al. (2016) at abstract.
Popay, Ian and Roger Field. “Grazing animals as weed control agents.” Weed Technology. Vol. 10, No. 1. Jan.—Mar. 1996 at abstract and 219.
Stanley et al. (2018) at 257; de Vries et al (2015) at 286 to 287; Hillenbrand, Mimi et al. “Impacts of holistic planned grazing with bison compared to continuous grazing with cattle in South Dakota shortgrass prairie.” Agriculture, Eco- systems and Environment. Vol. 279. July 2019 at 156 to 157.
University of New Hampshire Sustainability Institute. “Field to fork farm: Resilience through diversification.” ND at 1 to 2.
Egan, Franklin and Brooks Miller. “Scaling up pastured live- stock production: Benchmarks for getting the most out of feed & land.” Pasa Sustainable Agriculture. June 2020 at 6 to 7; Stampa, Ekaterina et al. “Consumer perceptions, pref- erences, and behavior regarding pasture-raised livestock products: A review.” Food Quality and Preference. Vol. 82. 2020 at abstract; Stanley et al. (2018) at 255.
Neff, Roni A. et al. “Reducing meat consumption in the USA: A nationally representative survey of attitudes and behaviours.” Public Health Nutrition. Vol. 21, No. 10. March 2018 at abstract.
Ranganathan, Janet et al. WRI. “Shifting Diets for a Sustain- able Food Future.” Installment 11 of “Creating a Sustainable Food Future.” April 2016 at 36 to 37.
Ayazi & Elsheikh (2015) at 15; Mooney (2017) at 71 and 74 to 75.
S. 3221. 116th Cong. (2019).
S. 1596. 116th Cong. (2019).
Gilbert, Jess et al. Land Tenure Center. “The Decline (and Revival?) of Black Farmers and Rural Landowners: A Review of the Research Literature.” Working Paper No. 44. May 2001 at 8 to 9; 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 24.
S. 4929. 116th Cong. (2019).
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.
Graddy-Lovelace & Diamond (2017) at 76; Ayazi & Elsheikh (2015) at 23 to 24.
Graddy-Lovelace & Diamond (2017) at 76.
Ibid. at 76; McMinimy, Mark A. Congressional Research Ser- vice (CRS). “U.S. Sugar Program Fundamentals.” R43998. April 6, 2016 at summary.
Shields, Dennis A. Congressional Research Service (CRS). “Federal Crop Insurance: Background.” R40532. August 13, 2015 at summary; Schnepf, Randy. Congressional Research Service (CRS). [Fact sheet.] “2018 Farm Bill primer: Marketing Assistance Loan program.” IF11162. April 3, 2019 at 2.
Rosa, Isabel and Renée Johnson. Congressional Research Service (CRS). “Federal Crop Insurance: Specialty Crops.” R45459. Updated January 14, 2019 at 9; 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 43 to 44.
Graddy-Lovelace & Diamond (2017) at 78.
FWW analysis of EQIP payments, using data received from the Environmental Working Group; FWW. “Public Research, Private Gain: Corporate Influence over University Agricul- tural Research.” April 2012 at 1.
Lehner, Peter and Nathan A. Rosenberg. “Legal pathways to carbon-neutral agriculture.” Environmental Law Reporter. Vol. 47. 2017 at 14; DeLonge, Marcia S., Albie Miles and Liz Carlisle. “Investing in the transition to sustainable agriculture.” Environmental Science & Policy. Vol. 55, Part 1. January 2016 at 267.
Lehner & Rosenberg (2017) at 16.
Ibid at 17.
Fuglie, Keith O. and Paul W. Heisey. USDA ERS. “Economic returns to public agricultural research.” Economic Brief No.10. September 2007 at 3.
Kuo, Jeff. California State University, Fullerton. “Air Quality Issues Related to Using Biogas from Anaerobic Digestion of Food Waste.” Prepared for California Energy Commission. CEC-500-2015-037. March 2015 at 2, 9 and 10.
FWW. “The truth about offsets.” May 2013 at 1; Ritter, Tara and Jordan Treakle. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) and National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC). January 2020 at 1 to 2.
Gonzalez (2011) at 755 to 759; Frison, Emile A. Interna- tional Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (iPES FOOD). “From Uniformity to Diversity: A Paradigm Shift from Industrial Agriculture to Diversified Agroecological Systems.” June 2016 at 24 to 26.
Get the latest on your food and water with news, research and urgent actions.
By submitting my email, I agree to receive emails about urgent food, water and climate issues from Food & Water Action and Food & Water Watch. I may unsubscribe at any time.