Cory Booker introduced the Farm System Reform Act of 2019
By Diego Flammini
A Democratic presidential hopeful has introduced legislation designed to increase competitiveness for family farmers when compared to large, corporate operations.
New Jersey Senator Cory Booker unveiled the Farm System Reform Act of 2019 on Monday.
The bill outlines multiple changes for large, corporately owned farms while also acknowledging public concerns.
Among the act’s changes is to “place an immediate moratorium on new and expanding large CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) and phase out by 2040 the largest CAFOs as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency.”
Booker’s bill outlines the parameters for CAFOs.
Operations with 700 mature dairy cows, 1,000 beef cattle, 82,000 laying hens or 55,000 turkeys are among those that would fall under the bill’s definitions.
“We need to fix the broken system – that means protecting family farmers and ranchers and holding corporate integrators responsible for the harm they are causing,” Booker said in a statement Monday. “Large factory farms are harmful to rural communities, public health, and the environment and we must immediately begin to transition to a more sustainable and humane system.”
In addition, the bill would allocate federal dollars for a voluntary buyout program.
The act plans to set aside US$100 billion over 10 years for owners of animal feeding operations looking to transition to other activities on the property.
“Funds could be used to fully pay off outstanding debt incurred to construct and operate an AFO or to cover transition costs for alternative agriculture activities…,” the bill says.
Some members of the ag community have shown their support for Booker’s plan.
This bill would provide producers with additional support when trying to compete with large companies.
“I have seen first-hand how hard it is to challenge the multinational corporations who control the meat industry,” Mike Callicrate, a rancher from St. Francis, Kan., said in a statement Monday. “Farmers and ranchers need a marketplace that compensates them fairly and Senator Booker’s Farm System Reform Act is a big step in the right direction.”
Some farm organizations have voiced concerns with Booker’s plan.
The measures he’s proposing could have negative effects on the industry and consumers, said Ethan Lane, the vice-president of government affairs with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
“Make no mistake about it – while Senator Booker claims that he’s standing up for the ‘little guy,’ his legislation would significantly increase the cost of food for consumers who can least afford it - and would ultimately lead to further consolidation in the industry,” he told Farms.com in an emailed statement. “While he claims to be standing up for the environment, banning efficient and responsible feeding methods means it will take longer to grow cattle to full size, thereby actually increasing impacts on the environment.”