Monday, March 29, 2010

President Obama and Confined Animal Feeding Operations

As a candidate, President Obama was for:

• Capping farm-income eligibility for subsidies at $500,000

• Banning large-scale farms from breaking up into smaller "paper corporations" to get around subsidy limits

• Enacting a "packer ban" to halt the anti-competitive practice that allows slaughterhouse companies to own the animals they slaughter

• Confronting other anti-competitive biases in the animal agriculture marketplace • Cracking down on air and water pollution from animal factory farms

• Forcing animal factories to adopt and follow stringent "manure management" plans • Banning the use of non-therapeutic antibiotics as growth-promoters

• Supporting "local control" that allows counties to decide whether or not they want CAFOs in their area • Linking local food production to local food consumption

• Convening a "National Rural Summit" within 100 days of taking office, in part to address the impact of Agribusiness mega-monopolies on small and medium-sized family farms.

President Obama's current accomplishments and proposals include:

- EPA has proposed rules to enforce factory-farm compliance with discharge regulations under the Clean Water Act and is obliging reluctant states to comply with federal water rules. It's also begun to combat damaging nutrient levels in Chesapeake Bay, will bring more Delmarva chicken operations under federal CAFO rules, and has named animal waste runoff a "priority" target for federal enforcement.

- At USDA, some farm subsidy loopholes are being closed, including one allowing absentee owners to collect on property they do not personally manage, and another that links to IRS data to determine individual income eligibility (something that helps stem the "paper farm" problem, officials say).

- USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and Attorney General Eric Holder held the first of five promised hearings on competition in agriculture.

- USDA has also announced new transparency rules for loans to contract poultry growers, which will also be extended to pork growers; launched the "Know Your Farmer" program to link local producers and consumers;

- Increased funding for conservation efforts;

- Tabled a federal animal identification program too onerous for small farmers; and

- Rewritten organic meat-and-dairy rules to require that animals must pasture-graze at least 120 days-per-year and receive at least 30% of their dry food intake from pasture.

(Wash Post, 3/2010)

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