Senate

Booker renews push to phase out factory farming by 2040 after pandemic hits meatpacking plants

Democrats are renewing a push started by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) last year that would crack down on factory farming as several meatpacking plants in the country recover from coronavirus outbreaks. 

Booker, the only vegan in the Senate, originally introduced the bill in December. On Wednesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) announced she is co-sponsoring the bill, and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) is introducing a companion bill in the House. 

The legislation directly targets multinational meat producing giants, such as Smithfield Foods, Tyson Foods and JBS, all of which had severe coronavirus outbreaks among workers in their meatpacking plants in the last month that have led to fears of a national meat shortage. President Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to keep plants with outbreaks open weeks after they shut down despite potential risks for employees, who often work in close quarters. 

The bill phases out factory farming, otherwise known as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), by 2040 and imposes stricter environmental standards in the interim. Booker said that having CAFOs at the center of the U.S. food supply chain put the country in a vulnerable position even before the pandemic. 

"Our food system was not broken by the pandemic and it was not broken by independent family farmers," Booker said in a statement. "It was broken by large, multinational corporations like Tyson, Smithfield and JBS that, because of their buying power and size, have undue influence over the marketplace and over public policy." 

The lawmakers describe the bill as a way to empower smaller farmers and ranchers by creating voluntary buyouts for CAFOs and requiring producers to include a country of origin on meat product labels, forbidding the U.S. Department of Agriculture from labeling foreign imported meat products as "Product of USA."

"Giant meatpackers cannot be permitted to continue to profit off of the labor of family farmers, consolidating the food industry to the point that our supply chain is threatened," said Khanna. "Congress must step in to ensure an honest market, or risk losing another historic industry to the hands of big corporations."

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