Factory Farm and State Policy







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Family Farms Vs. Factory Farms

One of the most important environmental, economic and social issues confronting agricultural communities is the future structure and practices of the livestock industry.

The issue is whether livestock will be dispersed across the countryside on a variety of farms typified by local family ownership managing diversified farm operations, or produced in large, energy and capital-intensive confinement facilities that concentrate the animals and their wastes in vast quantities and concentrate economic power, wealth and control in the hands of a few absentee and foreign corporations.

At stake is the future of large parts of America’s rural environment, the health and prosperity of rural communities, economic opportunity for farm and rural families, and far-reaching questions about food safety and affordability.

For example, historically in Missouri, hog production provided a healthy economic base for farm and rural economies when the animals were owned by large numbers of independent producers who sold their hogs in competitive, open markets. Under this structure, hog production provided income to farm families, which in turn fueled local economies through such things as buying inputs locally, supporting small businesses on Main Street and a diversified tax base to fund schools, roads and public services.

In the past 35 years the hog industry has changed radically, providing a prime example of who really benefits when an agricultural industry becomes consolidated and concentrated in the hands of a few corporations. Today most of the hogs in the United States are owned or controlled by enormous factory farm corporations (over 70% of the hog market is controlled by 4 meatpackers—Smithfield Foods, JBS, Tyson & Hormel). Smithfield is owned by China’s largest meatpacker and JBS, a Brazilian company, is the world’s largest meatpacker. The facts show that this type of corporate concentration in agriculture forces farmers to receive less and less of the consumer dollar while driving up consumer prices at the grocery store.   

As much as corporate ag supporters would like us to believe that the industrialization of meat production is inevitable, more efficient and results in cheaper food, it simply isn’t true. Family farmers are still the most efficient producers of livestock, jobs, rural economic development and a healthy environment.

Factory Farm and State Policy Issues Facing Missourians

Concentrated Animal Farming Operations (CAFOs) in Missouri

  • Factory farms decrease the property values of surrounding farms and neighbors: According to an Iowa CAFO Study, “an average vacant parcel within three miles of a CAFO in Missouri lost about 6.6% in value, but if a parcel with a house on it was within 1/10 mile of the CAFO, it lost 88% of its value”.
  • Corporate CAFOs siphon-off profits for out-of-state investors that do not stay in local communities.
  • Livestock housed in corporate CAFOs are typically not owned by the farmer, but instead by corporations.
  • Livestock concentration leads to economic decline in rural areas. A study by Food & Water Watch found large hog farm counties in Iowa lost 24% of their small businesses from 1982 to 2007, while the number of small businesses statewide increased 30%. The market share of the top 4 hog processors almost doubled, the number of hogs sold doubled, but the real economic value of hog sales declined by 12%.

Beef Check-Off

  • A federal program initiated as part of the 1985 farm bill mandating a $1 per head tax on producers every time cattle are sold.
  • Since 1985, per capita beef consumption has dropped by 26.5% (from 79 pounds to 58 pounds), the U.S. has lost 35,000 feed lots and Missouri has lost 40% of our beef producers.
  • The vast majority of current check-off dollars paid by cattle producers ends up in the coffers of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA).  Over 80% of the NCBA’s funding comes from the beef check-off. NCBA consistently supports policies that favor meatpackers at the expense of independent cattle producers.  NCBA opposes COOL (Country of Origin Labelling), enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act, and even the 2014 Farm Bill; but they support Packer Ownership of Livestock and giving Fast-Track Trade Authority to the President.
  • In 2016, Missouri beef producers sent a loud and clear message by resoundingly rejecting the proposed state beef checkoff tax by a 75%-25% margins

Local Control

  • Local Control is the ability of local elected representatives, County Commissions and County Health Boards to create protections at the local level from corporate Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs).
  • Why is Local Control Important? Because of the influence of corporate Ag lobbyists, Missouri’s CAFO rules are extremely weak and do not protect family farms, rural landowners and citizens and our water and air from the negative impacts of CAFOs. For example, under state rules: CAFOs can spread waste 50 feet from property lines and homes and 300 feet from water sources; there are ZERO air quality standards for CAFOs with less than 17,500 hogs, 7,000 cattle or 875,000 chicken broilers; CAFOs with up to 17,499 hogs can build within 2,000 feet of a residence, and an unlimited number of animals can be located 3,000 feet from a residence.
  • CAFOs are targeting Missouri. For example, Pipestone Systems, LLC (a CAFO corporation from Pipestone, MN) said in a public meeting that the reason they are targeting Missouri is because we are a “clean state”, i.e we don’t have the animal disease and dirty water problems that plague states with CAFOs.
  • Government is best when it’s closest to the people.

Foreign Corporate Ownership of Missouri Farmland

  • In 2013, the Missouri legislature opened up 289,000 acres (1%) of Missouri farmland for purchase by foreign corporate interests. Less than a month after this legislation passed, WH group purchased Smithfield and acquired over 40,000 acres of our farmland.
  • In 2015, a loophole was added to the foreign ownership statute that makes it almost impossible for the Missouri Department of Agriculture to track foreign purchases of Missouri farmland and thus enforce the law.
  • Foreign corporate ownership of our farmland poses threats to our food security, national security and domestic food production capabilities.
  • Foreign corporate ownership of farmland is increasing nationally and is not being properly monitored by USDA.
  • Since 2013, there have been multiple bills introduced in the MO legislature to stop foreign corporate ownership of Missouri farmland, but the legislature hasn’t moved them past the committee level.

Other Factory Farm and State Policy Issues

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MRCC is able to deliver meaningful victories because of the ability to call people into action with mailings, meetings, phone calls, research, and action alerts.  By joining MRCC, you are investing in your future and the future of independent farmers and consumers across the country.

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