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Factory Farms Should be Revamped -- says Pew Commission

Industrial farms need consistent regulation, transparency and better sustainable practices to ensure our food supply

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04/21/2008 - Factory farms are too crowded and risk spreading disease within livestock and to humans, but should be revamped and not abolished because of the need to feed the world, according to a report from the Pew Charitable Trusts.

The Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production said the negative effects of the industry are "too great" to ignore and the environmental, health, and animal welfare concerns need to be addressed.

Industrial Farm Profile

By confining large numbers of animals in cramped spaces, industrial farms increase the risk of spreading disease within the herd or flock and spreading disease from animals to humans.

Another health risk posed to humans by the current methods of industrial farming is the use of antibiotics to spur the growth of animals. The widespread use of antibiotics has promoted the development of drug-resistant bacteria in or near livestock.

Regulations for Industrial Farms

A lack of consistent and transparent regulations governing concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) is underscored by a report released today by the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production (PCIFAP) and the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). The report is entitled Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations: A Survey of State Policies.

The survey is just one aspect of PCIFAP’s 2½-year study of the effects of industrial farm animal production on public health, the environment, rural communities, and animal welfare. Because of its familiarity with state regulatory issues, the Commission asked the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) to conduct a 50 state survey of the appropriate state regulatory agencies to gain a better understanding of current regulations, as well as whether states have resources available to implement mandates.

State Regulations of Industrial Farming

"State and local governments have developed a patchwork of regulations typically using federal regulations as a basic guideline that can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. That may result in imbalanced and ineffective enforcement," said John Carlin, Commission chairman and former Kansas Governor.

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO)

The survey highlights the patchwork of regulation from state to state, and in many cases, a complete lack of regulation in areas that are essential to protecting public health and the environment. While many states do have regulations beyond federal requirements, it is clear that the regulation has not caught up with the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) model of food animal production.

Kentucky, for example, is contemplating whether or not to even continue regulating CAFOs. And other states, like New Mexico, have limited policies on animal feeding operations and rely on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations in their states. What is actually being done to regulate CAFOs within the EPA delegated states is obscure. South Dakota refused to respond to the survey and Mississippi responded only minimally. It should be noted that all information requested from state agencies is supposed to be available to the public.

The survey also revealed that several states have made strides in their attempt to mitigate the potential threats posed by CAFOs. Oregon, for example, has gone beyond regulating just those facilities that fit the federal definition of a CAFO, and thus regulates more than double the number of animal feeding operations that federal law requires. California, a state that faces ongoing water quality issues, appears to be working diligently to curb any runoff from CAFOs into water sources. While this survey showed that some states appear to be setting comparably robust examples of CAFO regulations, the survey did not address the actual enforcement of their respective policies.

The PCIFAP consists of 15 Commissioners, each of whom bring individual knowledge and expertise in diverse fields, including public policy, veterinary medicine, public health, agriculture, animal welfare, and rural society. Over the past two years, the Commission assessed the current state of industrial animal agriculture based on public testimony, site visits, technical reports, staff research, and Commissioners’ own expertise in an effort to recommend solutions to problems created by intensive confinement systems. The PCIFAP releases its final report and recommendations on April 29, 2008, at 10:00 a.m. in the Horizon Room in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.

For more information visit the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production Web site.


Survey Introduction: Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations: A Survey of State Policies

Edited by Carolyn Allen
| agriculture | leadership | food processing | food production |


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