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Booker proposes moratorium on expansion of large factory farms

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) on Monday unveiled a proposed moratorium on expanding large factory farms in a bill aimed at reforming the agriculture system, breaking up monopolistic practices in the industry and holding corporate farms responsible for environmental impacts.

Booker, a 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful, announced the Farm System Reform Act of 2019.

The bill calls for a handful of reforms on large factory farms in an effort to help ranchers while easing public health concerns that the senator argues stem from the bigger operations. 

“Our independent family farmers and ranchers are continuing to be squeezed by large, multinational corporations that, because of their buying power and size, run roughshod over the marketplace,” Booker said in a statement. “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 is proposing the reforms in an attempt to “transition to a more sustainable and humane system.”

The bill calls for an immediate moratorium on creating new and expanding large concentrated animal feeding operations, with a goal of phasing out the largest operations by 2040. The bill defines large concentrated animal feeding operations as having at least 1,000 cattle, 2,500 hogs or 82,000 laying hens. 

The bill would also allocate $100 billion over 10 years as part of a voluntary buyout for farmers who want to transition out of running the concentrated animal feeding operations. 

The bill also aims to strengthen the Packers and Stockyards Act to protect family farmers and ranchers by prohibiting the use of unfair ranking systems for paying contract growers, protecting livestock and poultry farmers from retaliation and creating market transparency to protect farmers from predatory purchasing practices. 

In addition to the economic goals of the bill, Booker’s proposal calls to hold corporate integrators responsible for pollution and other harm caused by the factory farms. 

The bill is backed by Mike Weaver, president of the Contract Poultry Growers Association of the Virginias, and Randy Dugger, Indiana Farmers Union vice president. 

“Without changes such as this to the abusive contracts and other requirements of the huge multinational meatpackers and poultry integrators the extinction of the family farmer as we have known them is imminent,” Weaver said in a statement.

“Independent family farmers deserve an opportunity to be prosperous again. By providing fairness and transparency in the market, along with a significant investment to help those trapped in a broken system to get out, this bill can make a huge difference,” Dugger said in a statement.


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