Des Moines, IA – New research from the advocacy group Food & Water Watch shows explosive growth in factory farm density across the state of Iowa and new data shows those operations are responsible for billions of pounds of animal manure produced each year in this country.
The current pandemic has revealed the perils of agricultural consolidation as meatpacking plants become coronavirus hotspots, farmers euthanize cattle and dump product, and store shelves across the country sit bare.
Now, this new report, “Factory Farm Nation: 2020,” reveals that factory farming is also polluting our air and water with 885 billion pounds of manure each year. In Iowa, factory farming and the associated impacts are among the top most severe in the nation:
- 94% of counties in Iowa contain extreme or severe factory hog density
- Iowa contains 6 out of the top 10 counties in the country producing the highest amount of hog manure - just Washington county itself produces the same amount of manure from hogs on factory farms as the entire city of San Diego produces in human sewage
- Factory egg-laying operations in Iowa are expanding massively. While the state has a quarter fewer factory egg-laying operations than it did in 2012, the average size of these operations increased by nearly 50 percent. Those egg-laying farms produce 1.9 olympic sized pools per day of manure. That’s 20% of the total annual manure production from egg-laying farms in the country
- Iowa beef cattle on factory farms produced three times the amount of manure that the entire city of Houston produced in 2017
"Iowa is ground zero for corporate control of our food and farm system. From polluting our waterways to devastating rural economies, corporate agriculture is a virulent, extractive industry. This severe consolidation has us at the mercy of multi-billion dollar corporations like Tyson and JBS that only value their bottom line,” said Emma Schmit, Iowa Organizer Food & Water Action. “The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the systemic failures of our supply chain; now more than ever we need a sustainable and durable food system capable of withstanding future crises. Iowa needs a factory farm moratorium so that we can rebuild our food and farm system to place the wellbeing of people before the pocketbooks of shareholders and CEOs.”
"This research confirms what rural Iowans have known for years: we have far too many factory farms, and it’s only getting worse. People across our state are fighting the expansion of factory farms in their own backyards even as the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that this system does not work for us,” said Edith Haenel, Founder, Worth County Citizens for Responsible Agriculture. “This report should serve as a renewed call to action: We need a factory farm moratorium so our grandchildren do not have to live with the devastating effects of factory farming.”
Legislation in Congress introduced by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) is intended to correct many of the existing problems in the agriculture system and put the country on a path to more safe and sustainable food production in the future. Among other things, the Farm System Reform Act would:
- Place a moratorium on construction of new large factory farms and the expansion of existing ones.
- Hold corporations liable for environmental harm caused by the factory farms that raise their animals.
- Provide a $100 billion voluntary buyout program for contract farmers to transition away from factory farming corporate control.
- Strengthen the Packers & Stockyards Act to protect family farmers and ranchers from abusive practices by integrating corporations.