Washington, D.C. – As the country’s meat and poultry industries increasingly fail consumers and workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, new research from the advocacy group Food & Water Watch highlights an alarming deepening of corporate dominance in Michigan’s dairy industry. With the perils of consolidation now becoming apparent as meat processing plants become pandemic hotspots, farmers euthanize cattle and dump product, and store shelves across the country sit bare, the new report points to the massive takeover of small- and medium-sized farms by the polluting megadairy industry.
The new report, “Factory Farm Nation: 2020,” reveals stark evidence and impacts of corporate agriculture in Michigan and America, including:
- The number of factory dairy operations in Michigan more than quadrupled between 1997 and 2017 — and the total number of cows living on these operations increased eightfold.
- Today, Michigan has fewer than half as many small- and medium-sized dairies (those under 500 head) than it did 20 years ago.
- A 14 percent increase - representing more than 190 million animals - in U.S. factory farm stock from 2012 to 2017.
- An 82 billion-pound increase of annual factory farm manure waste - three times the weight in human sewage produced by New York City - from 2012 to 2017
- A 70 percent increase in the real consumer cost of ground beef over 20 years, while farmer income continues to decline.
- The loss of tens of thousands of family-scale farm operations, including a sharp decline in dairies with fewer than 500 head, between 2012 and 2017.
“These new maps shed light on the expanding threats to Michigan’s water. As the largest freshwater system in the world, Michigan’s Great Lakes are essential to the health and wellbeing of all who depend upon them,” says Rebecca Wolf, Senior Organizer at Food & Water Watch. “But, factory farm runoff from the expanding industry continues to poison large swaths of water with deadly algal blooms that make water undrinkable and unsafe. We know that permitting alone cannot fix this problem and these new maps make it clear: continued factory farm expansion in Michigan is a recipe for water disaster.”
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.