Salem, OR– As the country’s agricultural 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 Oregon’s dairy industry. With the perils of consolidation now becoming apparent as meatpacking plants become pandemic hotspots, farmers euthanize cattle and dump milk, 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 mega-dairy industry.
The new report, “Factory Farm Nation: 2020,” reveals stark evidence and impacts of corporate agriculture in Oregon and America, including:
- 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.
- 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.
“Oregon’s mega-dairies produce mega-pollution. Weak rules have allowed industrial mega-dairies to push family farmers off the land, pollute Oregon’s environment, and threaten animal welfare, and the data shows it is only getting worse,” said Emma Newton, Oregon Organizer Food & Water Action. “Governor Kate Brown should immediately enact a mega-dairy moratorium to protect Oregon’s communities before it’s too late.”
“A typical Oregon dairy has between 350 to 400 milking cows, yet industrial mega-dairies with 30,000 cows are being permitted by the Oregon Department of Agriculture. Of course Oregon’s family-scale farms suffer. Forty years ago Oregon was home to more than 4,000 dairies, mostly small, family-owned businesses. Now, just over 200 remain,” said Shari Sirkin, Executive Director, Friends of Family Farmers. “Needless to say, industry consolidation in our state comes at a huge cost to small farmers and our rural communities. The data is clear: mega-dairies do not belong in Oregon, and we need a moratorium immediately.”
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.