In this file:
· Biden could do a lot to fight factory farming even without Congress
Biden’s agriculture secretary could confront factory farms, or coddle them.
… the USDA is one of the key agencies that will determine if factory farming continues unabated, or shrinks and reforms, under Biden… Biden’s administration could… reverse Trump administration moves to increase line speeds at slaughterhouses (including eliminating speed limits at pig plants altogether). That would be a huge win for workers…
· L.A. Animal Rights Activists to Call for Halt to New Factory Farms
… activists plan to protest in front of the Farmer John slaughterhouse in Vernon Tuesday, one day after more than $100,000 in fines were announced… “There’s lots of reasons to oppose factory farms,” DXE’s Matt Johnson told City News Service. “We’re fundamentally an animal rights group, but with this (COVID-19) in the news, it’s timely to talk about this. Factory farms are a perfect breeding ground for infectious diseases to start, and once they do start, slaughterhouses are a perfect place for them to spread.” The group is asking people to visit www.nomorefactoryfarms.com to sign a letter urging Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state Legislature to institute a moratorium on new factory farm construction in California…
Biden could do a lot to fight factory farming even without Congress
Biden’s agriculture secretary could confront factory farms, or coddle them.
By Dylan Matthews, Vox
Nov 17, 2020
Now that Joe Biden is the president-elect, at least in the eyes of everyone but the current president and his diehards, speculation is mounting about what his Cabinet is going to look like. There’s a lot of rumor-mongering about the most prestigious positions like State and Treasury but one of the most consequential choices is less prominent: secretary of agriculture.
The US Department of Agriculture does not draw as many headlines as State or Treasury but it’s an incredibly important institution. It administers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), better known as “food stamps,” and as such is one of the most consequential antipoverty agencies in the US. Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), one of the most active advocates for food stamps in Congress, is reportedly one of the candidates Biden is considering for secretary.
But just as important as its antipoverty function is USDA’s role in regulating industrial animal agriculture and animal welfare. Along with the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Justice/Federal Trade Commission in their roles as antitrust regulators, the USDA is one of the key agencies that will determine if factory farming continues unabated, or shrinks and reforms, under Biden.
There’s a lot of low-hanging fruit for the Biden administration to tackle, by simply reversing Trump-era changes that went in the wrong direction.
Humane Society Legislative Fund President Sara Amundson had a useful rundown of these the other day. Biden’s administration could, for instance, reverse Trump administration moves to increase line speeds at slaughterhouses (including eliminating speed limits at pig plants altogether). That would be a huge win for workers in those plants, but also reduce the number of animals being slaughtered every year. It could also bring back the Obama administration’s “animal welfare rule,” which imposed higher standards for organic farms.
The Trump administration has also finalized a number of rules expanding fishing (including loosening restrictions meant to prevent bycatch of the endangered Atlantic bluefin tuna) and expanding hunting (such as of predators like Alaskan wolves, and of grizzly bears) that animal advocates would like to see reversed.
What a tough stance on factory farming would look like
But Biden could go further than simply reversing Trump. And he has some options for really impactful action when it comes to factory farming.
Jonathan Lovvorn, a colleague of Morris’s and faculty co-director of Yale’s Law, Ethics, & Animal Program, tells me he’d like to see Biden “issue an [executive order] directing USDA, EPA, and other agencies to catalog all the regulatory and enforcement exemptions currently bestowed on factory farms, and to develop a regulatory action plan to restore environmental, labor, animal welfare, and climate accountability to this industry.”
Specifically, Lovvorn also highlights the need to incorporate animal agriculture, which accounts for a huge chunk of greenhouse gas emissions, into Biden’s climate policies, including by listing emissions from CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations, the technical acronym for factory farms) as pollutants covered by the Clean Air Act. He’d also like to see a Biden executive order halting explicit government support for the construction or expansion of any new CAFOs.
Leah Garcés, president of the animal protection group Mercy for Animals, echoed the need for the EPA to use the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act to regulate CAFOs. On climate in particular, “EPA previously studied CAFO emissions, but it was highly flawed and even excluded beef cattle and turkeys from the study,” she says.
She and Mercy for Animals call on the Biden Administration to “update Clean Water Act regulations to reduce the minimum size requirement for CAFOs to be regulated under the CWA. Under the existing definition …only about 10% of all current CAFOs are large enough to qualify as a regulated source point under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permitting program.” Reducing the minimum size requirement would effectively put more factory farms under the regulation of the EPA.
Garcés also wants the EPA to “take action against states for failing to enforce the CWA against CAFOs. For example, in 2012, the EPA found that Iowa was not conducting inspections to determine whether CAFOs needed permits, assessing adequate penalties against CAFOs, or issuing NPDES permits when appropriate.”
A more specific animal welfare move both Lovvorn and Garcés endorsed is directing the USDA to interpret the Humane Slaughter Act, a 1958 law that while poorly enforced nonetheless provides valuable protections to cattle and pigs, so it applies to poultry for the first time.
Lovvorn also has a set of Covid-19-specific policy recommendations. “The Biden administration should issue an emergency rule setting a mandatory OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] standard to ensure proper social distancing, PPE, and other protections for slaughterhouse workers — something the Trump administration flatly refused to do,” Lovvorn says. Garcés also highlighted the need for the Biden administration to ban cruel “depopulation” measures that farms shutting down, including ones shutting down due to shocks to the meat-packing industry during Covid, use to kill their animals.
Yale’s Morris argues for breaking up the monopolistic meat industry using antitrust levers as a priority, and points to a proposal from antitrust groups to do just that.
“Their list focuses on worker safety and farmer prosperity, but many of the actions would also benefit farm animals directly (i.e. reducing slaughter line speeds) or indirectly (i.e. lessening the agricultural lobby’s political stranglehold),” Morris told me.
Picking an ag secretary without ties to factory farming is key ...
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L.A. Animal Rights Activists to Call for Halt to New Factory Farms
November 17, 2020
Animal rights activists plan to protest in front of the Farmer John slaughterhouse in Vernon Tuesday, one day after more than $100,000 in fines were announced against the plant and a subcontractor over a massive outbreak of COVID-19 among Farmer John workers.
The group Direct Action Everywhere — which saw 26 of its members arrested when they attempted to shut down operations at the slaughterhouse in late September — plans to set up caution tape outside the facility to “warn the public about viral disease and animal cruelty at the company.”
The demonstration is one of five coordinated events taking place Tuesday at slaughterhouses and factory farms throughout California, with others taking place in Sonoma County, Tulare County and two in Stanislaus County.
Demonstrators say they will wear face masks at all times and practice six-foot social distancing.
Their protest is twofold: Warning that plants such as Farmer John can be hotbeds for the transmission of infectious diseases such as COVID-19, and educating the public about the animal cruelty they say exists there and at similar facilities.
Thousands of pigs are trucked each week into the facility at 3049 E. Vernon Ave., where they are killed and turned into Dodger Dogs, as well as the ham, bacon, sausage and hot dogs sold under the Farmer John label.
“There’s lots of reasons to oppose factory farms,” DXE’s Matt Johnson told City News Service. “We’re fundamentally an animal rights group, but with this (COVID-19) in the news, it’s timely to talk about this. Factory farms are a perfect breeding ground for infectious diseases to start, and once they do start, slaughterhouses are a perfect place for them to spread.”
The group is asking people to visit www.nomorefactoryfarms.com to sign a letter urging Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state Legislature to institute a moratorium on new factory farm construction in California.
Virginia-based Smithfield Foods, owner of Farmer John, was fined $58,000 by the Division of Occupational Safety and Health of California, and another $47,000 in fines were issued to CitiStaff Solutions Inc. last week.
The COVID-19 outbreak at Farmer John is the largest at any nonresidential facility in Los Angeles County.
United Food and Commercial Workers 770 filed complaints with Cal-OSHA in May, and called for the Farmer John plant to be shut down.
“In the absence of leadership from Smithfield, we have taken it on ourselves to call for safer working conditions and an investigation from Cal/OSHA,” said Jose Guzman, a worker at Farmer John.
“They’ve never taken our health seriously — we are disposable to them as long as their profits keep going up, and it’s no surprise to see this many citations given,” Guzman continued.
But Smithfield says it has implemented stringent new health protocols to protect against the virus, and promised to appeal the citations.
A company spokesperson said Cal-OSHA...
Farmer John meatpacking plant in Vernon hit with safety fine for hundreds of COVID-19 cases
via KTLA (CA) - Nov 16, 2020
Southern California’s huge Farmer John meatpacking plant on the edge of Los Angeles has been assessed more than $58,000 for safety violations state officials say exposed more than 300 workers to COVID-19 infections, including three who were hospitalized.
The state Department of Industrial Relations, known as Cal/Osha, says the violations were uncovered during an investigation that took place at the Vernon, California, plant between May and November, adding that some serious COVID-19 infections were traced as early as February.
The plant’s corporate owner, Smithfield Foods of Virginia, said Monday it has worked hard to ensure employees at all its plants remain safe from COVID-19 and will aggressively contest the $58,100 in proposed penalties.
Meatpacking and poultry processing plants across the country, where employees work in close proximity slaughtering animals for food, have been a hotbed for infections since the coronavirus struck early this year.
In July, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention reported more than 16,000 cases in 23 states.
Cal/Osha reported in September that it issued more than $200,000 in proposed penalties against frozen food manufacturer Overhill Farms Inc. and the agency it contracts with for failing to protect hundreds of employees at two plants in Vernon.
Local 770 of the United Food and Commercial Workers union said its complaints prompted the recent investigation of Farmer John, where thousands of pigs are slaughtered to make hot dogs, sausages, bacon and other products.
“In the absence of leadership from Smithfield, we have taken it on ourselves to call for safer working conditions and an investigation from Cal/OSHA,” said Farmer John employee Jose Guzman.
The union said Farmer John employment contractor CitySolutions Inc. was also issued $47,000 in separate penalties. CitiSolutions, whose contract workers are mentioned in the Farmer John citations, declined to comment and Cal/Osha didn’t immediately elaborate.
One of several citations Cal/Osha issued against Farmer John said the company failed to report three employees who were hospitalized with the coronavirus between Feb. 14 and April 28. The agency also said its inspection revealed the company “failed to consider at least 303 COVID-19 illnesses of its own employees and contract employees of CitiStaff Solutions.”
Smithfield Foods Chief Administrative Officer Keira Lombardo said...