Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Final Report On Industrial Farm Animal Production

Apr 29: The Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production (PCIFAP), convened in 2005, to study the impacts of dramatic changes in animal agriculture in America over the past 40 years, has issued its final report -- Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America [See WIMS 3/4/08]. The PCIFAP is funded by a grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts to Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

John Carlin, Former Governor of Kansas and family farmer, who served as Chair of the PCIFAP said it, "sought to develop recommendations that protect what is best about American agriculture and to help to ensure its sustainability for the future. Our work focuses on four areas of concern that we believe are key to that future: public health, environment, animal welfare, and the vitality of rural communities; specifically, we focus on how these areas have been impacted by industrial farm animal production.

Robert Martin, Executive Director, of the project said, "There have been some serious obstacles to the Commission completing its review and approving consensus recommendations. The agriculture industry is not monolithic, and the formation of this Commission was greeted by industrial agriculture with responses ranging from open hostility to wary cooperation. In fact, while some industrial agriculture representatives were recommending potential authors for the technical reports to Commission staff, other industrial agriculture representatives were discouraging those same authors from assisting us by threatening to withhold research funding for their college or university. We found significant influence by the industry at every turn: in academic research, agriculture policy development, government regulation, and enforcement. . . The present system of producing food animals in the United States is not sustainable and presents an unacceptable level of risk to public health and damage to the environment, as well as unnecessary harm to the animals we raise for food."

The 124-page report contains sections on How the Current System Developed; Public Health; Environmental Risks; Animal Welfare; Rural America; and includes Conclusion: Toward Sustainable Animal Agriculture and The Recommendations of the Commission, followed by various References. The PCIFAP concludes: "Among the many changes likely in the next 50 years, we believe the following three will be especially challenging to the US industrial food and agriculture system: the depletion of stored energy and water resources, and changing climate. These changes will be especially challenging because America’s successful industrial economy of the past century was based on the availability of cheap energy, a relatively stable climate, and abundant fresh water, and current methods have assumed the continued availability of these resources." [Emphasis in original]

The report indicates that "as industrial farm animal production (IFAP) systems have increased cost-efficient agricultural food production, they have also given rise to problems that are beginning to require attention by policymakers and the industry. Given the relatively rapid emergence of the technologies for industrial farm animal production, and the dependence on chemical inputs, energy, and water, many IFAP systems are not sustainable environmentally or economically."

The report makes detailed and documented recommendations within five issue areas: Public Health (12 recommendations); Environment (4 recommendations); Animal Welfare (5 recommendations); Community Impacts (2 recommendations); and a general recommendation for "Increase funding for, expand, and reform animal agriculture research." Each recommendation includes a background discussion and extensive details of the specific recommendations. Focusing here on the environmental and community impacts recommendations, the PCIFAP recommends:

  • Improve enforcement of existing federal, state, and local IFAP facility regulations to improve the siting of IFAP facilities and protect the health of those who live near and downstream from them;
  • Develop and implement a new system to deal with farm waste (that will replace the inflexible and broken system that exists today) to protect Americans from the adverse environmental and human health hazards of improperly handled IFAP waste;
    Increase and improve monitoring and research of farm waste to hasten the development of new and innovative systems to deal with IFAP waste and to better our understanding of what is happening with IFAP today;
  • Increase funding for research into improving waste handling systems and standardize measurements to allow better comparisons between systems;
  • States, counties, and local governments should implement zoning and siting guidance governing new IFAP operations that fairly and effectively evaluate the suitability of a site for these types of facilities; and
  • Implement policies to allow for a competitive marketplace in animal agriculture to reduce the environmental and public health impacts of IFAP.

Access the complete final report (click here). Access the PCIFAP website for extensive information (click here). Access the WIMS-EcoBizPort CAFO links for additional information (click here). [*Air, *Agriculture *Water]

Note: On April 24, 2008, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released another report entitled, CAFOs Uncovered: The Untold Costs of Confined Animal Feeding Operations, which is also critical of CAFO operations. Access a release from UCS (click here). Access links to the complete 94-page report and an executive summary (click here).