As The Global Pandemic Exposes Dangers In The Meatpacking Industry, Sen. Warren & Rep. Khanna Cosponsor Sen. Cory Booker’s ‘Farm System Reform Act’
As the global pandemic exposes the dangers inherent in the highly concentrated food system in the United States, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) recently announced that they will cosponsor Senator Cory Booker’s (D-NJ) Farm System Reform Act.
Booker introduced the Farm System Reform Act in the Senate last year and Rep. Khanna announced last week that he has officially filed companion legislation in the House.
The announcement comes as the COVID-19 crisis has revealed the hyper- concentration of our food system, in which a few large multinational corporations exert a stranglehold over supply. For example, four companies control nearly 85% of the U.S. beef market. Pork and chicken supply are similarly consolidated.
Such concentration makes the food chain extremely fragile. Late last month, after more than a dozen meatpacking plants closed due to COVID-19 outbreaks, President Trump invoked the Defense Production Act (DPA) to keep plants open, despite the risks this move places on workers, who often work shoulder to shoulder in unsanitary and inhumane conditions.
The Farm System Reform Act would massively reform this broken system. Among other things, it would crack down on the monopolistic practices of multinational meatpackers and corporate integrators, place a moratorium on new factory farms, and invest heavily in more sustainable food production; which is proving to be the most resilient during the pandemic.
“Our food system was not broken by the pandemic and it was not broken by independent family farmers. It was broken by large, multinational corporations like Tyson, Smithfield, and JBS that, because of their buying power and size, have undue influence over the marketplace and over public policy,” Booker said in a statement. “That undue influence was on full display with President Trump’s recent executive order prioritizing meatpacker profits over the health and safety of workers.”
“We need to fix this broken system,” continued Booker. “That means protecting family farmers and food system workers and holding corporate integrators responsible for the harm they are causing. Large factory farms are harmful to rural communities, public health, and the environment, and we must immediately begin to transition to a more sustainable and humane system.”
“For years, regulators looked the other way while giant multinational corporations crushed competition in the agriculture sector and seized control over key markets. The COVID-19 crisis will make it easier for Big Ag to get even bigger, gobble up smaller farms, and lead to fewer choices for consumers,” stated Warren. “We need to attack this consolidation head-on and give workers, farmers, and consumers bargaining power in our farm and food system. I’m glad to partner with Senator Booker and Representative Khanna to start reversing the hyper-concentration in our farm economy.”
“Giant meatpackers cannot be permitted to continue to profit off of the labor of family farmers, consolidating the food industry to the point that our supply chain is threatened,” said Rep. Ro Khanna. “Congress must step in to ensure an honest market, or risk losing another historic industry to the hands of big corporations. If we had a food system with fair competition, independent and diversified producers would provide a dependable and sustainable food supply.”
A summary of the Farm System Reform Act of 2019 can be found HERE. A section by section explanation of the bill can be found HERE, and legislative text can be found HERE.