For Immediate Release, April 15, 2020

Contact:

Stephanie Feldstein, Center for Biological Diversity, (734) 395-0770, sfeldstein@biologicaldiversity.org
Mia MacDonald, Brighter Green, (917) 626-8702, macdonald@brightergreen.org

54 Groups Urge Congress: Don’t Use COVID-19 Funds to Prop Up Factory Farms

Letter Calls for Stimulus Money to Support Small, Mid-sized Farmers

WASHINGTON— More than 50 organizations called on Congress today to prevent factory farms from receiving COVID-19 relief and stimulus funds.

Noting that industrial animal agriculture is a major pollution source and “a significant contributor to climate disruption,” the groups also urged lawmakers to oppose efforts to waive environmental regulations for big meat and dairy operations during the pandemic.

“COVID-19 stimulus packages shouldn’t be used as yet another bailout for industrial animal agriculture,” said Stephanie Feldstein, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s population and sustainability program. “Polluting factory farms threaten our food security and degrade the environment. Congress must not hand this destructive, unsustainable industry another blank check.”

Signed into law March 26, the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) stimulus package includes $23.5 billion for agriculture. In their letter the Center and other groups pressed Congress to direct these funds toward small and mid-size farmers producing fruits, vegetables and other climate-compatible plant-based foods.

Prior relief efforts, such as the $28 billion in subsidies the Trump administration doled out last year during its trade war with China, have disproportionately benefited industrial meat and dairy farmers. These subsidies — and the lack of equal funding for small farmers — are now under investigation by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Funding has gone to companies responsible for industrial meat and dairy production, but farmworkers and workers in factory farms, slaughterhouses and processing plants continue to receive low wages and lack sufficient protection from the virus. The Center and allies called on Congress today to direct the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to require employers to offer adequate protections for frontline food industry workers. That would include providing personal protective equipment and access to paid sick leave.

“COVID-19 is a global tragedy that underscores how interconnected human societies are with each other and with nature,” said Mia MacDonald, executive director of environmental think tank Brighter Green. “Congress should reject the environmentally damaging and broken agenda of agribusiness. Stimulus and bailout funds can support sustainable and equitable food systems, protect food workers and ensure healthy produce reaches those most in need now.”

Today’s letter also urged Congress not to allow the COVID-19 pandemic to be used as an excuse by industrial agriculture to relax existing environmental protection laws such as the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act.

Citing the pandemic the Environmental Protection Agency recently announced it will stop enforcing many environmental protection rules — a move the Center and many other groups oppose.

“Congress must ensure that the small farmers and farmworkers most at risk of economic disaster receive the aid they desperately need,” said Feldstein. “Without them the sustainability and security of our food system will be in grave danger.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Brighter Green is a public policy action tank in New York that works to raise awareness of and encourage policy action on issues that span the environment, animals and sustainability.