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CAFOs - Changing the Geopolitical Landscape

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The United States recently ruled that the Clean Water Act does not affect Animal Farms. The ruling states that animal farms, also referred to as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, are not required to meet safety regulations outlined in the Clean Water Act that sets strict regulations on the sanitation process of water. The reason for this ruling, is because the United States continues to provides “Environmental Quality Incentive Program”, or “EQIP”, an incentive program that covers over 70% of the cost, and CAFOs were forced to follow the CWA, then these subsidies would go to waste. There is a much better alternative to this however. The United States should shift “EQIP” incentives to smaller farmers markets, who are on the brink of having to shut down business.
In the status quo, the competition between large and small farms is not even close. In 2002, the Farm Bill passed by Congress requires that at least 60% of “EQIP” funds to be targeted towards practices and production of livestock. According to the USDA reports, EQIP funds are exceedingly available, but are being used on CAFOs by an exceeding margin. Leonard Blackham, Chairman of National Association of State Departments of Agriculture's Natural Resources and Pesticide Management Committee, indicates that “[these] programs are critical to agriculture because meeting new environmental demands is a "make or break" challenge for producers. Many on-farm environmental enhancements are beyond the short-term and even long-term economic payback for producers” because small farmers deal with farm expenditures, other family financial needs, more stringent and complex standards, and have to fund their own technological approaches, making it impossible to compete. Without “EQIP” subsidies, the small market farmers face extinction.

Recent trends show CAFOs a long-term trend toward the industrialization of agriculture. U.S. farms have been becoming larger, and fewer since the 1930s. But today’s corporatization of agriculture is fundamentally different from previous agricultural booms. Agriculture is now functionally controlled by multinational corporations, through contractual arrangements. These agreements allow agricultural operations to grow far larger than was previously possible for individual farmers or even family corporations. While some CAFO proponents argue that animal farms employ local farmers, even so, all important decisions, and more importantly profits, are made by the headquarters of the corporations, and not the local farmers. If this trend continues, agriculture in the United States will cease to end. John Ikerd, professor of Agriculture at Missouri, believes that “Labor and investment costs are far lower in other countries of the world where the giant multinational corporations are already operating today”, and that these low costs could provide corporations the ability to maximize profits, and move their operations overseas. According to Ikerd, “CAFOs are not the future of family farming in America, but they could mean the end of American agriculture. The American people simply will not tolerate an agricultural system that degrades their environment, violated their ethics, and threatens their health and well-being. If CAFOs are the only domestic alternative, Americans will import their meat, milk, and eggs from other countries.” Failure of American farms has devastating impacts. The first result would be agricultural dependence on other countries, which would gut the United States economy more than it already is. Eighty-Seven Acres, company that informs citizens about food products, compares the United States to the United Kingdom if this were to happen, saying “We would be nearly completely urbanized, with no functioning rural society”. If the United States were to import all of our food, that would result in a high-tax, welfare state with a population of which have no experience of producing real goods. We would no longer be an independent nation, and become dependent on China, Brazil, and Chile among others. It would also trigger the United States to be vulnerable to external pressures, which could have adverse affects on oil imports, or the United States could be pressured to import more manufactured goods from China, which could shift the United States into a tailspin. It doesn’t seem like a big deal now, but CAFOs are taking subsidies from small farmers that could change the geopolitical landscape forever.





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