Thursday, April 24, 2008

Confined animal feeding operations cost US taxpayers billions, new report finds

Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy: Misguided federal farm policies have encouraged the growth of massive confined animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, by shifting billions of dollars in environmental, health and economic costs to taxpayers and communities, according to a report released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). As a result, CAFOs now produce most of the nation's beef, pork, chicken, dairy and eggs, even though there are more sophisticated and efficient farms in operation.

"CAFOs aren't the natural result of agricultural progress, nor are they the result of rational planning or market forces," said Doug Gurian-Sherman, a senior scientist in UCS's Food and Environment Program and author of the report. "Ill-advised policies created them, and it will take new policies to replace them with more sustainable, environmentally friendly production methods."

"CAFOs Uncovered: The Untold Costs of Confined Animal Feeding Operations" enumerates the policies that have allowed CAFOs to dominate U.S. meat and dairy production. For example, it found that from 1997 to 2005 taxpayer-subsidized grain prices saved CAFOs nearly $35 billion in animal feed, which comprises a large percentage of their supply costs. Cattle operations that raise animals on pasture land do not benefit from the subsidy....

The report also details how other federal policies give CAFOs hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to address their pollution problems, which stem from the manure generated by thousands, if not tens of thousands, of animals confined in a small area. The report estimates that CAFOs have received $100 million in annual pollution prevention payments in recent years through the federal Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which was established by the 2002 Farm Bill.

"If CAFOs were forced to pay for the ripple effects of harm they have caused, they wouldn't be dominating the U.S. meat industry like they are today," said Margaret Mellon, director of UCS's Food and Environment Program. "The good news is that we can institute new policies that support animal production methods that benefit society rather than harm it."…

Hog confinement in a barn interior, US EPA, Wikimedia Commons

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