Will senators elected on the Coasts put our farms and ranches out of business with their latest legislation? If you read the latest Farm System Reform Act reintroduced by vegan and animal rights activist Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey this month in the U.S. Senate, the possibility seems real.
Reading the 35 pages of proposed legislation, sprinkled with terms like factory farms or CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) made to paint a negative picture of animal agriculture, it seems clear to me that the legislation likely was not written by East Coast senators but by animal rights activist groups whose intention is to put animal agriculture out of business.
While some in ag may support parts of Booker's bill, like strengthening the Packers and Stockyards Act and requiring country of origin labeling on beef, pork and dairy products, the act would place a moratorium on large animal agriculture operations, limiting future projects to alarmingly small parameters.
If you want to feed more than 1,000 cows on your farm or ranch or milk more than 700 dairy cows, that’s your agribusiness choice. Are we creating legislation limiting the potential of non-ag big business like this? No. Instead, we’re celebrating and supporting big business. Elected officials not connected to agriculture are trying to put moratoriums on specific animal numbers on farms and ranchers and in turn, put American agriculture out of business.
America also is home to the best farmers and ranchers in the world. I’ve traveled to farms and ranches from New York to California, from Washington to Virginia, from North Carolina to North Dakota. Do not be fooled: There are no "factory farms." And if an agribusiness chooses to legally incorporate for business and tax purposes like any other non-ag business in America, we should stop slapping labels on them with negative connotations like big ag, factory farm or corporate farming, as if they are somehow not contributing quality food and fiber to our economy.
We do not need the voice of animal rights activists in agriculture legislation. They pretend that they care about bad actors in ag and are 100% behind family farmers, but in reality, they just want to put farmers and ranchers out of business.
There aren’t many farmers left to change the conversation. Only 2 million farms dot our American landscape. If you live on one of them or if you support agriculture, sharing in social media or around the farm kitchen table at coffee is not enough. Contact your senators and congressional representation. You’re their constituents. They represent you, your family, your livelihood, your farm. And it’s not simply about your farm. It’s all of agriculture.
All 2% of the nation’s farming population plus our friends, neighbors and allies need to rise up and fight back. It’s not only about protecting your farm or your community — agriculture is a global economic driver. Agriculture feeds, clothes and fuels us across the world.
Agriculture advocates, I know, you’re weary. We’ve done this before and here we are again, fighting for agriculture’s livelihoods.
We in agriculture need to start dialing our elected officials. Make our voices heard in places like the U.S. Senate. Call on the agriculture policy organizations where you pay dues. Ask for representation for all of American agriculture.
If we don't speak up, the animal rights activists don't have to work very hard to drown out our voices. We need to be the voices of agriculture.
Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at email@example.com, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.