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RELEASE: Khanna introduces bill to extend same Clean Water Act environmental liability rules for concentrated animal feed operations (CAFOs) contractor farmers to integrator companies

July 18, 2019
Press Release
Legislation titled the Farmer Fairness Act ensures environmental liability for contract farmers also rightfully applies to wealthy corporations.

Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Ro Khanna (CA-17) and Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-02) introduced the Farmer Fairness Act. The bill would extend the environmental liability that Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) contract farmers are already subject to under the Clean Water Act to integrator companies.

Massive agribusiness companies contract with farmers to buy livestock and animal products. The companies, commonly referred to as integrators, impose strict contracts on these farmers. The farmer assumes all of the environmental liability for the operation. This legislation is a solution to that problem. It will make regulation fairer for the hard working people in the agriculture industry.

CAFOs are required to obtain permits under the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System. However, they are not subject to the environmental liability despite the overwhelming control that an integrator company has over contracted CAFOs. The Farmer Fairness Act would change that.

“Large agribusiness companies like Tyson and Perdue buy livestock and animal products from farmers. The companies control the way livestock is fed, medicated and housed. They dictate what equipment and capital the farmer has to use. Farmers often don’t make enough to live off of because the cost of operations, as mandated by the companies, leave the farmer in red. Through all of this, the farmer takes on the liability (especially environmental liability) of the operation,” said Rep. Khanna “This bill brings necessary change to our farming communities, and I’m proud to have the support of Food and Water Watch and the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.”

This bill is supported/endorsed by: Food and Water Watch, National Farmers Union, and the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.

 “For far too long, industrial agribusiness corporations have escaped the true cost of doing business, instead externalizing their business costs onto farmers trapped in an unfair system and the costs of their pollution onto the tax-paying public,” said Barb Kalbach, a fourth generation family farmer and member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement from Dexter, IA. “That’s why we support Congressman Khanna’s bill. It’s about time to close this loophole, level the playing field, and force those at the top to pay their fair share. The factory farm industry doesn’t stand on its own if you knock out the props.”

“Even though they own the animals that they place on contract operations, big meat and poultry companies push the responsibility for managing their waste onto overburdened contract growers,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “Congress should pass the Farmer Fairness Act and make sure that the meat and poultry industry have to take responsibility for the waste their animals create.”

"Contract farmers are subject to a wide range of unfair practices at the hands of integrators," said Roger Johnson, President of the National Famers Union. "While integrators often control how animals are raised, farmers are left solely liable. We applaud Congressman Khanna for introducing this legislation, which is an important step toward ensuring fairness and protection for family farmers."

Full the full bill online here.


About the Office

Congressman Khanna represents the 17th District of California, which covers communities in Silicon Valley. Visit his website at Follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @RepRoKhanna.