Environmental justice, climate groups call on EPA to rein in the harms of factory farms

WASHINGTON – A letter sent today to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan urges him to immediately act on the EPA’s existing authority to provide federal oversight of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), also known as factory farms, under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. 

The letter, signed by 218 groups, asks the EPA to address the health and quality of life impacts to frontline communities caused by highly concentrated and heavily polluting industrial animal production facilities, which are disproportionately sited in Black and brown communities. The letter alleges that “CAFOs represent an environmental justice crisis that has gone unaddressed by – and has even been exacerbated by – EPA for decades” and urges EPA to “end the regulatory exceptionalism for the industrial livestock agribusinesses profiting from the exploitation of environmental justice communities.” 

The letter coincides with a hearing taking place today in the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s Subcommittee on Environment, focused on Regenerative Agriculture: How Farmers and Ranchers are Essential to Solving Climate Change and Increasing Food Production.    

“After decades of fighting against factory farms without federal government support, rural communities continue to be affected by harmful operations that degrade their health, natural resources and quality of life,” said Adriane Busby, Senior Food and Climate Policy Analyst at Friends of the Earth. “If EPA is serious about protecting communities from environmental racism and mitigating climate change, the agency must take meaningful and immediate action to rein in the harms from CAFOs.” 

“For too long, massive corporations have dominated animal agriculture. From skyrocketing asthma rates to a dead zone in the gulf, their practices are compromising the health of people and our planet, while squeezing independent farmers out of business,” said Navina Khanna, Executive Director of the HEAL Food Alliance. “Animal agriculture systems that respect the life of those animals, surrounding communities, and local ecosystems are possible. For them to be economically successful, there must be a system of checks and balances that holds corporations accountable for externalizing the costs of factory farms. We demand the EPA step up and begin regulating and rectifying the harm to our health and safety now.”  

“For generations, family farmers have nourished the U.S. with healthy food while caring for animals and the land. CAFOs, however, pollute our land, air, and water, and drive small independent farmers off the land. It’s time EPA used its regulatory power to stop CAFO pollution and protect rural communities,” said Lynn Henning, family farmer and field operations team director, SRAP. 

EPA has several pending rulemaking petitions before it, including petitions to list industrial dairy and hog operations under Section 111 of the Clean Air Act; rescind the Air Consent Agreement and enforce Clean Air Laws against CAFOs; and revise Clean Water Act regulations as they apply to CAFOs. The agency has not acted on any of the petitions, but EPA is expected to propose a rule in December that would repeal a Trump-era rule exempting CAFOs from the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).  

Press Contacts: 

Kerry Skiff, Friends of the Earth, (202) 222-0723, [email protected];  

Julie Wilson, Socially Responsible Agriculture Project, [email protected] 

Neshani Jani, HEAL Food Alliance,  [email protected]

Acacia Cadogan, North Carolina Environmental Justice Network, [email protected]  

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For more than 20 years, SRAP has served as a mobilizing force to help communities protect themselves from the damages caused by industrial livestock operations and to advocate for a food system built on regenerative practices, justice, democracy, and resilience. Our team includes technical experts, independent family farmers, and rural residents who have faced the threats of factory farms in their communities. When asked for help, SRAP offers free support, providing communities with the knowledge and skills to protect their right to clean water, air, and soil and to a healthy, just, and vibrant future. Learn more at sraproject.org. 

The HEAL (Health, Environment, Agriculture, Labor) Food Alliance is a national multi-sector, multi-racial coalition. We are led by our member-organizations, who represent about two million rural and urban farmers, ranchers, fishers, farm and food chain workers, indigenous groups, scientists, public health advocates, policy experts, and community organizers united in their commitment to transformed food systems that are healthy for all families, accessible and affordable for all communities, and fair to the working people who grow, distribute, prepare, and serve our food – while protecting the air, water, and land we all depend on. 

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