Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced Thursday that she would be co-sponsoring Sen. Cory Booker's bill to phase out large-scale factory farming by 2040.
The Farm System Reform Act would prohibit new large factory farms from going into business and force others to cease expansions before halting operations entirely within two decades. Warren's support for the law comes after multiple reports of unsafe conditions in the meatpacking industry amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Rep. Ro Khanna is also co-sponsoring the effort and has introduced companion legislation to the House.
"For years, regulators looked the other way while giant multinational corporations crushed competition in the agriculture sector and seized control over key markets," Warren said in a statement. "The COVID-19 crisis will make it easier for Big Ag to get even bigger, gobble up smaller farms, and lead to fewer choices for consumers."
"We need to attack this consolidation head-on and give workers, farmers, and consumers bargaining power in our farm and food system," added Warren. "I'm glad to partner with Senator Booker and Representative Khanna to start reversing the hyper-concentration in our farm economy."
As many in the country began to fear shortages of meat, President Donald Trump issued an executive order late last month that invoked the Defense Production Act in an attempt to compel meatpackers to remain open as "critical infrastructure," despite large outbreaks of COVID-19 that have reportedly overwhelmed some facilities.
While Booker's legislation may seem timely due to the impact the pandemic is having on the meat industry, it was originally proposed by the senator in December 2019. The bill was intended to support smaller farms by countering the influence of large, monopolistic corporations that had "run roughshod over the marketplace," according to Booker.
If passed, the law would place an immediate moratorium on new large factory farms—also known as "CAFOs," or concentrated animal feeding operations. The largest CAFOs would be entirely phased out by 2040. Medium and small-sized operations would not be prohibited, although voluntary buyouts would be offered for farmers who want to cease factory farming.
Corporations would also be held responsible for environmental damage caused by CAFOs. In addition, law would enforce mandatory country-of-origin labelling for beef, pork and dairy products, while prohibiting the Department of Agriculture from labelling any imported meat as a "Product of USA."
"Our food system was not broken by the pandemic and it was not broken by independent family farmers," said Booker. "It was broken by large, multinational corporations like Tyson, Smithfield, and JBS that, because of their buying power and size, have undue influence over the marketplace and over public policy."
"That undue influence was on full display with President Trump's recent executive order prioritizing meatpacker profits over the health and safety of workers," Booker added.
Newsweek reached out to Booker's office, who declined to comment further.