FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Emily Robinson 202-331-5427
CONFINED ANIMAL FEEDING OPERATIONS COST TAXPAYERS BILLIONS, NEW REPORT
SCIENCE GROUP CALLS FOR POLICIES THAT REDUCE CAFO SUBSIDIES AND ENCOURAGE MODERN, SUSTAINABLE MEAT, MILK AND EGG PRODUCTION
WASHINGTON (April 24, 2007) - 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
"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. (To read the full report, go to:
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."
Instead of favoring CAFOs, the report recommends that government policies
provide incentives for modern production methods that benefit the
environment, public health and rural communities. The report also shows
that several smart alternative production methods can offer meat and dairy
at prices comparable to CAFO products.
For example, some livestock producers move beef and dairy cattle frequently
to different areas of a pasture, enabling them to spread out manure,
prevent overgrazing, and take advantage of grass as a cost-effective source
of animal feed. Meanwhile, some hog farmers have built hog hoop barns --
open-ended structures with curved roofs -- as an alternative to confining
the animals in cramped buildings.
"Many farmers are succeeding when they work with nature instead of against
it," said Gurian-Sherman. "These savvy producers are proving that hog hoop
barns, smart pasture operations, and other alternative methods can compete
with the massive CAFOs. And that's despite the fact that the cards are
stacked against them."
In addition to steering taxpayer dollars away from CAFOs, the report also
urges Congress to enforce laws that encourage competition so alternative
producers can get their meat and dairy to consumers as easily as CAFOs.
Making CAFOs, rather than taxpayers, pay to prevent or clean up the
pollution they create is also critical, Gurian-Sherman said.
Mellon noted that next week the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal
Production is expected to issue its final report that documents the effects
of intensive animal production on humans, animals, and the environment.
"When taken together," she said, "the two reports paint a grim picture of
CAFOs and make strong, practical recommendations for new policies that can
take us in a new, more efficient direction that will not fleece the
The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading science-based nonprofit
organization working for a healthy environment and a safer world. Founded
in 1969, UCS is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and has offices
in Berkeley, California, and Washington, D.C. For more information, go to
Union of Concerned Scientists
1825 K St. NW, Suite 800
Washington DC 20006-1232
Doug Gurian-Sherman, Ph.D.
Food and Environment
Union of Concerned Scientists
1825 K Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006-1232