“It is not dramatization to say that we produce and consume food in this country [in a way that is] literally a matter of life and death, “Booker told the audience at the Consumer Federation of the National Food Policy Conference on July 28.
“This is true for our workers in America because they are forced, at present, to risk their lives, to get food on our plates, because they are packed with meat-packing factories which are fertile ground for the COVID-19 outbreak,”And it is true for independent family farmers and ranchers whose share of the consumer dollar has fallen rapidly towards “The heartbreaking story of peasant suicide is currently on the rise,”Booker said.
He believes it also applies to the American public who suffer from diabetes, heart disease and obesity in childhood “At a level that was not seen by previous generations as cheap and unhealthy food has become a new normal,”While at the same time 14 million US children suffer from food insecurity.
Finally, he argues, that also applies to farm animals, billions of them he said “Treated with such cruelty that we are forced to turn away from the way we deal with the agricultural industry rather than recognize that such horrors occur every day on our land.”
80% of the beef market is controlled by four companies
According to Booker, “The main reason for this is company consolidation,”That is said to be widespread throughout the food and agriculture economy, but is most evident in the 80% control of the beef market controlled by only four companies.
“Large multinational companies, because of their size and money, have undue influence on the market and undue influence on public policy and undue influence here in Washington, DC. And they have created this huge system that benefits themselves mainly because these multinational companies generate bigger and bigger profits at the expense of our nation,He regretted.
In response, Booker said he had proposed and supported more than half a dozen bills that directly targeted the consolidation of companies in agriculture aimed at “Create a new system that reflects our values better.”
Charges to slow the slaughter of high-speed animals can slow the spread of COVID-19
The latest bill in Booker’s laundry law list targeted at the consolidation of companies in agriculture is Safe Line Speeds During the COVID-19 Act, which Booker announced at the CFA conference.
The law, jointly sponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dianne Feinstein (D-California), Kamala Harris (D-California), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass. ), Working to protect workers, animals and consumers by slowing down the speed of lanes in poultry, pig and cattle slaughter and processing facilities, at least 20 where the USDA has been given the green light to add speed lanes beyond current regulations to help meet increasing demand during ongoing pandemic.
“Safe Speed Track [During COVID-19 Act] will curb USDA’s reckless surveillance by limiting his ability to provide dangerous path speed relief, “Booker said in the same day release.
He explained in the CFA release “Very fast slaughter speed”Making it difficult for slaughterhouse workers and meatpackers to keep a safe distance from each other – adding to the risk of additional outbreaks at these facilities where more than 37,000 workers have tested positive for COVID-19 and more than 160 workers and four inspectors have died of the virus.
The CFA notes that a recent analysis by the National Labor Law Project found factories that received waivers to increase channel speed all had records of severe injuries, violations of worker safety and / or COVID-19 hotspots.
The companion bill, HR 7521, was introduced at the House by Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) And Bennie Thompson (D-Miss) earlier this month.
The law will also require the Government Accountability Office to review the actions of the USDA and the US Department of Labor’s response to a pandemic with regard to the safety of workers, food and animals.
‘We need to focus on anti-trust law enforcement’
The previous laws introduced by Booker that targeted the consolidation of companies in agriculture included the Agribusiness Incorporation, the Agricultural System Reform Act, the Local Agriculture Act, and the law to reform the checkoff program.
Together, these bills seek to enhance independent family farming and less competitive competitiveness of consolidated corporate entities. They also sought to hold the factory livestock accountable for the impact of their business on the surrounding community.
Outside the law, Booker supports strengthening the Department of Justice and USDA’s anti-trust division, the latter of which he said the Trump Administration “Everything has been removed.”
He explained, “If this law is enforced, we will not see only a handful of companies controlling the meat industry or the seed industry or the food industry. So, not only must we stop the moratorium and mergers, we need to focus on enforcing anti-trust laws that will create a freer market and stop this reality where the farmer’s share of the consumer dollar has dropped dramatically, [while at the same time] consumers pay more and more. “
Booker acknowledged that each bill faced significant obstacles, including from the Republican-led Senate which he said focused on helping large companies, and from powerful lobbies whose contributions to each legislator’s campaign helped them get attention and goodwill.
The law – and problems in general – also face significant challenges outside Washington because Booker says most Americans do not know about their food system, including threats to it and threats to their health and well-being.
In the end, he urged those attending the CFA conference, as well as other health and food advocates, to talk and educate the public and tell their legislative representatives that they would like to see change.
“I just want to challenge everyone here. If you continue to do the same thing you did, you will continue to get the same results. And if we want dramatic change, we must be part of it and start talking about this problem and raising awareness of our country, “He said, pointing to the success of the Black Lives Matter movement to raise awareness of structural racism as a potential model for the food industry.