Rural Partnerships for a More Just Food System
The Food Integrity Campaign’s (FIC) Rural Partnerships campaign houses initiatives that focus on the people who produce our food and, on the communities, impacted by industrial agriculture. FIC recognizes that rural food system whistleblowers (such as processing plant workers, farmers, and neighbors of industrial ag operations) face extraordinary and unique challenges. To overcome those hurdles, our Rural Partnerships campaign works to align values and foster lasting partnerships. FIC works closely with grassroots and community organizations to line up whistleblower disclosures with existing local efforts to improve food safety, workplace safety, worker rights, environmental justice and clean energy.
Environment: Keeping Clean Energy Honest – Industrial Ag and Climate Change
As the impacts of climate change intensify, people are making increasing demands for improving our energy sources and changing how we produce our food. In this rapidly evolving landscape, new technologies are popping up frequently while corporations are making bold promises about going green. FIC is committed to maintaining truth and transparency as we support our partners in advocating for a more just and sustainable future.
In connection with Government Accountability Project’s Environment, Energy and Climate Change Program, FIC works to investigate critical emerging issues at the intersection between industrial agriculture and energy production.
Factory Farm Gas in Industrial Animal Production
In several parts of the country, Big Ag and Big Energy are teaming up in a new initiative to market their efforts to produce “green” energy. Major meat companies including Smithfield Foods have been encouraging the farmers they contract to invest millions in technology that will extract biogas from animal waste lagoons and transform it into “biomethane” for injection into natural gas pipelines.
On the surface, the prospect of industrial animal waste-to-biogas production may appear to be a win-win situation. The environmental damage wrought by industrial animal production every year has been well-documented, and much of it stems from waste management problems. Proponents of waste-to-biogas systems claim that utilizing the waste to produce biogas will mitigate some of the environmental damage. But a closer look at actual waste-to-biogas operations, including the plans being rolled out by Smithfield in North Carolina, makes it clear that this strategy will not offer a solution to industrial ag waste. In fact, it may actually make the situation worse.
As these projects take shape across the country, FIC is paying close attention to how waste-to-biogas operations actually impact farmers, pipeline and industry workers, and the surrounding communities.
Public Health: Fighting Antibiotic Resistance and Zoonotic Disease spread
They say sunlight is the best disinfectant. We work alongside farmers, like whistleblower Craig Watts, Rudy Howell and others to protect public health and the safety of rural communities by shining a light on the reality of antibiotic resistance and zoonotic disease spread that is the result of industrial animal agricultural practices. It’s commonly accepted that antibiotic use in these settings is putting consumers at risk. It is estimated that more than one-half of all available antibiotics are used on animals bred for consumption. But the medicated animals in question are not sick or diseased—they are given antibiotics to hasten growth, thus expediting the time it takes to bring them to market. The overuse of antibiotics poses a potential threat to public health, as evidenced by frequent illnesses attributed to food outbreaks involving an antibiotic-resistant strain of salmonella.
Workers: Improving state-level whistleblower protections
While we work to support whistleblowers across the country, sometimes the best way to do that is by working locally. State laws can have a tremendous impact on whistleblowers’ ability to bring their truth forward. Successful state-level campaigns can also provide a model to replicate in other states. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis in New State Ice Co. v. Liebmann referred to states as “laboratories of democracy.” In that historic case, Justice Brandeis opined, “a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” Informed by Justice Brandeis’ wisdom and insight, we hope to develop new state-level anti-retaliation models that can be replicated in other states across the nation.
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