Something Stinks: Environmental Racism & the Deregulation of Agricultural WasteABFPC intern, Meg McDonald, wrote the following article to highlight three proposed bills impacting agricultural pollution in the United States and North Carolina.
On April 18th, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018—more commonly known as the Farm Bill—was approved by the House Agriculture Committee, advancing the legislation one step closer to enactment. Although the bill is likely to go through numerous changes before it is ratified, its contents warrant scrutiny, as they largely determine what and how food is cultivated, the livelihoods of food growers, and the fate of nutrition programs such as SNAP. In addition to the attention we must give the proposed the Farm Bill, other recent legislative developments regarding agriculture have been overshadowed and must be examined. For example, several bills introduced in Congress in the past year would greatly diminish the required regulations for agricultural waste. These bills would have severe impacts on North Carolina communities—particularly those who live near industrial agriculture sites such as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs).
An article by Laurie Ristino published in March in The Hill
—“Congress just gave Big Agriculture the pollution green light”—attempted to bring several of these proposed pieces of legislation and their potential effects into the spotlight. The Asheville Buncombe Food Policy Council (ABFPC), as a voice in the movement for a sustainable food system in North Carolina, would like to bring this information to the attention of Asheville and Buncombe County residents. We would also like to raise awareness of the relationship between these legislative decisions and the environmental justice issues that are so close to home.
The first bill of concern is H.R. 848, also known as the Farm Regulatory Certainty Act, which was introduced into the House in early 2017. This bill would remove manure from the definition of waste in the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The rationale for this change, as stated by Washington Representative and bill sponsor Dan Newhouse, is that the EPA and Congress did not originally intend for the solid waste regulations to apply to animal agriculture when RCRA was passed in 1976. However, proponents of the bill claim that they do not intend to deregulate animal agriculture waste entirely, but rather to make the regulations easier for farmers to comply with.
Two other bills, H.R. 5275 and S. 2421—respectively the Agricultural Certainty for Reporting Emissions Act (ACRE) and the Fair Agricultural Reporting Method Act (FARM)—both have the goal of exempting toxic emissions from agricultural operations from the regulations outlined in the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). The rationale for such an exemption is once again the difficulty many farmers would find in complying with the regulations. Farms have, in fact, been exempt from CERCLA since a 2008 EPA decision. However, a recent Circuit court decision would require farms to comply with CERCLA reporting standards, prompting a quick response from Congress. In March of this year, the FARM Act was tucked into the omnibus spending bill signed by President Trump and has therefore already been approved.
While it is true that the original intent of RCRA may have not included the regulation of agricultural waste, and while it is true that CERCLA may have not been applicable to farms in the past, we must consider the changing landscape of agriculture—especially animal agriculture—even just in the past fifty years. Although U.S. animal agriculture was beginning to industrialize in the 1970s when major environmental legislation such as RCRA were being pushed through, the number of animals raised in factory farms (CAFOs) increased by 88 percent between 1982 and 1997 and has continued to increase ever since. As a result, the sheer amount of solid and airborne waste has also increased. Although agriculture is distinct from other industries, it is still an industry and should be held to the same regulatory standards. It’s important for voices in the sustainable food system movement to advocate for regulations that can relieve some of the stress from the environment and communities affected by agricultural pollution.
The issue of animal agricultural waste is one that hits close to home. North Carolina is currently one of the largest swine producers in the United States, second only to Iowa. In the 1990s, the number of swine in North Carolina grew from 3.7 million to 10 million in just six years. As swine farming rapidly expanded and industrialized, CAFOs became more and more concentrated in the eastern portion of the state, largely in minority and low-income communities. Several studies have shown that the number of CAFOs and the concentration of animal waste is significantly higher in majority-black communities in North Carolina. The resulting environmental, civil rights, and public health concerns lead to clear instances of environmental racism; residencies and communities in close proximity to swine operations are exposed to the brunt of their pollutants and toxic fumes, depleting their quality of life with little ability to hold operations accountable. Legislation like these three bills simply support and exacerbate this unacceptable status quo.
There is still a chance to make your voice heard and to advocate for our environment, our fellow human beings, and our quality of life. H.R. 848, the Farm Regulatory Certainty Act, is still under consideration in the House of Representatives, and the Senate has recently begun constructing their version of the 2018 Farm Bill. As we approach the 2018 midterm elections, our Congressmen are invested in hearing from and representing their constituents. We urge you to contact your elected officials and voice your opposition to H.R. 848; you can call Feeding America’s toll free number (1-888-398-8702) to be connected with your Representative’s office. Moreover, we urge you to learn more about the 2018 Farm Bill and how it can be improved by visiting www.betterfarmbill.org
If you're interested in learning more about the environmental justice issues facing North Carolina, check out this article from Environmental Health Perspectives: https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/121-a182/
Stay tuned for further updates on the Farm Bill and related legislation from the Asheville Buncombe Food Policy Council. Thank you for your dedication to making our food system more resilient, just, and sustainable!
Meg McDonald is a graduating senior from Warren Wilson College and an intern with the Asheville-Buncombe Food Policy Council. She is studying Political Science and Environmental Studies and aspires to work in the field of environmental law, focusing on issues of environmental injustice and discrimination.
SAVE SNAP - 2018 Farm Bill - Act Now!
SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, among other critical programs supporting our farms, families, and environment are on the chopping block with proposed cuts to the 2018 Farm Bill.
Next Tuesday, May 8th, we all NEED to call our members of Congress and tell them to "Vote NO on H.R. 2, the Farm Bill!" (Seriously, this means you and everyone you can reach about this.)
Please make use of Feeding America's toll free number: 1-888-398-8702
. You will be connected to your Representative's office by putting in your zip code.
It is imperative that we let Congress know that we want them to "Vote NO on H.R. 2" because its rigid work rules will reduce or eliminate SNAP for millions. It will deny food to children, veterans, women, and people needing treatment and/or with disabilities. Please share this number with your networks and ask them to encourage people to call. The number is live now and people can start calling now but please make sure you call on Tuesday, May 8th!
Here are additional resources and information to learn more about how the proposed Farm Bill will slash SNAP and impact our community.
ABFPC's access cluster has working to humanize the experience of SNAP and show a small slice of the diversity within the program by asking SNAP participants to make an identity statement along with #IAMSNAP.
Cluster members photographed people at the West Village Market
and 12 Baskets Cafe
and created this short video.
[video width="480" height="272" m4v="http://www.abfoodpolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/IamSNAP.m4v"][/video]
Together with partners from the following organizations, ABFPC authored this op-ed article about SNAP in the Farm Bill. Special thanks to these organizations for their leadership & advocacy:
Durham Farm and Food Network Orange County Food Council, Capital Area Food Network, NC Justice Center, MomsRising
What Are They Thinking?
The foundational legislation for our farm and food system, known as the Farm Bill, will soon be voted on in the U.S. House of Representatives. This package of laws, which is renewed every few years, authorizes and funds federal nutrition and agriculture programs around the country, supporting farmers and consumers alike. The Farm Bill has a long legacy of bipartisanship.
This year however, legislators seek to undercut and erode the highly effective and efficient Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, along with other crucial nutrition and agricultural programs.
The proposed legislation, rather than empowering low-wage and unemployed people on their path to independence, instead seeks to take away their food, which will ultimately undermine the broader goal we all share to move folks toward self sufficiency.
The effects of these harsh changes will be felt by whole families, including parents raising children, people with disabilities, older workers, low-wage workers, and those unable to find jobs. Significantly, it would extend the reach of work requirements to affect parents of children over the age of 6, and older adults.
Although some claim this bill’s emphasis on work requirements will push people towards work, it ignores the fact that most working-age SNAP participants DO work, but often in unstable or low-wage jobs. Research shows that half of SNAP recipients worked in the month they received benefits, and three-quarters worked in the year before or after that month
The Urban Institute cites numerous studies showing how “Medicaid and SNAP help workers maintain health and well-being — for themselves and their children — when the jobs they can find don’t include health insurance and related benefits or pay enough to support themselves and their families.”
Struggling North Carolinians want to work at least as much as any other group, if not more so.
In purely economic terms, SNAP benefits pumped $2.2 billion into North Carolina’s economy in 2016, and the economic benefits were especially impactful in the agriculture and retail sectors. Research from Moody's Analytics shows that for every dollar spent on SNAP, $1.70 is put back into the U.S. economy.
Furthermore, SNAP kept 346,000 North Carolinians out of poverty, including 158,000 children, each year between 2010 and 2014. SNAP dollars go to supporting grocers, farmers, paying workers, and buying goods, all of which leads to economic growth. The effects of dismantling SNAP will be felt far beyond the poor who use the program.
As if it weren’t enough to aim legislation at depriving our poorest consumers of food, the bill also undermines our food producers. The bill eliminates four programs – the Farmers Market Promotion Program and Local Food Promotion Program, Value-Added Producer Grant Program, and the National Organic Cost Share Program – that have driven the explosive growth in the local, organic food economy. These cuts will hurt farmers and local food businesses across North Carolina.
The House version of the 2018 Farm Bill seems designed to punish the poor, leaving even children and seniors without access to sufficient food, and it will undermine local farmers—all threatening to damage the economic and social fabric of our country.
To put us back on track toward a better food future where local farmers feed healthy communities, Congress must INVEST in, rather than defund these critical food programs.
Leading organizations call for improvements to specific parts of the 2018 Farm Bill HERE
City Council PASSES revised Food Policy Action Plan on 11/28/17!
Congrats and appreciations to the City of Asheville for passing the revised Food Policy Action Plan at tonight's City Council meeting!
Many special thanks to the community and city leadership who helped bring this plan to fruition, and to the City's Office of Sustainability for their leadership. There were many contributors, editors, reviewers, and stakeholders who developed the plan and to each of them we send sincere gratitude for your work not only in shaping this road map, but also for the program and project work that you do on a daily basis that makes ambitious food system reform in our community possible.
is the report that ABFPC prepared for the Office of Sustainability and the City Manager's office to complete a year long contract from the city to develop recommendations for a revised plan. The report overview and approved plan (included) was incorporated into a revised resolution and recommended priority action steps.
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