Iowa Public Television


Pew Study Takes Aim at Livestock Producers

posted on May 2, 2008

While biofuel proponents dismiss ethanol's role in food scarcity in some parts of the world, they claim the renewable fuel's impact is readily apparent at the pump.

A study released by Iowa State University last month found that increased ethanol production caused retail gasoline prices to be 29 to 40 cents per gallon lower than would otherwise have been the case.

Still, critics continue to blame the renewable fuel for everything from higher prices to increased emissions of greenhouse gasses.

Of course, ethanol isn't the only rural industry enduring criticism these days. This week the crosshairs were on livestock producers.

Pew Study Takes Aim at Livestock Producers Large-scale animal production received a heavy dose of criticism this week in a controversial study. The report, administered by the Pew Charitable Trust, concluded that concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, "pose unacceptable risks to public health, the environment and the animals themselves."

The two-year study also accused industrial farm systems of shifting the economic power of rural America away from farmers towards livestock processors. While not exactly breaking new ground on anti-industry allegations, the Pew study accused livestock lobbyists of attempting to distort and change the debate over agriculture regulation.

The report's executive director Robert Martin wrote: "We found significant influence by the industry at every turn: in academic research, agriculture policy development, government regulation, and enforcement."

Those claims were swiftly refuted by some industry representatives including the National Pork Board, which said the study was "anti-agriculture" from the beginning.

In addition to criticism, the $3.4 million study offered a series of suggestions to solve what it deemed farm industry problems, including:

Increased competition in the livestock processing sector.

Mandatory animal tracking technology by 2009 to trace every animal and potential disease throughout the food system.

The gradual restriction of antibiotics in livestock with the eventual goal of a complete ban.

An increase in public spending for research on pollution and other issues regarding agriculture and to enhance zoning controls for manure management.

Citing USDA and EPA estimates, the Pew study alleges animal confinements containing livestock and poultry produce three times as much manure annually as every man, woman and child in the United States.

The study also recommends phasing out animal confinement systems entirely.

Tags: agriculture animals biofuels livestock news renewable fuels