Zoe Ackerman, associate program director

Zoe Ackerman, associate program director

As more and more stories about the impacts of industrial agricultures make the news, it’s important for consumers to understand the issues about where their food comes from and why the process matters. To help make sense of it all, we sat down with Zoe Ackerman, associate program director for Rachel Carson Council (RCC).

Why Should Consumers Pay Attention to Industrial Ag Practices?

When it comes to the U.S. food system, humans, animals and nature are all connected. Although this system serves as a model around the world, it comes with a number of consequences – including many that we probably don’t think of.

“While domestic and international consumers may be aware of how eating meat affects animals, or even pollutes the water and air, rarely do we consider how industrial agriculture’s production, transport and processing points affect the health of neighboring communities or the economic wellbeing of workers,” said Ackerman.

She also said that the global and industrial scale of meat production and agriculture can give the impression to average consumers that it’s impossible for them to make a difference, but that is far from true.

“Consumers can mitigate pollution, climate and community health effects. They are instrumental in advocating for and passing progressive policy as well as building movements to support decentralized, democratic and cooperative alternatives — which have been practiced by traditional farming communities for millennia,” Ackerman asserted.

For detailed information, RCC recently produced two reports, Pork and Pollution and Fowl Matters, which highlight the interconnectivity of these issues in the agriculture industry.

Similarities between Industrial Ag in Maryland and North Carolina

North Carolina is home to a large hog industry, but the chicken industry is also rapidly expanding there as it is in Maryland. RCC’s research has found that concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) that house chickens are far less regulated than hog CAFOs in North Carolina.

“While there is currently a moratorium on new hog CAFO infrastructure in North Carolina, no such moratorium exists for chicken facilities, so they continue to rapidly expand,” said Ackerman.

Ackerman applauds the efforts of their partners and advocates to insist on change, even though hog industry interests can dominate the state legislature, as poultry interests can in Maryland.

“This dedication was seen earlier this year when — even though the harmful HB 467 was passed, which would limit liability in nuisance cases against hog farms — communities and advocates worked together to make sure that this bill would not apply to the groundbreaking cases currently underway,” said Ackerman.

Another serious issue for the agriculture industry in both North Carolina and Maryland is climate change and extreme weather. For example, last year Hurricane Matthew devastated portions of eastern North Carolina that also host large numbers of hog and poultry CAFOs, which experienced serious flooding.

RCC has also worked closely with the environmental justice movement in North Carolina, with groups such as the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network (NCEJN) and Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help (REACH).

RCC’s Priorities for Next Year

As part of MCAC, RCC will work with our partner groups as we continue to focus on getting more data on air emissions from CAFOs on the Eastern Shore, especially by helping to mobilize constituents in affected communities.

“We’ll be looking for ways to advance and support legislation that addresses overlapping industrial agriculture and climate justice issues,” added Ackerman.

Meanwhile in North Carolina, RCC will be engaged in coalition work to stop the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and supporting the NCEJN, REACH and others in advocacy around a Title VI Civil Rights Complaint regarding industrial hog operations. They are also involved in designing and facilitating community-based research teams that respond to environmental justice needs.

 

Visit http://rachelcarsoncouncil.org/ for more.