Claims that the government has acted "regressively" in monitoring food animal production over the last five years were put forth Tuesday in a report issued by the Johns Hopkins University Center for a Livable Future.
The CLF, which released the report as a follow-up to a 2008 Pew Commission analysis of the government's oversight of animal agriculture, said "industrial" farming is continuing to cause a myriad of problems for public health, the environment, animal welfare and rural community living – all of which could be reined in with the help of the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration.
Robert S. Lawrence, director of the CLF, said the situation represented an "appalling lack of progress" that, when coupled with "lack of action or concern by the Congress, and continued intransigence of the animal agriculture industry, have made all of our problems worse."
The report specifically cites non-therapeutic use of antimicrobials in food animal production and the "broken system" that exists to handle farm waste as recommendations that have not been adopted by Congress. Also, the group recommends, based on previous findings in the Pew report, that "the most intensive and inhumane production practices" be phased out, along with aggressive enforcement of anti-trust laws to provide a level playing field for producers.
But representatives from the National Pork Producers, National Chicken Council and other animal ag organizations aren't so sure more regulations will be helpful, or that tighter government policies on antimicrobial use, for example, are the right way to go.
The groups on Tuesday explained their side of the story in a press call as well as their own report, which they said highlights advancements the animal ag industry has undergone in the last five years to improve productivity while protecting the environment and animal health.
"Just as it was five years ago, the charges against animal agriculture made in the CLF report bear little resemblance to the truth," Randy Spronk, NPPC president noted in response to the report.
"The report is wrong in every aspect, and the CLF ignored the extensive steps animal agriculture has taken over the last decade or more to address various industry challenges."
Those steps, Spronk contends, include advancements in protecting animals from disease and ensuring good stewardship of the air, land and water. A report from the Animal Agriculture Allliance, released Monday, backs up Spronk's viewpoint, detailing specific benchmarks livestock groups in each specie have met over the past several years.
The report also explains industry accomplishments in five areas: animal care, responsible antibiotics use, food safety, environmental sustainability and industry research initiatives.