Agencies Can’t Handle Public Health Hazards of Food Production
Agencies Can’t Handle Public Health Hazards of Food Production
Study reveals damaging impacts of mass meat farming

U.S. food production has changed dramatically in the last 70 years, and the health of neighboring rural communities has suffered as a result.

In the process of raising meat, modern factory farms also produce high levels of hydrogen sulfide, air contaminating particulates, and allergens that lead to multiple respiratory, cardiovascular, and neurological issues for people living nearby. 

According to the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, state agriculture agencies that are supposed to monitor public health concerns associated with industrial farming do not have the resources or expertise necessary to handle the job. The university oversaw a study, titled “Investigating the Role of State Permitting and Agriculture Agencies in Addressing Public Health Concerns Related to Industrial Food Animal Production,” published Feb. 24 in the journal Plos One. 

According to the report’s lead author, Dr. Jillian Fry, project director at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, state agencies do what they can with what they have, which sometimes isn’t much. In a statement, Fry said that despite the health risks associated with living near factory farms, “regulation of these sites is limited and characterized by a patchwork of different regulatory approaches from state to state.” 

The study’s researchers conducted interviews with staff at 12 state agencies tasked with overseeing some of the nation’s most productive farms. 

These interviews revealed that organizations are short on staff and funding where the environmental monitoring, in-person meetings, and technical assistance necessary often goes undone. Agencies reported that narrow and often unclear regulatory expectations and a looming threat of litigation for taking action make addressing health concerns even more difficult.

Feeling both overwhelmed and under-qualified, most agency staff called for health departments to come into the regulatory fray and directly address community health concerns.

Too Big to Regulate

Much of the problem can be traced to an industry that has grown faster and more powerful than the agencies tasked with regulating it. In U.S. pork production, for example, a mid-aggregate enterprise would represent about 1,200 hogs in 1987, according to figures from the USDA. By 2007, production numbers for an average hog operation swelled to about 30,000 hogs—a 2,400 percent increase in just 20 years.

However, the boost of U.S. food production comes with a price. Growing evidence reveals that livestock crammed into tight spaces and fed a steady diet of antibiotics results in superbugs such as the MRSA virus, which can transmit to humans, causing infection in the respiratory tract, open wounds, or the urinary tract, sometimes leading to more serious, widespread infections. Rural water supplies are also at risk, as nitrates, pathogens, pharmaceuticals, metals, and hormones that are part of the factory farming waste and regimen can leach into the community ground water.

According to the report, factory farms are disproportionately located in low-income communities “which are more likely to experience limited political power and barriers to healthcare access.”

  • positively49thstreet

    It might help if the USDA focused on agriculture and food safety. Since when was wildlife management around city airports part of their job? Or rounding up birds from lakes because waterfront property owners don’t like them pooping on their lawns? They have become fragmented in their greed for the $$$$$.

    • eyelashviper

      Thanks for all your comments here, and good information…

  • positively49thstreet

    The USDA should be focusing on agriculture….somewhere they morphed into an agency that focuses a lot of money and time on killing things.

    “Mary Lou Simms investigated the U. S. Department of Agriculture program that exterminates wild birds and animals for the McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

    “Wildlife Services is the little-known branch of the USDA deemed largely responsible for geese slaughters coast to coast.

    Buried under several layers of bureaucracy, Wildlife Services prefers to stay under
    the radar. However, a copy of a 2010 report obtained through a Freedom
    of Information Act request indicates that U.S. taxpayers are subsidizing
    a $126.5 million program that exterminates more than 4 million wild
    animals annually, including thousands of geese. T

    The agency also has come under fire for its use of sodium cyanide, a poison placed in devices called M-44′s, which its literature says is used to control coyotes, wild dogs and foxes preying on livestock.”

    • Denni A

      imagine how that 126.5 million could be used to hire more inspectors to oversee slaughterhouses, puppymills, road side zoos and other animal exploitation industries.
      the USDA, FDA, heck the entire Dept of Interior has been co-opted by big ag, big pharma lobbyists, staffers and ranching interests. where’s Rand Paul and the tea party, why aren’t they raising a ruckus about the misuse of taxpayers monies here.

      • positively49thstreet

        Their budget is actually more than 126 million, it’s in the billions;
        this 126 million is what they get paid directly in contract killing, ie a
        community wants geese rounded up from a park, they get paid for that

        Aside from that the USDA WS has a federally funded budget over over a billion.

        But they are propaganda experts in cahoots with other agencies…and so far have managed to operate ‘under the radar’. That is why the media has to start exposing them a lot better than they have been.

        Look at this document signed by federal agencies including the USDA…the statement wildlife strikes are the leading causes of fatal crashes is just one huge disgusting blatant lie…and look at all the agencies this involved!!

        “Memorandum of Agreement Between the Federal Aviation
        Administration, the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Army, the U.S.Environmental
        Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S.
        Department of Agriculture to Address Aircraft-Wildlife Strikes”

        “Aircraft-wildlife strikes are the second leading causes of aviation-related fatalities.”

        That is OUTRAGEOUS. Wildlife strikes are not even on the list of leading causes of fatal plane crashes!! They are at the bottom included in ‘other’.

        The worst plane crash in US history was when an engine FELL OFF THE PLANE within 30 seconds of taking off and about 273 people were killed. Then there was the plane collision in NYC that killed 134 people including some on the ground in Park Slope, Brooklyn. It is outrageous there is an agreement between these agencies saying wildlife strikes are the leading cause of plane crashes!!!

        “In 1979, an engine on an Americans Airlines jet falls off during takeoff
        from Chicago. All 258 passengers and 13 crew on board were killed, along
        with two people on the ground.”

        “August 5, 1960 two planes collided over NYC, one crashed immediately the other flew on and went down on Park Slope, Brooklyn. 134 people died.”

        There has been only one fatal commercial plane crash in american history involving birds, and that was Logan Airport in 1960 when a plane flew into a huge flock of little starlings and 62 people died – and even there they believe seatbelts prevented a lot of people from escaping so they drowned. “A disturbing aspect about the accident is that it’s likely more people had survived the crash, but then drowned due to the seat design.”

        Yet you have that document saying wildlife are the leading cause of fatal crashes!!!!

        • positively49thstreet

          And while that “”Memorandum of Agreement” document mentions the alaska plane crash that killed 24 airmen….they typically neglect to mention that airbase in Alaska IGNORED the recommendations of a wildlife/airport expert about their grass…so they attracted hungry grazing geese.

          “In July 1995 DeFusco gave a similar briefing to officials at Elmendorf Air Force Base outside Anchorage, Alaska. Elmendorf had a notorious Canada geese problem.

          Migrating flocks liked to rest and feed on the grass surrounding the base’s runways. “You’ve got to watch the runway grass carefully, and do everything in your power to harass that first
          migrating bird away from here,” DeFusco told Elmendorf officials. “If he lands and feeds, that sends a signal to the rest of the flock. One bird will draw dozens and then hundreds of others.

          When DeFusco delivered a plan for an aggressive bird management program, the officials put a few suggestions into action but IGNORED most of the recommendations. Two months later, on September 22, an Air Force AWACS communication plane struck 25 Canada geese during takeoff. The birds
          knocked out the two left engines, sending the plane out of control. It crashed in heavy woods outside of Anchorage, destroying the plane and killing all 24 crew members aboard.”

          The above article doesn’t say this, but I also read in another article not only did that airbase IGNORE recommendations on how to manage their grass and harass geese away, but apparently they were letting the geese actually live on the base. So they did everything wrong. But you don’t expect the USDA to tell you this part. Because they won’t.

  • rg9rts

    A new too big to fail industry. This is getting very old

× close