LESS=MORE: Factory Farms & Subsidies

Sustainable farming is a system that emphasizes stewardship of natural and human resources and is grounded in the principle that we must meet our present food needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own. It protects and improves the soil, conserves native biodiversity and habitats, and provides viable farm livelihoods as a consequence of food production. Sustainable farms are appropriate for the landscape and the local economy, and produce safe, healthy food while treating workers with respect and animals humanely and sustaining communities.

Below you will find links to several reports Sierra Club's Less=More Coalition has issued that look at how Farm Bill subsidies unfairly favor industrial agriculture over sustainable farming practices. And watch our series of videos on factory farming and the food system:

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A Watershed Moment (May 24, 2017) - a follow-up to the 2015 interactive mapping report, Follow the Manure, which focused on the Western Lake Erie Watershed. This latest mapping project is a one-stop shop for Michigan CAFO data and information that has never been available before. It documents how Michigan industrial livestock operations received millions of dollars in federal subsidies to prevent pollution over two decades, even as they racked up environmental violations and factory farm-fed algae blooms grew to crisis-level hazards in public waters. As of the end of 2016, there were 272 factory farms operating in Michigan, confining nearly 21 million animals that produced over 3.3 billion gallons of manure, urine and other waste, annually.

Follow the Manure: Factory Farms and the Lake Erie Algal Crisis (Nov. 17, 2015) - a report that takes an unprecedented look at the relationship between the manure load from factory farms in the Western Lake Erie Watershed (WLEW) and the federal subsidies that have poured into the region to facilities that generate that waste over the last seven years. Between 2008 and 2015, U.S. Department of Agriculture direct payments, cost‐ shares and other conservation subsidies to owners of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) totaled more than $16.8 million in the WLEW, which includes Ohio, southern Michigan and eastern Indiana.

Restoring the Balance to Michigan's Farming Landscape (Feb. 15, 2013) -  explores how federal tax dollars create an uneven playing field for sustainable livestock operations in Michigan by overwhelmingly favoring grants of subsidies to polluting Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations or CAFOs. In particular, it examines how one Farm Bill program, the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP), encourages unsustainable agricultural practices that threaten public health and the environment, while putting Michigan’s independent and local producers at a severe competitive disadvantage. It also highlights opportunities to reverse this inequity through the US Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service State Conservationist’s authority to change priorities set for EQIP in Michigan and recommends measures of accountability in the application process to ensure funds are awarded to environmentally responsible farmers.

This report shows that millions of dollars in taxpayer funds continued to be disbursed, even as phosphorus contamination levels in the WLEW climbed and CAFOs in the watershed were fined for illegal waste discharges.