Capitol Hill Discussion on Farm Bill Highlights Health Hazards of Factory Farms

The Physicians Committee
NEWS RELEASE April 18, 2012
Capitol Hill Discussion on Farm Bill Highlights Health Hazards of Factory Farms
Neal Barnard, M.D.

Facilities Cited for Water Pollution Have Received Millions in Farm Bill Subsidies

WASHINGTON—A Capitol Hill discussion highlighted public health and environmental hazards created by factory farm facilities and the need to address these problems in the upcoming Farm Bill. The April 19 event was organized by the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

Speakers included Dan Imhoff, author of the book Food Fight: The Citizen’s Guide to the Next Food and Farm Bill, Don Webb, a former hog farmer turned environmentalist who now works for the Waterkeeper Alliance, PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D., and PCRM director of government affairs Elizabeth Kucinich.

“Factory farms pose a serious public health hazard, so why are they subsidized by public money?” Dr. Barnard says. “These facilities pump out high-fat, high-cholesterol meat products and often pollute waterways--yet they also receive generous subsidies under the Farm Bill. We want Congress to stop rewarding facilities that endanger public health.”

Animal waste runoff from factory farms, where chickens, pigs, and cows raised for food are confined in small spaces, has in the past contaminated waterways and even drinking water supplies and led to disease outbreaks among humans and aquatic life. Waste from hog farms, for example, has been implicated in the contamination of North Carolina waters with the microorganism pfiesteria, killing more than 1 billion fish. The widespread use of antibiotics on factory farms has led to a proliferation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, making it harder to treat infections among humans.

Sixty-three percent of the government’s agricultural subsidies for domestic food products in recent history have directly and indirectly supported meat and dairy production. Less than 1 percent of these subsidies have gone to fruits and vegetables. The USDA’s Dietary Guidelines say eating more healthful plant-based foods and less saturated fat and cholesterol helps prevent heart problems and other life-threatening medical conditions.

For information about the event, or to speak with Dr. Barnard, please contact Vaishali Honawar at 202-527-7339 or

About Dan Imhoff

Dan Imhoff is a researcher and author who has spent nearly 20 years studying issues related to farming and the environment. He has written several books, including CAFO: The Tragedy of Industrial Animal Factories and Food Fight: The Citizen’s Guide to the Next Food and Farm Bill.

About Rick Dove

Rick Dove has been Waterkeeper Alliance's Southeast representative since July 2000. A former Marine and military court-martial judge, Dove now works with North Carolina Riverkeepers who monitor hog pollution and its consequences in the state.

About Don Webb

Don Webb is a former hog farmer who got out of the business when he realized the negative impact his farm was having on the water, the air, and his community. In 1991, he created the Alliance for a Responsible Swine Industry to address the continued and increased impact of hog farms in North Carolina on the state’s waterways. He is now the Southeastern representative for the Waterkeeper Alliance.

About Larry Baldwin

Larry Baldwin is North Carolina CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) Coordinator for Waterkeeper Alliance.

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.