Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) just became the first vegan senator to be appointed to the Senate Agricultural Committee, a perfect assignment for his continued work spearheading the movement against factory farming. Booker has been joined by Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) in trying to make factory farming a thing of the past, and help consumers know where their food comes from by requiring labels of origin on beef, pork, poultry, and eggs. He has worked to make an old law from 1921 enforceable and to make farming safer for all, including the workers, with new legislation, the Farm System Reform Act of 2019, which would hold farmers accountable for conditions at places where our food is grown or raised.

Booker adopted a vegan diet in 2014, and since then the 2020 presidential candidate has situated himself as an advocate against factory farming, promoting policies to combat malpractice in factory farming. The senator is tackling issues in animal farming by prioritizing the rights of individual workers and smaller family farmers. He’s adamant that to move towards a more sustainable food production system, we need to enact policies that target large-scale factory farms, and try to broaden the accessibility of healthy food across the US.

Senator Cory Booker Joins Senate Agricultural Committee

“Our food system is deeply broken. Family farmers are struggling and their farms are disappearing, while big agriculture conglomerates get bigger and enjoy greater profits,” Booker explained. "Meanwhile, healthy, fresh food is hard to find and even harder to afford in rural and urban communities alike. In the richest country on the planet, over 35 million Americans from every walk of life are food insecure.”

Over the last couple of decades, agricultural issues have seeped into the mainstream conversation with talks of environmental and personal health causing concern. In 2019, Booker proposed the Farm System Reform Act (FSRA), which aims to bring animal agriculture away from the grasps of big agriculture and factory farms. The act will ban new large-scale concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and place limitations on the existing CAFOs.

Cory Booker may be the only outspoken vegan in the senate, but other senators followed his example, coming out to support the FSRA alongside other sustainable policies. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders signed on to co-sponsor Booker’s bill, which will take important steps to protect small-scale animal farmers and animals, who have found themselves exploited by large corporations. Both Senators hope to see these CAFOs and factory farms phased out by the year 2040. Following the outbreak of COVID-19, Booker and Sanders gained support from Senator Elizabeth Warren [D-MA] and House Representative Ro Khanna [D-CA].

Booker Seeks Agricultural Worker Protection During COVID-19

Booker’s advocacy is not limited to just the FSRA: Slaughterhouses across the country became hotspots during the pandemic, endangering the workers by spreading the virus rapidly. Booker organized the Safe Line Speeds During COVID-19 Act to ensure that workers, animals, and consumers would be protected from higher line speeds which could spread the virus quickly. Booker recognizes that malpractice in the agricultural industry directly affects many other social justice issues.

“The fact of the matter is that our current food system is interconnected with so many issues of justice in America: racial justice, health justice, environmental justice, economic justice,” Booker said. “And our food system is fundamentally broken. It fails to reflect our collective values. And it is not a dramatization to say that the way we produce and consume food in this country is quite literally a matter of life and death.”

Booker Fellow Senators Focus on Food Justice

Booker is joined by newly elected Georgia Senator Ralphael Warnock on the Senate Agriculture Committee. This will be the first time in history that two Black Americans will be on the committee simultaneously. Both Senators Booker and Warnock have spoken about the injustices faced by Black Americans, especially within the agricultural industry. In November, Senator Booker joined Senator Warren and Senator Kristen Gillibrand [D-NY] in establishing the Justice for Black Farmers Act [JBFA]. The act seeks to end racist practices that have led to generational racism, wealth loss, and loss of land holdings for Black Farmers across the country.

With Senator Booker on the Agricultural Committee, it is likely that there will be an acceleration in US sustainable policy. As a vegan and environmental advocate, Booker will push for both animal and worker protections, sustainable food supply, and environmental checks on Big Agriculture. Booker is taking this fight directly to the factory farms, and shining a light on the potential for a more sustainable future for America’s food industry.

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