Udder Nonsense

Launch of the Green New Deal was derailed by "farting cows" headlines, which may have created more long-term damage to your business than the proposed environmental plan.
Launch of the Green New Deal was derailed by "farting cows" headlines, which may have created more long-term damage to your business than the proposed environmental plan.
(Farm Journal)

Udder nonsense aptly summarizes the media frenzy created by the Green New Deal, the plan freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Senator Ed Markey, D-Mass., proposed for addressing critical economic, social and environmental issues faced by the U.S. An enormous subject, for sure. Included are ambitious measures that would modernize U.S. infrastructure while investing heavily in clean and renewable energy.

The proposal created immediate concern among those involved in agriculture.

“You may think the #GreenNewDeal is some far-out nut case dream,” Tweeted Casey Kimbrell, a farmer/rancher from Sunray, Tex. “If you're involved in #agriculture you'd better view it as a threat to your entire way of life.”

The Green New Deal suggests part of the solution is the decarbonization of the agricultural, manufacturing and transportation industries currently responsible for significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. The resolution would have the U.S. creating “net-zero” greenhouses gases in 10 years.

A summary explains, “We set a goal to get to net-zero, rather than zero emissions, in 10 years because we aren’t sure that we’ll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast.”

Despite whatever vast research and resources were woven into the Green New Deal, the proposal sunk on day one. That’s because the following news cycle was dominated not by its aggressive ideas, but by “farting cows.”

Arguably, the “farting cows” stories did more damage to your business than the Green New Deal ever will. That news cycle helped validate to many consumers that cows are killing the planet. Most of the national discussion skipped over any serious discussion of labor, economic and environmental sustainability.

Sara Place, senior director of sustainable beef production research for the NCBA, sees the Green New Deal as dangerous and believes livestock producers must actively begin a dialog with politicians.

“I think it highlights the large divide between people that are interacting with the environment and growing food every day, and those that are concerned about environmental issues, but ignorant,” Place says.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says agriculture’s contribution to GHG emissions in 2016 was 9% of the total, ranking behind electricity (28%), transportation (28%) and industry (22%). Animal agriculture accounted for just 3.9% of GHGs.

A 2017 study found even if Americans eliminated all animal protein from their diets, the reduction of U.S. GHG emissions would be 2.6%. Research by Frank Mitloehner, University of California, Davis, found if the practice of Meatless Monday were adopted by all Americans, we’d see a GHG reduction of only 0.5%.

Globally, livestock provide a livelihood for 1 billion people, and meat is more nutrient-dense per serving than vegetarian options. Indeed, livestock production has a large overall environmental footprint. Mitloehner says that gives us “compelling reasons to work for greater efficiencies in animal agriculture. I believe the place to start is with science-based facts.”

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