Making a Meaningful Contribution to the Planet
by Idaho Farm Bureau President Frank Priestley
National Public Radio’s All Things Considered recently broadcast a program about San Francisco residents and their celebration of Earth Day. As part of Earth Day’s 39th anniversary, a group of northern Californians were urging everyone to boycott beef and cheese for the day. They say this boycott will lessen agriculture’s carbon footprint.
Truth be known, all NPR and these misguided activists really accomplished was to fool themselves and confuse consumers about global climate change on a misunderstood holiday.
First off, NPR as a government-funded entity should be required to check their facts and ask appropriate questions when confronted with these and dozens of other artificial assertions about environmental groups and their efforts to “save the planet.”
If folks want to make a positive contribution on Earth Day, we suggest planting a tree, or a garden. How about picking up some garbage or properly disposing of hazardous waste? Homeowners can cut back on the use of household chemicals that eventually end up in storm drains or use public transportation to decrease fuel usage.
But not eating beef or cheese for the day, even if the entire city of San Francisco agreed, effects zero change on agriculture’s carbon footprint. On the dairy side, the same number of cows are still going to be milked and the same amount of cheese is still going to get made. It’s not a cycle capable of immediately reacting to a one-day slump in demand. With beef it’s similar. It takes roughly 18 months to grow a steer to market weight. If some people boycott beef for one day, we’re unclear on how that lessens agriculture’s carbon footprint.
A one-day boycott might make some people feel like they are doing a good thing for the planet, but in the end it’s just more erroneous propaganda that drives home the point that activism in its own right can be positive, but misguided activism only serves to confuse the issues.
America’s farm and ranch families are dedicated to caring for our planet. They are ethical caretakers of the land and water resources that help make our nation’s bounty possible. On this Earth Day, more and more farmers are joining the conversation about environmental stewardship, and with good reason. Through modern conservation and tillage practices, farmers and ranchers are reducing the loss of soil through erosion, protecting the quality of our lakes and rivers and in the process enriching the earth.
“Today, it is possible for farmers and ranchers to produce more food than ever before on fewer acres with fewer inputs,” said American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman. “These things are possible through the use of modern farming tools, such as global positioning satellites, biotechnology and conservation tillage. Thanks to a successful partnership with our government, as of January 2009, farmers had enrolled 33.6 million acres of their land in the Conservation Reserve Program to protect the environment and provide habitat for wildlife. In fact, more than half of America's agricultural producers intentionally provide habitat for wildlife, which has significantly increased many populations.
“Farmers are planting trees at record rates. And renewable fuels that they grow, such as ethanol and biodiesel made from corn, soybeans and other crops, are not only beneficial to the environment but are poised to play a significant role in promoting a greater degree of energy security for the United States. The American Farm Bureau Federation is proud of our nation’s farmers and ranchers for their dedication to caring for the planet as they engage in the hard work of helping provide food, fiber, shelter and renewable energy for our nation and the world.”