How rough can the ride get?
By Trent Loos
This is just one week’s worth of new initiatives designed to improve the lives of American citizens, compliments of President Barack Obama. Oh, wait. Exactly whose life will it improve?
The first paragraph of this Washington Post article from January 2014 is a summary of the State of the Union address and it gives us all the insight we really need:
“President Obama sought Tuesday to restore public confidence in his presidency after a dispiriting year, pledging to use his White House authority with new force to advance an agenda that Congress has largely refused to support.”
Here are developments that have taken place in the past week. The Obama administration announced it would place the lesser prairie-chicken on the threatened species list, making a huge impact to life in the Great Plains of America, not just for those in agriculture but energy as well.
National Rural Electric Cooperative Association CEO Jo Ann Emerson weighed in on the announcement with disappointment. “The listing will impose heavy burdens on cooperatives at a time when many local economies are still struggling,” Emerson said. “We are disappointed in the decision.”
In an effort to ward off the listing and even more regulation, electric co-ops in Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas collaborated with government agencies, private organizations and other stakeholders to form a voluntary Range-wide Conservation Plan. Industries participating in the plan committed more than $21 million to protect the bird across 3.6 million acres.
“This decision to list the lesser prairie-chicken wastes an opportunity to try an innovative, collaborative approach to species conservation that many local stakeholders have developed,” Emerson said.
It reminded me of a conversation I had with a Bureau of Land Management employee in DC in December. He told me—off the record, of course—that it does not matter what the science says is best, this administration has decided they will list it as threatened no matter what.
As part of Obama’s plan to address climate change without legislation from Congress, the White House announced a new strategy on March 28 to combat emissions of methane—a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide—from landfills, agriculture, and the fossil fuel industry, they say.
So cows are now in the mix as a target for reduced emissions. Perhaps now would be a good time for a little reminder from the global expert on emissions, Frank Mitloehner of the University of California, Davis.
In the United States, 6 percent of all GHGs are emitted from agriculture. Of that, 3.4 percent of the total is from livestock agriculture while it is believed that roughly 1.4 percent comes from beef production. Mitloehner has made the case that if Meatless Monday were to be mandated for all 314 million Americans, the reduction of GHGs would be only 0.2 percent. This is so insignificant in the big picture. We all need to be armed with facts like this that we can repeat as often as necessary to set the record straight.
In addition the Environmental Protection Agency released a statement “defining waters of the state” and as I read it, any puddle of water that forms is now under jurisdiction of EPA.
To top off the week, the Food and Drug Administration is now threatening to wipe out the craft brewers of the nation through legislation that is a part of the Food Modernization Act, which was actually intended to target ethanol production. In their ill-guided attempt to improve the environment, the cost of regulations would force brewers to send spent grains to the landfill instead of feeding them to livestock. That seems about as environmentally friendly as the other ridiculous regulations this administration dreams up.
Here is how the Brewers Association responded:
“The current rule proposal represents an unwarranted burden for all brewers. Many of the more than 2,700 small and independent craft breweries that operate throughout the United States provide spent grain to local farms for use as animal feed. The proposed FDA rules on animal feed could lead to significantly increased costs and disruption in the handling of spent grain. Brewers of all sizes must either adhere to new processes, testing requirements, recordkeeping and other regulatory requirements or send their spent grain to landfills, wasting a reliable food source for farm animals and triggering a significant economic and environmental cost.”
Luckily I have run out of space because I am heading to a water conference in Fresno to talk about a huge list of other governmental intrusions that make life here in California nearly impossible. Fortunately, there is next week for that.
Tighten up your saddle and dig in your heels; these last few years are going to be a rough ride full of battles but it is a war that we cannot afford to lose!
Editor’s note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.FacesOfAg.com, or email Trent at firstname.lastname@example.org.