By Jeff Schafer, president, North Dakota Stockmen's Association
My family’s been raising cattle on Rhein Valley Farms near New Rockford for five generations. Four of those – from my 80-year-old parents to my two grandchildren – are involved today. I dream this operation will be passed down many more generations. The only way we can make sure that’s possible is by being good stewards of our land and cattle. This is a responsibility we don’t take lightly.
I’ve heard commentary from people trying to close the gate on ranches like ours – wrongly pointing fingers at cattle and cattle people for the role they play in the environment. I see rhetoric supposedly aimed to address climate change from privileged elites telling agriculturists what we should do while they’re jet-setting around the world in private planes. Their information is misleading.
EPA reports that U.S. beef production has a minimal footprint when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions – less than 3% of the nation’s total. Even when feed, fuel and electricity necessary for beef production is factored in, it still accounts for only 3.7%. In global terms, U.S. beef production accounts for less than 0.5 percent of global GHGs.
We have improved over time. Between 1975 and 2017, cattle emissions declined 30%. Today, we produce 18% of the world’s beef with just 6% of the world’s cattle.
We focus on genetics and nutrition that aid in the selection and management of cattle, feed and energy with GHG minimization in mind. Our pastures absorb carbon dioxide – and that increases when cattle graze. Grazing also strengthens roots and their ability to store carbon.
The beef industry is part of the climate solution, not the problem. This is often ignored by individuals like Bill Gates and others who try to drive people away from eating meat using scare tactics and unsound science.
Schafer resides at New Rockford, N.D.