The House Agriculture Committee Reacts to New York Times Opinion Piece Attacking Agriculture Industry

The mood during a House Agriculture Committee hearing on livestock sustainability included frustration from lawmakers and witnesses alike, including South Dakota Congressman Dusty Johnson.

“There are threats because there are less knowledgeable and less solutions focused people who are sharing their views and other venues.”

That includes a New York Times opinion piece targeting agriculture called, “Meet The People Getting Paid to Kill Our Planet.”

“The opinion piece made sweeping, inaccurate statements about American agriculture. The piece seemed oblivious to the kind of progress that we’re making as a country. The piece was terrible. And it was made worse by the fact that some members of Congress, including Senator Cory Booker, cooperated with the project.”

South Dakota Congressman Dusty Johnson went on to cite the facts in question by the story.

“In recent decades, the US beef industry has reduced net emissions by more than 40%. And so net emissions from US beef production are 10 times lower than net emissions and other parts of the world. Additionally, us ranchers are producing the same amount of beef today as they did in 1977 with 33% fewer animals and, of course, less land being used as well.”

The opinion piece also characterized agriculture’s attempt to share its sustainability story as propaganda.

Colorado State University researcher, Dr. Kim Stackhouse-Lawson, says it highlights the emotional nature of the conversation.

“When people think about the way that they define sustainability, and what may be most important to them, emotions play a role in that and some of the perceptions that exist around our production systems today are challenging and, in some ways, aligned with the science that we know it and others don’t.

And the gap widens as more Americans becoming distanced from agriculture.

“There’s a loss of historical knowledge about what goes on in farms and ranches, and really, truly how cattle are actually raised. So that leaves consumers in this country, not having a strong foundation when they may hear misperceptions in the news. They’re letting we’re letting other people drive our narrative in this arena.”

So, what is the solution for reconnecting with consumers?

“Considering the society that we’re in and the distrust that we seem to be facing. I think the solution lies with having credible third parties talking about what the cattle industry does and what our sustainability story really is.

Kim Brackett of The Cattlemen’s Beef Board says the cattle industry needs to be continually benchmarking improvements to sustainability, while Congressman Johnson says collaboration will be key.

“A better more sustainable future will not come from the harsh scolding voices of the naysayers. It’s going to come from the leadership and innovation of people like the researchers at SDSU. And our witnesses today.”

To watch the New York Times Opinion Piece, click HERE.


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