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Have Democrats Declared a War on New Hampshire Cows?

Is your cheeseburger an endangered species?

Reports of the death of America’s beef and dairy industries at the hands of the Green New Deal (GND) may be exaggerated, but both farmers and their Philly steak ‘n cheese eating fans have reason to be concerned about policies embraced by progressive Democrats.

Claims by some opponents of the #GreenNewDeal that it would mean an end of the cattle industry in America are inaccurate—for the simple reason that the GND doesn’t offer any specific policies. The legislation actually filed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) is merely a resolution declaring general goals and directions, not specific laws and regulations. On this issue the resolution  merely calls for “working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible.”

However, the FAQ handout from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that originally accompanied the proposal was much more aggressive and, many farmers fear, far more accurate about the GND’s goals.

It demands a “a greenhouse gas free food system,” and bemoans the fact that GND doesn’t call for an end to all GHG emissions because “we aren’t sure we can get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast.”

Supporters of AOC, as Rep. Ocasio-Cortez is known, argue that this FAQ document was mistakenly released, a work in progress, and doesn’t reflect the immediate goals of the Green New Deal effort. However, what’s undeniable is that cows—and their gaseous emissions—are in the crosshairs of the climate change activists’ agenda.  They have to be.

If advocates of the Green New Deal are serious about getting close to zero emissions, or even a net-zero target using offsets, they have to confront the amount of greenhouse gases coming from livestock. In the US, agriculture is responsible for about 9 percent of our emissions. But according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, livestock worldwide account for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gases. That’s more than the entire transportation sector (14 percent).  Plus, climate activists argue that methane—the gas emitted by cows—is more dangerous than carbon dioxide, trapping up to 28 times more heat.

It’s simply impossible to move forward on the GND agenda without a drastic impact on cattle-intensive industries like beef and dairy.

And so Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) has legislation targeting concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) for the alleged damage they are doing to the climate.  “I want to talk about the impact that CAFOs have on the environment and what we can do to mitigate it,” said Blumenauer. “We shouldn’t be incentivizing them through programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program; we should be forcing them to pay for the damage they cause to the environment and public health.”

Eric Holt-Gimenez says the problem is “industrial overproduction of food—the root cause of agricultural pollution, food waste and greenhouse gas emissions.”  To discourage over-production, he suggests a “guaranteed minimum price for farmers,” essentially an agricultural minimum wage paid by consumers to prop up inefficient, smaller farming operations.

And New Jersey Senator Cory Booker—a #GreenNewDeal supporter and candidate for president– stated flatly that the “devastating impact” of emissions from the meat industry must end.

“The tragic reality is this planet simply can’t sustain billions of people consuming industrially produced animal agriculture because of environmental impact,” Booker, a vegan, told VegNews magazine. “It’s just not possible.”

The media are downplaying the potential impact on the agricultural sector from the Democrats’ newest policy initiative, accusing Republicans of exaggerating the case or conflating idealistic goals with realistic policies. But ranchers and farmers have gotten the message.

“You may think the #GreenNewDeal is some far out nutcase dream, but if you’re involved in agriculture you’d better view it as a threat to your entire way of life,” Texas rancher Casey Kimbrell tweeted.

Sara Place of the National Cattleman’s Beef Association says the Green New Deal “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.”

And Kansas cattle rancher Brandi Buzzard Frobose has written an open letter to Rep. Ocasio-Cortez explaining that American ranches  “are producing beef in the United States more sustainably and efficiently than ever before – did you know that the U.S. produces nearly 20% of the world’s beef with only 9% of the world’s cattle?

“I beseech you to please have a conversation with your constituents and colleagues that have an agriculture background,” Frobose writes. “Cows are not the problem.”

But Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, who represents Queens, New York, doesn’t have a lot of “constituents with an agricultural background.” Neither do many of the congressional co-sponsors of the GND who are from urban districts, like Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Boston and Ted Lieu of Los Angeles.  Ag jobs just aren’t a key part of their constituency.

For the Democrats running for president, however, the math is very different.  Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina all have significant agricultural interests.  According to Katie Olthoff of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, Iowa has the seventh largest inventory of cattle in the U.S. and “more feed yards than any other state.”

“We have a lot of relatively small ‘feeder farmers,’ as we call them,” Olthoff says, as opposed to the larger operations environmentalists tend to focus on.

At the Iowa State Dairy Association website, board president Larry Shover quotes a study reporting that Iowa’s 1,200 dairies – and 213,000 dairy cows—have an economic impact of over $4 billion dollars per year.

In New Hampshire, dairy products are a $50 million market and the single largest agricultural commodity in the state.  The dairy tradition is such an embedded part of the Granite State’s story that the industry promotes the “Ice Cream Trail” featuring local dairies and shops from Nashua up to the Great North Woods.

And the official state beverage of South Carolina?  Milk.

Still, virtually every nationally-known 2020 Democratic candidate has endorsed the #GreenNewDeal.  That’s going to present some interesting political calculations for Democrats in a 10-way  (or 15 or even 20-way?) race for their party’s nomination.

Even if the number of farmers in these early states is relatively small (fewer than 2 percent of Americans actually work on a farm), their effects on the economy are felt much more broadly. In addition, as support for the ethanol subsidy in Iowa over the decades shows, many voters have an emotional connection with their state’s farmers that gives their issues an outsized political impact.

“Iowa’s farms are family farms,  and so when Washington talks about America ‘getting out of the cattle business,’ it’s not just a job. It’s a family,” Olthoff told InsideSources.

“About 10 years ago, my husband and I made a huge investment in order to farm years ago. Our dream was to be able to raise our kids on a farm, to live in rural Iowa, to live this lifestyle. When I hear about proposals and regulations that threaten us, I do get emotional,” Olthoff said.

“This isn’t about shutting down an industry. It’s about a way of life.”

Trump Administration’s Disappearing Act Of Gov’t. Information Leaves Americans in the Dark

Since Inauguration Day, President Donald Trump’s administration has been systematically removing pertinent information and delaying agency work in an effort to eradicate contradictory views from their current ideology. From climate change research to delays in civil rights cases, the new administration has hurriedly put their stamp across the U.S. government.


Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Soon after Trump was inaugurated, the administration ordered EPA officials to begin removing climate change data from its website. According to a Reuters report, “The employees were notified by EPA officials on [Jan. 24] that the administration had instructed EPA’s communications team to remove the website’s climate change page, which contains links to scientific global warming research, as well as detailed data on emissions.”

This is not surprising. President Trump has made his opinions known about his climate change beliefs. In a tweet from Nov. 6, 2012, Trump said, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” This has been demoralizing for the agency, and for those who have spent considerable resources in studying climate change, who educates the American public on the dangers of a warming planet. It is also not a surprise that Trump nominated Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as the agency’s administrator.

Pruitt has been at war with the EPA. He has led 14 lawsuits against the agency he is nominated to lead while calling himself, “the leading advocate against EPA’s activist agenda.” Among the lawsuits, Pruitt has challenged mercury pollution regulations, ozone pollution limits, fighting the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, the Clean Water Rule, and to block the Clean Power Plan.

This duo will do as much as they can to limit knowledge of climate change and to pursue an aggressive energy agenda that is certain to cause long-term negative effects on our environment and health. Luckily, there are scientists who want to fight this administration by preserving this information.

On Trump’s inauguration day, a group of about 60 individuals worked together at the University of Pennsylvania to download and preserve this data. The Wired article describes hackers, scientists, archivists, and librarians working diligently to save this data in anticipation that the Trump administration would remove it from EPA and NOAA websites.


Department of Agriculture (USDA)

In another troubling sign of the absence of transparency from the Trump administration, National Geographic reported that thousands of documents on animal welfare violations across the country have been removed from the USDA website. The documents included inspection records and annual reports for commercial animal facilities, including zoos, labs, factory farms, and breeders.

Think about that for a moment: Under the direction of this administration, citizens will not have direct access to information about animal rights abuses. This information led to Mother Jones’s highly publicized report, “The Cruelest Show on Earth,” detailing Ringling Bros. deplorable treatment of elephants. And to make this information prohibitive for future use, animal welfare groups and journalists would need to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the USDA. The burdensome process of a FOIA request can take months to fulfill, which means by the time law enforcement action is taken, many more animals could be dead. Why the administration would want to do this is anyone’s guess, but is more likely attributed to Trump’s penchant to side with businesses and not any regulatory measure that is deemed a nuisance for them.

The removal of USDA information poses significant risks for the welfare of animals around the country. The Humane Society of the United States filed a lawsuit against the USDA stating that the scrubbing of the website violated a 2009 agreement between the two parties.


Department of Justice (DOJ)

Since President Trump was sworn-in, the DOJ has stopped doing their job on many important cases undertaken during the Obama administration. According to the New York Times, hours after Trump’s inauguration, the DOJ filed requests to delay hearings challenging a voter ID law in Texas and an overhaul of the Baltimore Police Department.

The Baltimore case is particularly important after the revelations of the methodical abuse within the department leading to the death of Freddy Gray. After the Obama-era Justice Department released a critical 164-page report detailing excessive and continuous civil rights abuses towards the city’s African-American population, the need to delay the case seems especially confounding. The report concluded in one of the most stunning rebukes of a city police department:

“For the foregoing reasons, the Department of Justice concludes that there is reasonable cause to believe that BPD engages in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the Constitution or federal law.”

This list is simply a sample of how the Trump administration has been operating during its first 100 days. The lack of transparency, enforcement, and removal of agency information will prove damaging to our country. The media and other interested non-profit organizations have to stay engaged to keep this administration honest. It will not be easy, but as long as we have an active citizenry, we can keep information from disappearing and demand that our civil rights are not infringed upon.

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