It’s disturbing when those who are supposed to be advocates for agriculture instead choose to advocate against it. That happened last month just as NCBA kicked off the 2012 Cattle Industry Summer Convention in Denver, Colo. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a release on July 25, expressing support for the “Meatless Mondays” campaign by saying that USDA would work to reduce environmental impacts in the agency’s cafeteria. It was a statement which shows just how out of touch our government is with the difficulties faced by farmers and ranchers who are working hard every day to produce the food which our citizens depend on. The “Meatless Monday” campaign is an effort started by radical animal rights activists whose stated goal is to end the consumption of meat in this country. USDA’s announcement that it would embrace the campaign effort calls into question their commitment to represent the very farmers and ranchers who produce the food for their cafeteria.
USDA, after immediate and significant pressure from NCBA and other grassroots producer groups, retracted the statement, saying it had been released in error “without the proper clearance,” but not before the damage was done. This statement by USDA called into question the environmental practices used by farmers and ranchers who are producing food for this country, despite the fact that many of those same practices are endorsed and funded by USDA agencies through a multitude of conservation programs.
As farmers and ranchers we have a lot on our plates every day when we wake up in the morning. We’re currently facing one of the worst droughts in history with 70 percent of the U.S. cowherd being impacted by drought. Input costs are rising and we’re challenged constantly by extremist groups who would like to put us out of business. That’s what makes USDA’s mistake alarming; we need USDA to support and advocate vigilantly for agriculture. However, this statement also serves as a good demonstration of why we all need to be at the table and why belonging to NCBA is so important. Our staff is constantly on the lookout for any effort to undermine the work we’re doing in this country.
Every day NCBA staff is hard at work advocating for farmers and ranchers. We have boots on the hill forging strong relationships with our elected officials. We’re winning important fights on behalf of our members and our industry and we’re holding government officials accountable for their actions, particularly those actions which pay potentially undermine our efforts to feed the nation.
We all appreciate USDA’s swift action to retract their disappointing statement and making it right by stating publicly that it does not support the “Meatless Monday” campaign, but it’s also a good reminder of why we need to be represented, so we can respond to that which might harm our farms and ranches in fast order. In this case, an attempt by an animal rights extremist group which is spreading fiction to consumers who need to know the importance of beef in a healthy diet. It speaks very highly of our staff who are working tirelessly on behalf of NCBA members and the entire beef industry.
USDA did the right thing by scrapping this statement and acknowledging the important role of America’s farm and ranch families in providing food for the world. USDA denouncing support of the “Meatless Monday” campaign is an important step in correcting misinformation about the safety and sustainability of U.S. beef production.