WASHINGTON — South Dakota cattle producer Todd Wilkinson today told a U.S. Senate subcommittee that contrary to the claims of some environmental and anti-animal-agriculture activists, “American beef production and consumption is a climate change solution.”
“Climate policies that unfairly target cattle producers fail to recognize the positive role of cattle and beef in a healthy, sustainable food system,” Wilkinson told members of the U.S. Senate’s Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety. “Rather than adopting misguided policies that threaten the viability of farmers and ranchers, we want to shift the conversation.”
The subcommittee held today’s hearing on the issue of “Reducing Emissions While Driving Economic Growth: Industry-Led Initiatives.” In his testimony, Wilkinson discussed the environmental benefits of grazing, and busted myths about the effect of methane on global climate.
“(Grazing) naturally sequesters carbon, a benefit compounded by ruminant grazing,” Wilkinson explained. “Grazing builds deep root systems in prairie grasses, which improve soil health. Healthy soils retain more water, sequester more carbon, and increase the resiliency of our ranches.”
“Methane emissions from cattle are part of the natural methane cycle,” Wilkinson continued. “Within 10 years, more than 90 percent of that methane combines with oxygen in the atmosphere and converts to CO2. Methane has no long-term impact on climate when emissions and oxidation are in balance. And this balance has been maintained for centuries.”
Wilkinson, who is co-owner and operator of a commercial cow-calf operation and feeing business in De Smet, S.D., also serves as NCBA’s 2019 Policy Division Vice Chairman and as Vice President of the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Foundation. He closed his testimony by reminding Senators of producers’ long commitment to environmental stewardship.
“The U.S. cattle industry is proud of its history as stewards of our nation’s natural resources,” he said. “Cattle producers are America’s original conservationists, and we work hard every day to ensure that we can pass our operations on to the next generation. My family, and the entire American cattle producing community, is committed to remaining environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable for generations to come.”