Upper Loup misstep prompts a letter and a new system

The Upper Loup Natural Resources District in Thedford, Neb., caught the attention of cattle producers last week. The taxpayer funded district ran an Earth Day feature in their newsletter that urged people to commit to meatless meals in an effort to conserve water.

At the request of several members, Elysabeth Kierl, manager of the Sandhills Cattle Association said she penned a letter to the NRD and area newspapers about the misstep. In the letter, Kierl said she understands the challenges of cultivating newsletter content, as she handles the task for the SCA.

Kierl said the ULNRD newsletter featured a “Celebrate Earth Day” article that she said “calls out” the beef industry by suggesting customers commit to meatless meals in an effort to conserve water. The last bullet point reads, “Have meatless meals a few times a week. It takes about 1,800 pounds of water to produce one pound of beef.”

“Pointing the finger at a singular sector of the ag industry is not the way to resolve any sort of environmental impact, especially when the water usage noted is a highly refuted estimate, and there are more reliable estimates that factor in winter grazing and rain values,” Kierl said. “The more significant consumption amounts attributed to cattle production often use outdated data sets from 30 to 40 years ago or worldwide data instead of factoring data drawn from the United States producers only.”


In response, Anna Baum, general manager of Upper Loup NRD, thanked Kierl for reading the newsletter in an email. Baum told her the “article had been one that was reprinted as part of earth day — I take full responsibility and not reviewing the content prior to it being sent out for print. It was an oversight and I can assure you we want to maintain a good partnership with all our constituents and ag groups. We are taking very specific steps to make sure that this does not happen again in the future.”

The article has been removed from the district’s platforms and a new newsletter will be received this week.

Baum told The Fence Post magazine, it was “her responsibility and my oversight for not catching all that was presented in the article. The article did not express our shared NRD or Nebraska values.”

According to Kiehl’s letter, the Upper Loup NRD covers a large portion of the Sandhills, which boasts 19,300 square miles of rolling, grass-covered sand hills. This area is often called “God’s Own Cow Country,” proven by the large billboards as you roll into the region.” The area’s economy depends largely on ranching, very little farming and industry uses do not current exists 91% of that land being grassland,” according to their own fact sheet. Their Master Plan, however, lists 4,044,329 acres of pasture/grassland, which puts the percentage of actual pasture/grassland at 94% of the total landmass they encompass.

Nebraskans, as a whole, pay increasing land taxes every year, which local government entities such as the NRDs largely depend on funding their efforts. According to the Upper Loup NRD’s Long Range Plan, “The population of the entire Upper Loup is approximately 4,301, of which 66% is rural and 34% is urban.” The FY 2020-2021 property tax request for the Upper Loup NRD is $439,350, and the tax levy is .016835 per $100 valuation. When you consider that 94% of the land in their district is pasture/grassland (one could assume that land is largely privately owned by ranchers —66% of the Upper Loup NRD population), the tax burden falls squarely on the shoulders of the very people they are now throwing under the bus by promoting a meatless diet. It seems they want to knock the legs out from under the same people who support their conservation efforts.


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