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Let’s MeatIn Colorado

It’s time for Colorado meat producers to throw down the gauntlet.

For some reason that defies logic, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has declared March 20 a meat-free holiday.

“Removing animal products from our diets reduces the risk of various ailments, including heart disease, high-blood pressure, stroke, various cancers, and diabetes and a plant-based diet helps protect the environment by reducing our carbon footprint, preserving forests, grasslands, and wildlife habitats, and reduces pollution of waterways,” the proclamation states. “Since MeatOut was launched in 1985, more than 35 million Americans have explored a plant-based diet and reduced their consumption of meat, dairy, and eggs; and major food manufactures and national franchises are marketing more vegan options in response to this growing demand … therefore, I, Jared Polis, Governor of the State of Colorado, do proclaim March 20, 2021 as MeatOut Day.”

I am sick and tired of seeing stories about cow farts and greenhouse gases and how reducing our beef consumption would combat climate change. I believe this diatribe is just like the straw issue — getting rid of plastic straws is going to save the planet. Let’s choose the lowest common denominator of climate change and ignore the largest source of carbon emissions — manufacturing and big cities.

You cannot tell me that a herd of 1,000 cattle releases more GHGs as a plant that produces wind turbines or solar panels.

Not to mention the GHGs produced by companies making fake meat.

“In the U.S., 80% of all greenhouse gases stem from the use of fossil fuel. And that’s transportation, power production/use, and the cement industry. Livestock on the other side, in the U.S., emits approximately 4% of all greenhouse gases, according to the EPA,” Frank Mitloehner, a professor and air quality specialist in cooperative extension in the department of animal science at the University of California, Davis said during an online summit.

While ranchers and dairy farmers have been bending over backwards to be even more sustainable, manufacturing and big cities have been laughing all the way to the bank.

The politicians use the cow argument because if they really wanted to save the planet it would take a lot of heavy lifting that would drive away most of their campaign contributors.

It’s time to call a spade a spade, and instead of trying to explain to people in big cities that cattle are not bad for the environment, tell them that their lifestyle is the biggest cause of climate change. Let’s quit pretending that electric cars don’t run on fossil fuels and that the nation’s climate czar, John Kerry, can fly around the world on a private jet and not be concerned about what it’s doing to the environment.

Polis needs to treat the ag industry well as it’s one of the remaining thriving industries after a year of closures and cancel culture. He needs to be reminded not to bite the hand that feeds us.

 

Polis’ Meat Out proclamation prompts Meat In events for charity

Three weeks after Colorado Gov. Jared Polis called agriculture the “cornerstone to the foundation of our state” in an open letter aimed at preserving the National Western Stock Show’s future in Colorado, he signed a proclamation promoting a March 20 Meat Out Day and the removal of animal products from the diet.

This slight aimed at the state’s $4.6 billion animal protein industry isn’t the first from the governor and comes in the midst of the introduction of multiple pieces of legislation that are potentially damaging to the agriculture industry.

Prior to Polis’ letter, another was sent by Kelly Brough, CEO, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and Lauren Masias, director, Colorado Competitive Council, to the cattle breed associations that moved their shows from the postponed NWSS to Oklahoma’s Cattlemen’s Congress. That letter touts the business organizations’ support of the agriculture community and seeks to clarify that the groups hope those competitors and organizations will return to Denver.

Following the announcement of the proclamation, Brough reiterated her organization’s support of the industry. “We’re proud of our agriculture industry in Colorado,” she said. “It’s part of our Western heritage and culture, and it’s key to our state’s economy, generating $40 billion in economic activity annually and providing jobs to more than 170,000 Coloradans. Agriculture, particularly beef, is also our number one export. Countries like Canada, Mexico, Korea and China are buying our beef, bringing nearly $900 million back to Colorado. We also know that Colorado is a hub for agritech companies, which are improving sustainability and increasing efficiency. The National Western Stock Show and the investments being made in the new National Western Center are furthering our state’s position as a global player in agriculture, and we will continue to support this crucial part of our Colorado economy.”

Commissioner of Agriculture Kate Greenburg, who also signed the open letter with Polis, issued a statement saying that “Beef is a key driver of Colorado’s economy, as the number one agricultural commodity and with a presence in every county in the state. Our livestock producers are part of the backbone of Colorado’s rural communities, providing day-to-day stewardship for the vast majority of public and private land in our state while helping ensure a safe, high-quality food supply for a growing population. As Colorado’s Commissioner of Agriculture, I am proud to work alongside and in support of our state’s livestock producers, just as CDA has done for the past 155 years.”

Clay Schilling, a western Kansas rancher and longtime NWSS exhibitor said Polis’ comments and combative attitude toward the livestock industry will end their years attending NWSS and they will instead exhibit cattle at Oklahoma’s Cattlemen’s Congress.

“We have had a lot of success out there and a lot of good memories,” he said.

The Schilling crew, who typically spend at least $10,000 in Denver annually during the shows, made the 8-hour trip to Oklahoma City for what he said was a well-run show and where they received a warm welcome.

“I can give that sales tax money to the city and county of Denver when Colorado is putting out anti-agriculture publicity, or I can give it to the state of Oklahoma which is pro-agriculture,” he said. “As an industry, we have to support those who support us. Spending our tax money in Colorado is no different than making a donation to PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) at this point.”

Schilling said he has respect for the NWSS staff that puts the 16-day event on but will not continue to support a state that is no longer friendly to agriculture based on how the state government is operating when it comes to agriculture issues.

MEAT IN

Paul Andrews, CEO of the National Western Stock Show said he was disappointed by the proclamation. He said the NWSS staff will be joining the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association for the Meat In event announced this week to promote beef, support area restaurants, and raise funds for the Beef Sticks for Backpacks program.

“The producers and the exhibitors that come to stock show know they’re loved by 99.9% of this state,” he said. “We’ll keep loving them at the National Western Stock Show, I assure you, no matter what proclamation there is.”

Andrews said the facilities scheduled to open this year are built specifically for cattlemen, with electricity and water in the pens, changing the way cattle are exhibited in the Yards for the better.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt spoke to the crowd at the Cattlemen’s Congress, a show that replaced the NWSS after it was postponed due to restrictions in the city and county of Denver and statewide.

“This event is so important to the beef industry and we are so proud to get it done in the state of Oklahoma,” Stitt said. “When other states said ‘no, they’re shut down,’ in Oklahoma we said, ‘let’s go, let’s make it happen.’ In Oklahoma, we’re always going to fight for the ag community and this way of life.”

Stitt invited exhibitors to return for what he said he hopes is an annual event. A few weeks later, he told legislators that the event brought $50 million to the state.

“The folks in Denver turned their back on the ag industry,” he said. “They wouldn’t let them have their major national cattle show because they insisted on keeping their state locked down. That put the stability of the U.S. beef industry in danger, so we started a new tradition here in Oklahoma City and the Cattlemen’s Congress brought $50 million to our economy.”

On February 3, Oklahoma Sen. Casey Murdock, R- Felt, introduced a resolution “encouraging and inviting the exhibitors, breed associations and partners to return to Oklahoma to begin a new tradition of a perpetual Cattlemen’s Congress in Oklahoma.” According to the resolution, 2,793 exhibitors from 41 states and three Canadian provinces exhibited 9,627 head of cattle. The 23 cattle sales associated with the event grossed more than $10 million with an average of $7,254 per lot.

Gov. Stitt signed the resolution one day prior to Polis’ Meat Out proclamation, making good on his promises to make the event a new tradition.

Sterling Livestock Commission is one of multiple groups hosting their own events on Polis’ Meat Out day to support the state’s protein industries. According to Jason Santomaso, all of the proceeds from the event will be donated to local children’s charities. Livestock Exchange, Inc. in Brush is hosting a Meat In event as well to promote the protein industry.

The language in the governor’s proclamation claims that a plant-based diet can “protect the environment by reducing our carbon footprint, preserving forests, grasslands, and wildlife habitats, and reduces pollution of waterways.” Additionally, it suggests that “removing animal products from our diets reduces the risk of various ailments, including heart disease, high-blood pressure, stroke, various cancers, and diabetes.”

THE SCIENCE

According to the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, emissions from cattle, including those that come from the feed production, fuel, and electricity only account for 3.7% of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. As for the proclamation’s health claims, the Beef WISE study, conducted by the University of Colorado Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, also demonstrates that eating lean beef four or more times a week, as part of a healthy, higher-protein diet, combined with physical activity, can help people lose weight and fat mass while maintaining lean muscle, and supporting heart health.

Despite Polis’ claims that his administration is “steadfastly committed to the future of agriculture” and the “incalculable benefit” agriculture brings to the state, his press secretary Conor Cahill said “the office gets hundreds of requests for proclamations throughout the year and rarely declines these non-binding ceremonial proclamations that get auto penned by the governor. For example, the governor has issued proclamations for Agriculture day, Colorado Farm Bureau Day, and Truck Driver Appreciation Day. Typical proclamations throughout the year highlight industries, medical conditions, organizations, retirements, and birthdays, etc. Furthermore, we have issued two proclamations for Colorado Farmer’s week (lauding farmers markets, fruits and vegetables), three for Colorado Ag Day, two for Colorado Proud School Meal Day, two for Colorado Proud, one for CSU Ag day, one for MeatOut Day, one for Colorado Farm Bureau Day, Rocky Ford Cantaloupe Day, Breakfast Burrito Day, Bat Awareness Week, Sesame Street Day, Car Wash Day, and many others.”

 

Minimum wage increase in House bill today despite Senate ruling

The Senate parliamentarian ruled Thursday that the proposed increase in the minimum wage doesn’t fit within Senate budget rules, but House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said late Thursday it will be in the American Rescue Plan on which the House will vote today, Feb. 26.

“I am deeply disappointed by the ruling that an increase to the minimum wage would be subject to a point of order in the Senate,” Hoyer said in a statement.

“Gradually raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour remains a centerpiece of House Democrats’ economic plan and would provide a major boost in income to 27 million Americans while lifting nearly a million out of poverty.

“House Democrats will move forward with consideration of the American Rescue Plan tomorrow, and it will include our provision to raise the minimum wage. We must ensure that American jobs provide workers with incomes that can enable them to access opportunities and attain economic security.”

The Senate parliamentarian ruled Thursday that the proposal to include an increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour cannot be included in President Biden’s American Rescue Plan bill because it does not comply with the Byrd rule that determines what can be included in a budget reconciliation bill.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., the most vigorous proponent of the proposal expressed disappointment, but added, “I’m confident that we have a majority in the United States Senate including the vice president that would vote to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour as part of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan.”

“Yet because of the archaic and undemocratic rules of the Senate we are unable to move forward to end starvation wages in this country and raise the income of 32 million struggling Americans,” Sanders said. “That fight continues.”

“In the coming days, I will be working with my colleagues in the Senate to move forward with an amendment to take tax deductions away from large, profitable corporations that don’t pay workers at least $15 an hour and to provide small businesses with the incentives they need to raise wages. That amendment must be included in this reconciliation bill.”

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary added, “President Biden is disappointed in this outcome, as he proposed having the $15 minimum wage as part of the American Rescue Plan.”

“He respects the parliamentarian’s decision and the Senate’s process. He will work with leaders in Congress to determine the best path forward because no one in this country should work full time and live in poverty. He urges Congress to move quickly to pass the American Rescue Plan, which includes $1,400 rescue checks for most Americans, funding to get this virus under control, aid to get our schools reopened and desperately needed help for the people who have been hardest hit by this crisis.”

Tai pledges to enforce USMCA, be tough with China

Katherine Tai, President Biden’s nominee for U.S. trade representative, promised Thursday that she would push Canada and Mexico to comply with the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade and urge Canada to meet its obligations under the phase one trade agreement.

Reacting to a question from Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., about Canada coming into compliance on dairy provisions and Mexico lagging on labor provisions, Tai said, “Sen. Wyden, I think the top priority for USMCA is to use those enforcement tools.”

“The renegotiation of NAFTA was hard work and the agreement we have now as [House Ways and Means Committee] ranking member [Kevin] Brady [R-Texas] mentioned has improved enforcement mechanisms,” she said. “The key to using the USMCA and making it successful is to exercise the tools that were so hard fought in being incorporated into the agreement.”

And reacting to a question from Senate Finance Committee ranking member Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, about Mexico maintaining restrictions on the importation of potatoes and biotech crops, Tai said, “I am aware of some of the ongoing concerns with Mexico’s implementation of the USMCA in these areas and others.”

“I think to echo my earlier comments, we have a full set of tools for engaging with Mexico to address ongoing irritants and frictions. If confirmed, I look forward to engaging with stakeholders and the expert staff at USTR to begin engagement with the Mexican government.”

The hearing occurred as the Mexican Supreme Court postponed a decision until at least next week on whether to allow the importation of fresh U.S. potatoes throughout the country.

After the hearing, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, another member of the committee, noted that Tai had committed to work to on a “Top to Bottom Review” of the U.S.-China relationship and to pursue reform opportunities at the World Trade Organization.

The Tai hearing was marked by an unusual level of bipartisanship.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, R-Mass., and Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, the committee ranking member, presented Tai, a member of the Ways and Means Committee staff, to the Finance Committee.

“Trade is a bipartisan priority & our policies are only successful when there is a true partnership between the executive branch and Congress. That’s why today, I was proud to support Katherine Tai, a member of the Ways and Means family, to be our next U.S. Trade Representative,” Brady tweeted.

New technology helps ranchers maximize grass production

One out of every three acres in the U.S. is rangeland. Two-thirds of these are privately owned, mainly by ranchers who graze their livestock in the open country of the American West.

Our rangelands produce premium beef, wool and dairy. But it’s the plants that feed these livestock that are the foundation for profitable agriculture in the West.

But ranchers haven’t had a good way to measure how their grass is faring — until now.

The Rangeland Analysis Platform (RAP), developed in partnership with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the University of Montana, allows producers to track changes in the amount and types of plants growing on their property.

RAP is a free online resource that provides data on vegetation trends across the West from the mid-1980s to the present; and it calculates how productive those plants are. A combination of long-term datasets shows landowners how their lands have changed over time, which translates directly into their operation’s profitability.


“We can finally quantify outcomes of rangeland conservation in terms of dollars and cents,” said Tim Griffiths, western coordinator for NRCS’s Working Lands for Wildlife.

BOOSTING GRASS GROWTH

Farmers in the central and eastern U.S. have been using technology to track changes in crop production for decades. As soon as they see that their plant productivity is declining — and revenues following suit — they can take steps to address the limitations and boost productivity again.

RAP provides the same power to ranchers.

RAP can show ranchers the gap between their potential production and the actual production they realize in terms of pounds-per-acre of grass. It helps landowners understand how much they can potentially gain by changing management practices to boost available forage and close the gap.

Landowners can see how their plant production has changed in a single month or over the span of several years. The technology can be used to visualize plant productivity in an area as small as a baseball diamond or as large as several states.

“Basically, RAP can prevent lost revenues by showing producers where their land is less effective at growing grass. It helps ranchers put the right practices in the right places,” said Brady Allred, a University of Montana researcher who helped develop RAP.

TREES ROBBING RANCHERS

One of the main threats to production and profitability on western rangelands is the expansion of trees onto grasslands. From eastern redcedar destroying tallgrass prairie to juniper marching across sagebrush grazing lands, woody species are costing producers millions of dollars in lost forage.

The now-forested property in Nebraska pictured here produced zero pounds/acre of grass in 2014. But in 1985, RAP reveals that same property produced 2,200 pounds/acre of grass — before eastern redcedar consumed the once-fertile prairie. Courtesy photo

For example, the now-forested property in Nebraska pictured here produced zero pounds/acre of grass in 2014. But in 1985, RAP reveals that same property produced 2,200 pounds/acre of grass — before eastern redcedar consumed the once-fertile prairie.

“Last year, we quantified that western rangelands missed out on tens of billions of pounds of forage due to trees taking over prairies and shrub lands since 1990,” said Dirac Twidwell, rangeland ecologist at the University of Nebraska and science adviser for NRCS Working Lands for Wildlife.

This yield gap, said Twidwell is “costing producers hundreds of millions in lost revenue each year.”

Take the Flint Hills of Kansas, America’s most productive grasslands and the fourth-largest intact prairie left in the world. In 2019, RAP shows that this region produced 21.3 billion pounds of forage.

But RAP also shows that ranchers in the Flint Hills lost another billion pounds of forage in 2019 due to encroaching trees. That adds up to nearly 800,000 round-bales of hay lost last year.

Put in terms of dollars, those unwanted trees cost Kansas producers $8.3 million in lost revenue in a single year.

STEMMING THE TIDE

Using RAP’s satellite imagery, ranchers across Nebraska are burning seeds and saplings before they become trees; and in Kansas, ranchers are using RAP to cut trees across ownership boundaries to restore prime grass grazing lands.


New technology like RAP helps us “help the land” in order to sustain wildlife, provide food and fiber, and support agricultural families long into the future.

-Randall is a freelance writer based in Missoula, Mont. Reach her at brianna.randall@gmail.com

Biden may remove ‘death tax’ exemption

After less than a month in office, President Biden has managed to bring numerous changes to the table that will have a significant impact on agriculture. One notable change, if passed, is Biden’s proposed tax plan.

This plan could cause business operators significant hardship in transferring an agricultural operation or business from one generation to the next and it also has the potential to do away with policies that have promoted a profitable environment for farmers and ranchers in recent years.

Biden has yet to make a formal proposal, but throughout his campaign he made clear certain changes he would like to see with tax policy. Since the Democrats have control of both the House and Senate for the next two years, it appears some of Biden’s tax proposals could become a reality.

According to tax foundation, some of the policy changes President Biden has supported that will ultimately impact agriculture include reducing the estate tax exemption, doing away with step-up basis, increasing long-term capital gains tax and taxing an asset’s unrealized appreciation at transfer whether an heir decides to sell the asset or not.

Biden’s tax proposal calls for reducing the estate tax exemption amount all the way back to $3.5 million per person, immediately or retroactively to Jan. 1, 2021. Biden has also suggested increasing the estate tax rate from 40 percent to 45 percent.

Federal estate tax is a tax on ones right to transfer property at death. As it stands today, there is no federal estate tax due if an estate is worth less than $11.7 million when an individual passes away. A married couple can double that amount (up to $23.4 million) and owe no estate tax. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which was signed into law on Dec. 22, 2017, will expire after 2025, according to the IRS. This will cause the federal estate tax exclusion to drop back to the pre-2018 level of $5 million, adjusted for inflation.

“It’s the family operations that will be impacted because any of the large corporate operations will just be passed along. Someone like Bill Gates who has big money and piles of attorneys to take care of any tax issues won’t be impacted,” said fifth generation rancher, Brett Crosby of Cowley, Wyo. “It’s the mom and pop operations or even the larger family operations that are supporting multiple families will be the ones getting hammered.”

ESTATE TAX DECREASE

The suggested decrease in the estate tax exclusion coupled with high land values, will likely cause many farmers and ranchers to be subject to federal estate tax. Alissa Baier, attorney with Galyen Boettcher Baier PC, LLO, a law firm with locations in O’Neill, Norfolk, and Laurel, Neb., explains how it will take very few acres to surpass the estate tax exclusion. “Based on the average value of Nebraska irrigated cropland of $6,125 per acre, it would take approximately 572 acres of irrigated cropland in Nebraska to exceed the proposed $3.5 million exemption. That doesn’t include the value of any machinery, equipment, grain, or house, which would all increase the size of the estate.”

Another piece of Biden’s plan is to do away with stepped-up basis at death, according to Tax Foundation. Step-up basis reduces capital gains tax liability on property passed to an heir by excluding any appreciation in the property’s value that occurred during the decedent’s lifetime from taxation. Under today’s law, the basis of inherited assets increases to fair market value when the decedent passes away. For the heir, this is extremely beneficial since there is no income tax on capital gains if the heir chooses to directly sell the inherited real estate, grain, equipment or other property. “Step-up in basis effectively eliminates income tax on any unrealized gain accrued by the decedent. Inherited equipment and machinery retained by the heir can be depreciated all over again,” Baier said.

According to the IRS, currently, capital gains from the sale of either property or an investment are taxed at a preferential rate that can be as low as 15 percent. Biden’s plan proposes increasing the long-term capital gains tax to 39.6 percent for certain households, the largest increase in capital gains tax in all of history, according to Tax Foundation. This change would drastically increase the expense of selling land.

Crosby feels that stepped-up basis is helpful, but in most cases, when a rancher or farmer sells their operation, they usually turn around and buy something else, most likely utilizing a 10/31 exchange of some sort. With that being said, Crosby does think that this is a poorly constructed policy because it provides incentive for people to hold onto land instead of selling. “Eliminating step-up basis makes less real estate available for young operators looking to buy land. Additionally, less real estate being available will push land values higher, which will make it even more expensive for young farmers and ranchers to buy real estate,” Crosby said.

Crosby went on to say that even though an operation is multi-generational, there is still a good chance that they are paying on some type of mortgage. Whatever that mortgage may be, if the government tacks on increased capital gains tax, that’s when you’ll start to see operations sink. “Farmers and ranchers are trying to make a living without selling out because they’ve been around for multiple generations and this is what they do. They look wealthy on paper, but they don’t live wealthy, there is a huge difference and many don’t understand that.”

To make matters worse, Biden has said he supports taxing an asset’s unrealized appreciation at transfer whether an heir sells the asset or chooses not to, but Baier believes this isn’t likely, along with getting rid of step-up basis. “The Tax Reform Act of 1976 would have eliminated the stepped-up basis rule, but the provision was repealed before it could ever take effect since determining the cost basis of property was difficult,” Baier said.

CONTACT AN ATTORNEY

With these pending tax proposals looming, Baier recommends contacting an estate planning attorney as soon as possible to discuss succession planning options and any changes that need to be made to a person’s existing estate plan. “Depending on your situation, there may be ways to mitigate the effects of Biden’s proposals when transferring your farm or ranch to the next generation,” she said. It is also important to remember that tax policies are always subject to change with future administrations.

According to Baier, one estate planning option to reduce your exposure to estate tax is utilizing your high exemption amount of $11.7 million by making large gifts. “The IRS has confirmed that if the estate tax limit is reduced in a later year to an amount below the value of the previous gifts, those gifts would be grandfathered in and no tax would be due on them. If the high exemption isn’t used, it may be lost.”

Another option would be to use the annual gift tax exclusion, which allows a person to give any number of people up to $15,000 each in a single year without incurring a taxable gift or using any estate tax exemption.

Under the Biden administration, current tax policies are subject to major changes. “If passed, these tax proposals will be extremely detrimental when passing the farm or ranch legacy to the next generation. Almost all farm and ranch operations will be impacted by the massive consequences of Biden’s tax policy. Heirs will be faced with having to sell part of the farm or ranch in order to pay these proposed taxes,” said Baier.

Profits and progress

Frequently there are reports in the news about how much income was received by a given company. Unfortunately it’s not followed by reporting the expenses. In the U.S. certainly, and likely worldwide, there is a stigma that keeps people from giving a full review of financials, including expenses and profit. Most individuals will not even share that information with a close friend. Therefore readers of the news who have not owned businesses or have no idea what goes into running a business, come away with the idea that the income is all profit. Then the company is maligned for being too well off or charging customers too much. Knowing the skeptical public, companies realize that even if they told all there would still be those who would scoff at the totals, simply because the company released it. You just can’t please everyone.

Speaking from personal experience, the check proceeds are not profit. Several years ago, my brother, his wife, my husband and I were partners in a Grade A dairy. Every month we received a sizable check. Being good stewards of the money and knowing our obligations, the bills were paid first. Whatever was left, each couple got half. Some months there was nothing left to share. Had a nonbusiness owner seen the check amount, they may have been impressed. If they had seen the books, which my sister-in-law kept up-to-date, they would have known the entire story. And so it is with payments we receive for hay or corn sales. Never mind that much of the check has been spent, in essence, before it came in the mail.

Such is the dilemma of agricultural companies that strive to improve products and spend big bucks to do so. For years there were those who complained bitterly about insecticides and herbicides, so what did the agri-chemical companies do? They created seeds that do not require application of herbicides or insecticides, yet allow fields to remain clean from weeds and bugs. This reduced the number of passes tractors had to make, thereby reducing fuel consumption, pollution, labor, and compaction of the soil. Yet some of the public didn’t like that either and they came out against these modifications. Here we have all of these “experts” who have never gotten a finger into the dirt, telling agricultural producers with hundreds of acres of crops, how to farm.

It amazes me how so much they “know” that is not true. Their information comes from the Internet and those who claim to be “educating” other low information followers. It is truly the blind leading the blind — but they all believe they are seeing clearly.

They only trust science when it enforces what they espouse. If those in production agriculture did that, we would still be back in the dark ages. Instead look at how far farmers and ranchers have come in the ability to produce enough to feed 155 people each day. It is science-based and it is called progress.

Previewing 2019 agricultural emissions

The Environmental Protection Agency provides annual estimates of man-made greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. by emissions source, as well as estimates of the amount of carbon trapped in forest and vegetation soil. Previous articles reviewed the emissions for both 2017 (Agriculture and Greenhouse Gas Emissions) and 2018 (Agriculture’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks), as well as trends in carbon sequestration (Reviewing U.S. Carbon Sequestration).

These reports not only highlight U.S. agriculture’s minimal contribution to total U.S. emissions — 10% — they emphasize how productivity gains in crop and livestock production help agriculture reduce per-unit emissions. An equally key takeaway is the impact increased investment in agricultural research can have in helping farmers and ranchers play a direct role in capturing more carbon in the soils with voluntary and incentive-based practices and markets.


Today’s article provides an overview of 2019 emission estimates in EPA’s most recent Draft Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2019 report. This Draft Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory is available for public comment through March 15. The final report is expected to be published by April 15.

2019 EMISSIONS AND SINKS

During 2019, total U.S. emissions from all man-made sources totaled 6.6 billion metric tons in CO2 equivalents. Emissions in 2019 were down 1.7%, or 166 million metric tons, from 2018. Land use, land-use changes and forestry trapped 789 million metric tons of carbon in the soils, representing 12% of total U.S. emissions. Combined, the net greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 totaled 5.8 billion metric tons, down 1.8% from 2018. These estimates put both emissions and net emissions at the third-lowest level in the last 25 years.

The largest emissions source was the transportation sector, representing 28% of total emissions and totaling 1.9 billion metric tons. Transportation emissions were up 1%, or 19 million metric tons, from the prior year. Following transportation, electricity generation represented more than 25% of total emissions at 1.7 billion metric tons. Emissions from the electric power industry were down 8% from 2018 and were at the lowest level since the series was first recorded in 1990. The industrial sector, e.g., iron and steel production or cement production, represented nearly 23% of all emissions at 1.5 billion metric tons. Emissions from the industrial sector were up nearly 1% from 2018. The commercial and residential sectors and U.S. territories represented approximately 13% of U.S. emissions and were down 0.2% from 2018.


AGRICULTURAL EMISSIONS

Emissions from agriculture totaled 669 million metric tons in CO2 equivalents during 2019, up 1.1%, or 7.5 million metric tons, from the previous year. Based on methodology consistent with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, U.S. agricultural emissions totaled 629 million metric tons, up 1.2% from 2018. The largest source of U.S. agricultural emissions was agricultural soil management, e.g., fertilizer applications or tillage practices, at 345 million metric tons, approximately 55% of all agricultural emissions and only 5% of total U.S. emissions.

Following agricultural soil management, livestock-related emissions from enteric fermentation and manure management contributed 179 million metric tons and 82 million metric tons, respectively, to total U.S. emissions. These two emission sources represented 41% of agricultural emissions, but only 4% of total U.S. emissions. Other agricultural emissions sources include rice cultivation at 15 million metric tons, urea fertilization at 5.3 million metric tons, liming at 2.4 million metric tons and field burning at 0.6 million metric tons. Combined, these categories represented less than 4% of agricultural emissions and 0.4% of U.S. emissions. As a percent of total U.S. emissions, and depending on the estimation methodology, U.S. agriculture represents approximately 10% of total U.S. emissions.

AG PRODUCTIVITY AND EMISSION TRENDS


Since 1990, U.S. agricultural emissions have increased by 12%. However, when considering agricultural emissions, productivity gains provide an important perspective. For example, through improvements in crop yields, animal nutrition and breeding, compared to 1990, the U.S. is producing 80% more pork (12-billion-pound increase), 79% more corn (6-billion-bushel increase), 51% more milk (75-billion-pound increase) and 20% more beef (4.5 -billion-pound increase).

USDA’s Economic Research Service estimates indices of farm output, input and total factor productivity (Agricultural Productivity in the U.S.). Compared to 1990, the U.S. is producing 143 times more food and agricultural products, while largely using the same amount of inputs, like fertilizer. During the same time, we’ve lost more than 30 million acres of cropland in the U.S. Moreover, when you consider that the U.S. population has increased by 31%, or 79 million people, U.S. agriculture has more mouths to feed than ever before. Put simply, U.S. farmers and ranchers are producing more food, fibers and renewable fuels for more people while using less land and conserving more natural resources.

When taking these productivity trends into consideration, we flip the 12% increase in total U.S. agricultural emissions since 1990 on its head. Per capita agricultural emissions have declined by 15% since 1990, and when agricultural emissions are adjusted by productivity gains, it’s estimated that aggregate agricultural per-unit emissions have declined by more than 20%.


SUMMARY

During 2019, U.S. emissions from all man-made sources totaled 6.6 billion metric tons in CO2 equivalents, down 1.7% from 2018. When taking into consideration carbon trapped in the soils through forestry, grasslands, wetlands and cropland, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions were reduced by 12% to a net emissions level of 5.8 billion metric tons, down 1.8% from 2018.

Emissions related to agriculture totaled 669 million metric tons during 2019, up 1.1% from the previous year. Based on IPCC methodology, U.S. agricultural emissions totaled 629 million metric tons in 2019, also up slightly from the prior year. As a percentage of total U.S. emissions, U.S. agriculture represents approximately 10% of emissions, with livestock-related emissions at only 4%.

When factoring in productivity and population gains, however, both per-unit and per capita agricultural emissions are declining. That means U.S. agriculture is producing more food, fibers and renewable fuels for more people while using fewer resources and emitting less carbon.

The story does not end with productivity gains. Increased investment in agricultural research can help develop new cutting-edge plant and animal technologies to capture more carbon in the soil and reduce livestock-related emissions. Voluntary and incentive-based tools will complement these research efforts to ensure that while farmers and ranchers help to achieve climate goals, they also remain economically sustainable.

Beginning next week, AFBF Market Intel is launching a five-part series highlighting agricultural ecosystem credit markets and the opportunities and challenges they present to farmers.

Best and worst of times

It is the best of times.

Calving at its finest. The calling of those chosen to tend God’s creatures. To take part in simple miracles. To alter the balance of life on earth by one small addition.

It is the worst of times.

Calving in the midst of a winter when one needs a depth finder to see the top of the market. When it is less worrisome to lose oneself in the task of daily responsibilities easing the burden of birth, than thinking about the price of next fall’s over-crowded weaner crop.

A dilemma, some would say.

But does knowing the decreased value of beef make a cowman think less of that heifer in trouble or that new calf layin’ in the straw? Does her dollar price somehow affect her value as a creation? As a work of art planned, worked on and created by a cowman, a cow and God?

Does the price of a first calf heifer affect a cowman’s responsibility to her well-being? Does his effort, concentration and skill decrease when she’s calving as the market price decreases? Does he try harder to get a live calf if she’s worth more at the sale?

These questions are best answered, not philosophically or hypothetically, but in reality. At 3 a.m. when you hook the chains to newborn feet and start to pull, does cost cross your mind? When you rub the calf down and push him under her flank do you see dollar signs?

When you gaze over the turn out field and cows grazing contentedly while calves chase each other around’em, do you get a good feeling? Smile maybe and relax for a moment, thankful all is well. Or are you too occupied with their price to appreciate what you’re seeing?

The dilemma I’m presenting really isn’t much of a problem for most cow people I know. The calving barn is a long way in time and miles and thought from the auction ring.

After all, we tend to our flocks in bad weather, hard times, illness, chapped hands, achin’ backs, mad patients and yes, bad markets.

I think when we lay down in the straw or mud behind a heifer needin’ help, the price per pound is the farthest thing from our mind. So, in spite of all the well meaning (and correct) consultants who keep reminding us that what we do is a business, it is also, beyond any doubt, a way of life.

To read the cow

To read a cow, for you gentle readers that might not know, is to forecast what you believe she is about to do. She may do it to you or for you. Will this particular cow head to the brush when I release her or will she freight train me before I can get back on my horse. Most of the time you will have figured right if you have spent enough time around bovines.

As a young cowboy not raised on a ranch, I had to learn to read the cow by watching and closely listening to what experienced cowboys said and did while working cattle. Of course, cows are different just like we are. They can be docile or they can have a bit of a mean streak in them and it helps if you have read them correctly. Some lessons are not that hard to learn if you put your best foot forward and sort of lean into it. Now some folks, that should already know what to expect, don’t have a clue. For example: I had been contracted by a young man fresh out of college using his daddy’s money, to look after 100 heifers he had just purchased from the famous Waggoner Ranch there in north Texas. He had them hauled to the ranch he had leased that joined my place north of Amarillo. These fat, soggy, Hereford heifers were just off their momma’s and were wild like any freshly weaned calf would be. He had them unloaded in a trap in a one section pasture and as soon as they were off the truck and had a chance to find the water at the windmill, as if they cared, he wanted to turn them out. I had four guys, all experienced cowboys, there to help me try and keep them together when they were turned out. This young feller, being smarter than the rest of us, was sure there would be no problems. Um hummm, we all knew we were in for a wreck but couldn’t talk him out of throwing the gate open and lettin’ them take off like a scalded dog. Talk about a stampede! Holy smoke, those heifers scattered in 150 different directions at 400 miles an hour in a cloud of dust. We rode as hard as we could and were unable to get around them before they came to the first barbed wire fence a half mile away. It was a stout five wire fence stapled to cedar post and a half dozen went through it or over it when they hit. The rest took off down the fence line as fast as they could go. We had to cut the fence down, take our horses through, leave one man there to plug the hole while we roped and drug those six heifers back through the fence. Yep, it took a while and we were hot, sweaty, mad, frustrated and cussin’ that kid for all he was worth.

The long and the short of it was we repaired the fence, caught up with the remaining heifers as they followed the fence around the section line, and tried to put them back in the trap on water but they just passed it by and kept bawlin’ and trottin’ along while slobbering at the mouth. There just wasn’t a lot a feller could do. We watered our horses, my buddies wished me the best of luck and I thanked them for their help as they loaded up and pulled out. Those heifers walked that fence bawlin’ and squalin’ for three or four days. They would stop once in a while for water and to pick at the grass a little. There is another story behind this one about taking care of these cattle and dealing with this rich kid, but it’s for another time. He hopefully learned his first lesson about freshly weaned heifers. He left the pasture a little unsettled but for that matter, so did I.

Stay tuned, check yer cinch on occasion and if you can “read your wife, you can surely read cattle, I’ll c. y’all, all y’all.

As a postscript, I learned to read cattle pretty well in 40 something years, but never Little Miss Martha.