Climate tools: Sustainability remains likely focus of agricultural industries
“Sustainability means something different to whomever we talk to – a producer, a consumer, a legislator or a regulator,” says Public Lands Council Executive Director and National Beef Cattlemen’s Association (NCBA) Executive Director of Natural Resources Kaitlynn Glover during a March 26 NCBA Beltway Beef podcast. “But, because it is a buzz word, it is all-encompassing and it is a great way to be able to talk about ecology, climate and the environment.”
She adds, “On the grounds of realism, the word makes conversation relatable to not only environment and economics, but cultural and socio-economic sustainability as well. Additionally, many conversations of the current administration and legislation will be viewed through the lens of climate.”
“For some producers, this might be scary to hear,” Glover notes. “Historically, the cattle industry has gotten a bad rap when it comes to this word. Agricultural industries aren’t necessarily a problem, but a solution to the climate crisis.”
Glover explains from an industrial perspective, the focus is generally on the products coming out of an industry.
“There has been the inclination or the tendency to talk about greenhouse gases as a product of the cattle industry,” she notes. “However, those numbers haven’t always been communicated clearly either by the government or other authorities using those figures.”
Glover continues, “The facts are clear – cattle production is responsible for less than two percent of greenhouse gas emission in the U.S. But, this is often said without context.”
Not only are these figures an incredibly small portion of greenhouse gas emissions in total, but many forget to include the fact that this process is accompanied by high-quality products, she explains.
“The process to raise cattle in this country has a lot of other directly associated benefits,” Glover shares. “There are opportunities in regulation and legislation in recognizing grazing as a tool to prevent catastrophic wildfires or to prevent emissions from those fires.”
“Grazing is an immense tool to protect wildlife habitat, to cultivate really specific, healthy forage profiles and plant communities to promote biodiversity and keep invasive species at bay,” she adds. “There are many other benefits on the ground and realistic impacts those in production don’t necessarily talk about. But, especially for those not directly involved in agriculture, those benefits are harder to conceptualize and they are not tangible benefits.”
The goals for clean air, clean water and a healthy environmental are universal wishes, explains Glover, noting, “The way to get clean water, healthy environments, happy wildlife and high-quality protein is really well managed grazing and this is part of the solution. For so long we have talked about protecting open space. But taking this one step further, open spaces need to remain open, but they also need to be as healthy as possible and agricultural producers are the ones who manage for the best possible outcome.”
A broader story
For a long time, producers have been encouraged to be engaged and share their story. Glover shares though, she often thinks producers should band together and share a consistent platform to advocate for agriculture.
“As we go through, whether we talk about sustainability and work through policy issues, it will be important to make sure we all have a consistent platform and share producers are protecting habitat,” she says. “It might be different from producers in California to Montana and Georgia, but producers across the U.S. are all achieving the same end-goal which has multi-faceted benefits.”
Glover encourages producers to continue to engage with members of Congress and note producers have not only been a part of the conversation, but they have been leading the sustainability conversation.
“Their operations are an example of sustainability in-practice ecologically, economically and socially,” she notes. “This is true for the first-generation producer with the most innovative practices, or the seventh-generation producer who is truly the definition of sustainability. Consistency will continue to be relevant and well-perceived in Washington, D.C.”
Averi Hales is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.