U.S. Beef Industry ‘Relatively Unscathed’ by Biden Climate Pledge

by Taylor Cunningham

Though the Biden administration is imposing new rules on most methane and CO2-producing industries around the country in an attempt to honor its climate pledge, it’s taking a different approach with the beef industry. And because of that, ranchers are coming out ‘relatively unscathed.’

At a Glance

  • Biden and the EU aim to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030.
  • Scientists believe cattle create a gas that warms the planet faster than CO2.
  • Despite it’s toll on the environment, the EPA is offering money to farmers who voluntarility work towards the emissions goal.
  • Incentivizing ranchers to make changes instead of mandating them has saved the industry.

The Agricultural Sector is Responsible for More Than a Third of the Country’s Methane Emissions

At the Cop26 climate summit last November, President Biden and the European Union announced a global pledge to reduce methane gas by 30% by the start of the next decade, which could have hit the beef industry hard.

But luckily, the White House decided to incentivize farmers to cut emissions instead of forcing them to follow new, strict rules. And as Mary-Thomas Hart with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association environmental counsel told a sustainability forum at an annual NCBA trade show in Houston last month, that decision has saved cattle ranchers from financial ruin.

“A good example is, during Cop26, the president led a global methane pledge, and that could have gone really badly for livestock production in the United States, could have gone badly for the cattle industry,” she said per Guardian. “But this administration seems to have recognized the positive value we bring. We were really excited to get out of that relatively unscathed.”

The Beef Industry Can be Trusted to Work Towards Biden’s Goals

Cows produce a gas called methane in their manure. And it is thought to be worse for the environment than carbon dioxide. Though the gas dissipates after 10 to 20 years, it warms Earth at a rate 80 times higher than C02.

But despite that, the Beef industry isn’t nearly as affected by Biden’s climate pledge as others. The gas, coal, and oil industries are scrambling to adhere to news rules that will help get emissions under control. But the agricultural sector is only working under voluntary actions set up by Environmental Protection Agency.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack shared that the government trusts the sector to do its part. And to make it even more tempting, he’s offering businesses federal incentives to clean up their acts.

“Agriculture will respond to this because they have historically responded to financial and market incentives,” Vilsack said in an interview with Reuters. “They appreciate the time has come.”

To help, some cattle ranchers are feeding their animals grass or other low-emission grains. But some experts who oppose the more relaxed approach for the beef industry say that’s not enough.

According to Brent Kim, a program officer with the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, the U.S. will never meet its goal without regulations.

“We urgently need to curb greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, of which livestock is the biggest producer,” Kim said. “We can’t have business as usual.”