A Few Thoughts by John Nalivka: The battle for U.S. agriculture
The U.S. red meat and poultry industry likely has a long road ahead in the fight to defend and continue producing quality, nutritious products employing production practices that have proven to be cost-efficient and making a definite contribution to U.S. food security. It is almost as if every week there is new legislation or news of another environmental activist group coming at the industry. Over the past 4 decades, I testified many times on behalf of Western states ranchers who were defending their long-held use of Federal grazing permits to graze Bureau of Land Management or U.S. Forest Service land. Even when those cases were won in the court room, I still expressed concern that it would be an uphill battle over time.
Recently, the Oregon Senate considered Oregon Senate Bill 85 which directed the Oregon Department of Agriculture to study the impact of “industrial farming.” That is a term that seems to be thrown around lately. Apparently, if you expand a farm, ranch, dairy, or feedlot to capture economies of scale and improve your financial position, you are now creating an industrial farm. These are referred to as Tier 2 operations and the largest in the state. Perhaps, studying large animal confinement operations is fine, but SB 85 was amended to add a provision to stop the issuing all permits for these “industrial-size” farms or for the expansion of current operations until June 30, 2031 when the study required by SB 85 is complete. The amended SB 85 applies to all livestock and poultry operations and poses a significant threat to Oregon dairies and feedlots. Perhaps, consumers in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest should pay closer attention to where their affordable, quality food comes from! As one might expect, the hearings on this legislation were packed.
Another current situation involving grazing is evolving in Montana and concerns a plan by the American Prairie to “rewild” 3.2 million acres in the northeastern corner of the state. American Prairie is a non-profit foundation located in Montana. On their web site, they express their “stated mission to build one of the largest wildlife reserves in the United States. This will serve as a refuge for people and wildlife, forever.” As no surprise, their goal has created controversy with cattlemen who ranch and raise cattle in northeastern Montana.
While some may say Oregon’s SB 85 and the American Prairie goal for Montana are needed, my question is, “where does this end?” Yes, conservation and sound environmental policy are necessary, but one must ask – are the activist groups truly on the same page as those of us with ties to U.S. agriculture and food production. I think we know the answer and the end result.