My View From The Country

Livestock Producers Must Embrace Climate Change

Science has become a tool with which to advance an agenda rather than a method of finding truth.

The cattle industry has learned a valuable lesson – that is that it can ill afford to concede key words to the opposition in the battle for the minds of consumers. Environmentalism is the prime example.

There was a time when the mention of the word would send shivers up and down the spine of ranchers. That’s despite the fact that ranchers are environmentalism’s most avid followers, as stewardship of the environment and the land isn’t a noble concept; it’s the primary name of the game.

Yet, for a while, we almost conceded that term to the radical fringe of activists, who wished to make it a key word for other motives. However, we saw the light and embraced the term, thus staking our claim on being the original environmentalists – which we are.

We’re in the process of doing the same with sustainability. It’s another key word the opposition had hoped to coopt and distort, and it appears they’ll lose that battle, too.

Animal welfare is another important term, but we haven’t been quite so successful with making it our own. Ironically, animal welfare is probably the most profound or well-established of all the ethos that is embodied by animal agriculture.

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We’ve seen the light, however, and the abandoned initiatives in Colorado, where the Humane Society of the U.S.(HSUS) has pulled back (for the time being) its attack on animal agriculture. HSUS’s polling had indicated that animal welfare was a winning issue for it, but the livestock industry stepped up and met the challenge. In a battle for ownership of words – which is what this battle really is all about – producers made it clear they wouldn’t allow HSUS to define “animal welfare” as “anti-livestock production.”

Climate change is the other area that we in livestock production probably need to embrace, despite the fact that it, too, is often a code word for being anti-Americanism, anti-capitalism, anti-free market, and anti-livestock. Global warming may be a myth, but climate change, regardless of the cause, is an inevitable fact. And it’s come to embody every part of the radical progressive movement, and is being advanced as the Holy Grail by nearly every segment.

Climate change is perhaps the poster child of the evolution we’ve watched take place in science. In many cases, science has become a tool with which to advance an agenda rather than a method of finding truth. Much of mainstream media, the pseudo-intellectual elite, academia, and the government have embraced it in such a way that anyone who questions the premise is today labeled a heretic. In that respect, they’ve won.

It was announced this week that the Pentagon is building strategies around the impacts of climate change and the impending implications from weather-induced instability across the planet. Another report stated the inevitability of the collapse of the Arctic ice pack, and a significant rise in sea level.

The latter so typical of the climate alarmists’ approach, in that while the change is currently minimal or non-existent, it will escalate tremendously in 300-500 years, reaping devastation if action is not taken now. The science of convenience is growing smarter, and they’ve realized that disastrous predictions must be far enough out that their validity can’t be tested, or proven wrong.

The models on which all this discussion is based proved that cynicism occurs when predictions do not materialize. Nobody will be able to assert they are false with certainty when the calamity is moved to the future, but the responsibility of dealing with it placed squarely on now.

Every weather event is now a vindication. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a drought or flooding, cold or heat, tornados, earth quakes, or even volcanic activity. All of it now falls under the umbrella of climate change. Normality is now seen as the outlier only to be explained away as a temporary blip.

In such an environment we, too, must become champions of climate change and be leaders in advancing its demise. Just think of the consternation in all of those camps, if agriculture and livestock production in general were to become active players in the frontline defense of climate change.

Troy Marshall’s opinions are not necessarily those of or the Penton Farm Progress Group.


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Discuss this Blog Entry 17

on May 16, 2014

I agree, acceptance of the obvious is necessary to succeed. From there, we will have the capacity to begin to negotiate sustainability.

Anonymous (not verified)
on May 16, 2014

Just wondering how we "negotiate" sustainability.

John R. Dykers, Jr (not verified)
on May 16, 2014

Troy, you have made a good start, but you need to realize that your statement "ranchers are environmentalism’s most avid followers" is what we wish were universally true, but does not apply to a significant group of ranchers that milk the land for quick money and fail to protect it. I built a great sward on my 280 acres only to see the next generation overgraze and allow weed return on a significant part of it. Not replacing and nurturing organic matter can take decades to repair.
Maybe more importantly, sea level rise has been accurately measured and the city of Miami has already installed needed pumps. We need to be learning from the Dutch for coastal cities, an area not much involved with beef production and so unfamiliar to many cattlemen.
With 8 billion humans and our tools to move mountains and harvest gas and oil from miles below the land and the sea and miles long nets to scoop fish and harvest whales with cannons, it is not a stretch to imagine that we can affect a climate contained in a thin shell around our planet comparable to a single layer of saran wrap around a grapefruit.

Mark Mulhall (not verified)
on May 16, 2014

Congratulations. It's high time ignorance and emotionalism is confronted by fact.

ChemieBabe (not verified)
on May 16, 2014

Earth's climate is not a static thing. It is all ways changing. I think that is what scares people, we are not in control of what Mother Nature hands out. Who knows if there will be any humans here in 300-500 years. That said we should not trash the planet just because we can.

ChemieBabe (not verified)
on May 16, 2014

Okay, I just found out that due to a drought in Brazil the cost of coffee may go up sharply! Now we are talking disaster! Everyone needs to stop every thing and start planting coffee. i may be able to get by with no beef, but no coffee.....

Jerry Arnold (not verified)
on May 18, 2014

You seem to think that the challenges facing the livestock industry amount to little more than poor public relations and messaging – claiming that “ownership of words... is what this battle really is all about.” Personally, I think that kind of head-in-the-sand denialism is a huge hurdle facing agriculture.

An ideal case in point is your attitude regarding climate science. Despite what you claim to believe, the science surrounding climate change is as settled an issue as almost any you can name in science. The magnitude and the rate of change seen in atmospheric and climatic measures exceeds any seen in the Earth’s record and is just as surely tied to human activities in the industrial age. To claim otherwise is to question the academic integrity of thousands upon thousands of scientists and to accuse them of organizing the most expensive and far-reaching conspiracy in history.

In this column and others, you suggest that thousands of scientists would willingly ‘cook the books’ on their research and risk their academic reputations for the next research grant. In the face of overwhelming evidence and data that supports their scientific conclusions, a claim like yours requires justification. And yet you have not a shred of evidence to support your view except that what – it was cold this winter? Amazingly, you also seem to unthinkingly believe that various billionaire oil barons and industrialists are totally unbiased and completely trustworthy in advancing a point of view that is exactly coincidental with their vested self-interest to the tune of billions of dollars. Because, why would the Koch brothers lie to us? What do they have to gain by preserving the status quo of reliance on fossil fuels?

What you seem to be engaging in is the most obvious form of projection. You grasp at straws in a hurricane of scientific evidence and claim that the other guy is the one ignoring the obvious. I do agree with you that agriculturalists should be on the front lines of conservationism. Our livelihood is more directly affected by weather and climate (there is a difference) than most of the rest of society. The prevailing view in agriculture is a blind denial of the best science available. When that denial seems to be based on nothing more than a ridiculous hypothetical conspiracy among world-wide climatologists bent on world domination, reasonable people everywhere just laugh at us.

Anonymous (not verified)
on May 19, 2014

Breaking: The “97 Percent Climate Consensus” Canard --

Why global warming alarmism isn’t science --

Jared Decker (not verified)
on May 21, 2014

I agree with Jerry Arnold. This anti-science attitude is very troubling.

bob neese (not verified)
on May 18, 2014

Ok, so who is Jerry Arnold? Dishing out something every cattleman is very well acquainted with.... B.S.
Jerry, all your "climate science" is based on computer models, built by humans, with their own personal, political, and geo-political agendas.
"Garbage in - garbage out"
One of the founders of one of the most radical orgs., Green Peace, has recently acknowledged the fraudulent nature of anthropogenic "climate change". John Coleman, Weather Channel founder, has long debunked your theory. There are more actual scientists who disagree with your view, Jerry, than agree.....but you're not going to find them being carried by the lamestream media or those worshipping at the altar of anthropogenic warming/cooling/change/CRISIS!!!

Earnest Christ (not verified)
on May 19, 2014

I agree Bob!!

I also think as should stop listening to all those eggheads who say we descended from monkeys! They have all that "science" and "research" that we know is nothing but a scam....

Gawd I weep for our industry. You guys have your head so far in the sand it's not even funny.

Jared Decker (not verified)
on May 21, 2014

I agree. Burying our heads in the sand is not wise. This same anti-science attitude is why beef producers don't embrace technologies, such as AI, EPDs, etc, that would help their herds be profitable. The United States rose to prominence based on embracing science and technology. To twist Marshall's emotional plea, it is anti-American to reject sound science.

John R. Dykers, Jr (not verified)
on May 21, 2014

We need to seriously look at the engineering that will be required to move massive amounts of water between river basins to counter flood and drought. THAT's 'climate change'! Meanwhile dig out and use the silt in dry reservoir basins - return good soil to farmland AND increase volume of reservoirs for when it does rain, preventing flooding AND storing water.

Robert Noel Patten (not verified)
on May 21, 2014

The earth became habitable and enabled life to evolve, as we know it, when billions of tons of CO2 was taken from the atmosphere by primitive animal organisms and plant life and sequestered it in fossil fuels, limestone, coral reefs, etc. That took millions of years. Now, in the industrial age, we have dug the coal, drilled the oil and gas wells, and burned the fossil fuels for the energy they produce liberating the CO2 in the process. What took millions of years for nature to accomplish, we have reversed in a mere 150 years and doubled the CO2 level in the atmosphere. That process is accelerating. There is no winning here for mankind. Sadly, we have overpopulated the earth and are dependent on this energy source. It is unlikely man has the will or ability to reverse course, thus screwing up the environment until we have a worldwide disaster and depopulation of mankind.

John R. Dykers, Jr (not verified)
on May 21, 2014

We must accept one or two pregnancies per person as a universal societal norm to relieve the pressure of having to live in flood plains and at the base of an active volcano! and clearing all our forests for farming. R/PxT=Q

limpia (not verified)
on May 21, 2014

"Livestock Producers Must Embrace Climate Change"


Article and reader replies here are informative

on Jun 2, 2014

Global Warming and the incredible shrinking meme.

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What's My View From The Country?

As a fulltime rancher, opinion contributor Troy Marshall brings a unique perspective on how consumer and political trends affect livestock production.


Troy Marshall

Troy Marshall is a multi-generational rancher who grew up in Wheatland, WY, and obtained an Equine Science/Animal Science degree from Colorado State University where he competed on both the livestock...

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