Climate Policy

In February 2019, U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) released the so-called “Green New Deal,” a plan for drastically reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the United States. The non-binding resolution introduced in Congress does not make specific policy proposals for livestock producers. However, like other major climate change policy proposals, the Green New Deal has spurred discussions about the environmental impact of cattle and beef. 

In response to the Green New Deal, NCBA released a list of questions that should be asked to evaluate the costs and benefits of climate change policies. NCBA will also continue emphasizing the positive role that cattle and beef play in a sustainable food system. 

Specifically, we are asking the proponents of these proposals to answer six questions:

    1. What specific policy changes are you proposing? 
    1. How much will each of these policy changes cost taxpayers, consumers, and businesses?

    1. Estimate how much CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by a date certain (of your choosing) if your proposed policies outlined in Question 1 above were to be fully implemented.  

    1. Estimate how much global temperatures would be changed by the same date certain you use in Question 3 if your policy recommendations in Question 1 were to be fully implemented. 

    1. If any of your policy proposals are intended to reduce the consumption of beef, please detail specifically how much additional land must be converted to crop production in order to fill the protein-intake gap. Also, please identify specifically where this land is located, and how much additional GHGs would be released into the atmosphere by converting current pasture land into crop production. 

    1. Please show all your math for your estimated costs, emissions, average global temperature, and land conversion data outlined in Questions 2, 3, 4, and 5.

When discussing the issue of climate change, it's also important to remember a few key facts:

  • Beef provides high-quality protein and essential nutrients like iron, zinc and B vitamins. 

  • You would need to eat 3 cups, or 666 calories, of quinoa, to get the same amount of protein as in 3 oz. of cooked beef, which is about 170 calories. 

  • Compared to 1977, today the U.S. produces the same amount of beef with 33 percent fewer cattle. 

  • According to the EPA, greenhouse gas from beef cattle only represents 2% of human-caused emissions in U.S. 

  • More than 40 percent of the land in the contiguous U.S. is pasture and rangeland that is too rocky, steep, and/or arid to support cultivated agriculture – yet this land can support cattle and protein upcycling.  

  • The U.S. produces 18 percent of the world’s beef with just 8 percent of the world’s cattle (ranking third in worldwide total cattle population).

Additional Resources

* Mar. 13, 2020 - NCBA submits comments on EPA’s Draft Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks

* Mar. 1, 2019 - Beltway Beef Podcast: Scott Yager Discusses Green New Deal, Water Rule, Wheeler Confirmation at EPA

* Feb. 7, 2019 - Beltway Beef Podcast: Colin Woodall Talks "Green New Deal", Efforts to Silence Food Producers