Is Agriculture the Real Enemy of Environmental Activists?

For years, mainstream media and public figures blamed agriculture as one of the top contributors to global warming. “cow farts” are said to be destroying our clean air, and farming takes up way too much land to farm. While the latter is true, many claims made to shut down American agriculture are not.

Image courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Agriculture only contributes about 10% of total carbon emissions released into the atmosphere. That number is significantly low compared to 28% of the emissions coming from transportation.

However, that number is not convincing enough for some environmental activists as well as some legislators. Just last year, the Green New Deal was being pushed through the legislature by Congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Essentially, it would work towards eliminating the nation’s beef supply as well as burn whole in the taxpayer’s pockets. Her reasoning for this inclusion in the bill is the release of “cow farts,” or excessive amounts of methane into the atmosphere.

To rebuttal this proposal a year later, with a majority of our economy shut down in the middle of March through the middle of May, the University of East Anglia came out with an article about a study on carbon emissions since the Covid-19 pandemic came in full swing. It showed that carbon emissions dropped by 17% after about a month of the international shutdown. 43% of the decrease was due to fewer cars being on the road, and the levels compared to what they were back in 2006.

But amidst the government shutdowns, and the world economy almost coming to a complete halt, guess what did not stop. Farming. This goes to show that agriculture cannot be labeled as the sole contributor to climate change, so why is there such a big fight to stop American agriculture with the basis that it will ultimately destroy the environment?

Despite trying to defend agriculture, I will not let the industry get away with doing whatever it wants when it comes to the environment. For example, recent stories of the Dicamba products and there their environmental effects surged this past month where the EPA came out and banned the Dicamba products, XtendiMax, Engenia, and FeXapan. These products were approved for use back in 2018, but the EPA now ruled them as harmful. There was a lot of push back from farmers and government officials to release the restrictions for this year.

Photo from InvestigateMidwest

To be honest, I was relieved when the EPA announced they would allow the application for this year’s purchased product through July 31. However, I do believe the EPA is in the right to ban products if they have negative effects on the environment and human health. I want farmers to be profitable, and Dicamba products have allowed them to do that. However, if something is not environmentally friendly, farmers should have the integrity not to use those products. Farmers must always be held accountable for their environmental impact. We are working on being a sustainable industry that works for the land and not just ourselves.

With that, Farmer must help to protect the Earth if they want to keep farming on it. On Bayer’s website, they said, “Farmers are particularly affected by extreme weather conditions, which include drought, severe heat, flooding, and other shifting climate trends.” That means, if we are not sustainable and take care of the land, these extreme conditions can bite farmers in the butt.

With my experience of working for Summit Farms this summer, I have learned that they strive to run an environment-friendly operation. In my blog post about my time at Summit so far, I said they put a lot into wetland conservation programs. Through these programs, the company benefits as well as the environment.

Right now, the number one contributor to climate change is the burning of fossil fuels, this takes place in multiple industries, and agriculture is no exception. Nonetheless, agriculture has paved the way for renewable energies. For example, everyone knows how corn is being used as a renewable source to produce ethanol and how it is being added to gasoline. While it is a cleaner fuel for transportation, it has also provided a cheaper option at the gas pump!

photo from

Farmers are taking great strides to become sustainable. The agricultural industry is working to produce more food on fewer amounts of land, leaving room for more investment in land and wildlife conservation. It is a resilient industry, and we have seen this through the work that farmers continue to do during an international pandemic. Agriculture may have had its problems with the environment in the passed, but, with ranchers and farmers working to be more sustainable, is it truly the enemy of the environment that activists are building it up to be?

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