European governments have directed their focus towards the agricultural industry, with reports that Ireland’s government is considering reducing its cattle herds by 200,000 cows over the next three years to meet climate targets.
Elsewhere, in another apparent effort to combat nitrogen pollution, the European Union approved a Dutch plan to allocate $1.6 billion for the buyout of livestock farmers, Reuters reported.
Agricultural advocate Kacy Atkinson told Cowboy State Daily that the conversation on industry emissions fails to consider the beneficial impacts of cattle on the environment and climate.
Atkinson highlighted that cattle contribute to drought resistance, soil health and wildfire reduction. She also noted that prior to the introduction of cattle in North America, thousands of buffalo roamed the plains.
Both cows and buffalo are ruminants, which produce methane emissions through their digestive systems. Atkinson emphasized that methane emissions from ruminant animals are not a new phenomenon.
The agricultural expert also explained that cattle have a positive effect on plant life. Ruminant animals are essential for grazing on grasses, breaking them down through their digestive systems and fertilizing the ground.
Through proper cattle grazing management, cattle help plants grow. Methane emitted by cattle eventually breaks down into carbon dioxide and water in the atmosphere, with plants utilizing the carbon dioxide for growth and returning carbon to the soil through their roots.
Atkinson also noted that cattle offer additional benefits to the climate that are often overlooked. When soil cracks, it releases carbon into the air. Cattle walking on the soil help compact it, trapping carbon in the soil.
A study conducted by the University of Florida revealed that between 10% and 30% of the world’s carbon storage is found beneath the feet of U.S. cattle.
In addition to being a source of food, cattle contribute to the production of numerous byproducts used in various industries. Replacing all the benefits derived from cattle would be a significant undertaking.
Still, the Biden administration has also set its sights on American agriculture. At a climate summit for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry emphasized that 33% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions are generated by the need to produce food for humans.
Kerry asserted that agriculture must play a prominent role in the solution for achieving net-zero emissions.