Manure Manager

Cap-and-trade would cripple pork industry

July 30, 2009  by Randy Spronk

July 30, 2009 – If you truly believe that man is causing global warming, than cap and trade in one country or ten isn't going to stop anything.

July 30, 2009 – If you truly believe that man is causing global warming, than cap and trade in one country or ten isn't going to stop anything. Unless you … read more get every country to buy into capping C02 than you're not going to stop anything. Truth is, California has implemented tighter emissions controls and lost manufacturing, etc. Where did they go? China, India, Mexico, etc. Reduce here, increase elsewhere and you haven't solved a thing. Developing countries are not going to sign on because they know those countries that tighten controls will end up losing jobs to the developing countries. The falicy that we must lead will only hurt us. Why do we want to lose more jobs based on false pretenses?

It's conventional wisdom that livestock agriculture is among the worst offenders when it comes to greenhouse gases. The thinking goes that because it produce manure, which generates methane, a greenhouse gas, livestock producers must be contributing mightily to global climate change. And, therefore, heavy regulation is warranted.

But, as usual, conventional wisdom is wrong.


According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, livestock producers were directly responsible for only about 2.5 percent of U.S. greenhouse gases in 2007. Pork producers, like me, account for less than one-third of 1 percent of all greenhouse gases.

From 1990 to 2005, meat production increased about 40 percent in this country, while greenhouse gas emissions from livestock remained nearly constant. That translates to almost 30 percent less emissions per pound of meat. In fact, since 1948, manure generated by meat-producing animals has been cut 25 percent while meat production increased 700 percent.

All that makes livestock agriculture a climate control success story. And it helps explain why agriculture is not treated as a capped sector in the House legislation that limits greenhouse gases from large emitters. Instead, thanks to the efforts of Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., agriculture was given incentives to continue and to intensify its efforts to produce more food with fewer emissions. Among other things, these incentives encourage livestock producers to install digesters to capture and destroy methane and convert it to electricity.

As pork producers see it, the House's cap-and-trade bill is preferable to a straight tax on carbon emissions to address greenhouse gases. And it's better than letting EPA do the regulating under the Clean Air Act, which could happen if Congress doesn't act.

Randy Spronk is a pork producer from Edgerton, Minn. He chairs the environmental committee of the National Pork Producers Council.

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