It is a personal policy of mine to refrain from political discussions as well as taking public platform to convey my opinions.  So much so, I tend to stay in my own corner of the world, disregarding a large amount of national news and letting those more inclined for the spotlight to make choices regarding laws and regulations that place effect on my livelihood; after all it’s elected officials’ job to do so, right?  I would prefer to stick with chasing my cows on a pretty horse and work to provide my children with the same opportunity if they so choose while someone else makes the big decisions.

I’ve been aware for a long time that beef producers do not receive fair market value for their cattle, especially when comparing input costs.  But every market has up and down cycles right?  Just keep planning for the future in a conservative manner and we’ll see better days.  It seems there is more and more chatter about animal “rights” in recent years, but no one really takes those extremists seriously do they?  This whole cow fart accusation ordeal... no one REALLY still believes the misconception created by the 2006 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s misanalysed study on green house gases (GHGs), do they?   These are things I tell myself when I scroll through social media and skim through articles that are more skewed opinion blog pieces than actual facts.  But in late September 2019,  I read something that terrified me.  Something that made me realize I need to do a better job of representing my occupation.

In a climate forum hosted by MSNBC at Georgetown University on September 19, 2019, Democratic candidate Andrew Yang told MSNBC’s Ali Velshi that the government should target cattle to make meat more expensive in order to “modify Americans’ diets” to eat less meat.

Yes, you read that right.  An actual presidential candidate wants to “modify” my diet.  And your diet.  And your grandkids’ diet.  How? 

While Yang realizes it’s difficult for government to regulate people’s diets, he said cattle producers should “internalize the cost of emissions” to make beef more difficult to purchase.  He told the crowd, “Because if your cattle end up polluting a lot, which they do just naturally — we don’t hate them for it, they’re just animals. So then what that would naturally do — and some people are going to hate this — but it’d probably make those products more expensive. And that is appropriate because there’s a cost to producing food in that way.”

Yang further explained, “And so if you were to make it more expensive, then you would end up changing consumption patterns over time. So I think it would be healthy on an individual and societal level to move in that direction. But again this is a country where there is a lot of individual autonomy and so you can’t force people’s eating choices on them. All you do now is try to shape our system so that over time we evolve in a productive way.”

I didn’t just read something that terrified me that day.  I read something that changed my mindset.  Everything just kind of piled up and came full circle for me.  While the weather is often to blame for rancher strife, especially in 2019, I decided ignorance is our real enemy.  Unfair markets aren’t a cycle, they are a trend that continues to grow, set by a monopoly of packers and allowed by our government. Along the way, false representations of our animal husbandry and environmental impact are spread to people that simply don’t know any different and don’t know anyone well-versed enough in the industry  to tell them our real story.  The cherry on top of it all, current beef labeling laws allow beef imported from other countries to be labeled as products of the U.S.!  It seems we are in a real mess.

But you know what?  While we can’t change Mother Nature’s mind, we can work to educate others and help them see the truth.  We can reach out to politicians and ask for better policy at a volume that can’t be muted.  We can demand to know where our beef comes from at the grocery store...  we can make a change in US products being labeled properly.  In future issues of the True Dakotan I aim to shed light on our ag industry, and we can debunk the study that started it all, Livestock’s Long Shadow.   All it takes is for you to take a stand.  You might be surprised at who is already standing with you.  Come on folks, let’s set the world on fire!