Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Monday denied that there is any effort by President Joe Biden to reduce meat consumption in order to meet the new U.S pledge to slash greenhouse gas emissions.
“There is no effort designed to limit people’s intake of beef coming out of President Biden’s White House or coming out of the USDA,” Vilsack told members of the North American Agricultural Journalists.
“In the political world, games get played and issues are injected into the conversation, knowing full well that there’s not a factual basis for the issues, but also knowing that somebody is going to pick it up, and somebody is going to ask about it.”
The issue arose last week after Biden released the new United States commitment under the Paris climate agreement to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 50% to 52% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.
Biden's commitment didn’t include any targets for agriculture or any other sector. But a story in the conservative Daily Mail, a British news site, suggested that reaching the goal could require that Americans drastically reduce meat consumption.
On Friday, a Fox News program included a graphic attributing the reduction to a new recommendation of four pounds of beef consumption per year, or about one hamburger per month. On Monday, the same program walked back the graphic, saying it "incorrectly implied that it was part of Biden's plan for dealing with climate change."
Some Republicans, including Donald Trump Jr., and Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert, seized on the issue.
“I’m pretty sure I ate 4 pounds of red meat yesterday. That’s going to be a hard NO from me,” Donald Trump Jr. joked on his Twitter feed.
Among Boebert’s tweets on the subject: “Joe Biden’s climate plan includes cutting 90% of red meat from our diets by 2030. They want to limit us to about four pounds a year. Why doesn’t Joe stay out of my kitchen?”
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Vilsack stressed that the administration has no policy papers on the meat issue. “There are other efforts on your way internationally, for sure, but not in at this point in time by the administration, and not certainly at USDA,” he said.
Vilsack also expressed frustration with farm groups that concerns were being raised about the president’s goal of conserving 30% of U.S. land by 2030. Vilsack insisted there is no intent to take land away from farmers.
“I gotta hand it to folks in agriculture, folks who represent commodity groups and farmers, for using the media in a way to message the administration on issues, but this discussion surrounding 30-by-30 is really, really off base,” Vilsack said.
He didn't mention any groups by name. The American Farm Bureau Federation last week called on the White House to clarify the goal. “The concerns of farmers and ranchers are escalating regarding the intent of the 30x30 goal, the definition of conservation, and the metrics for defining success, among other things,” the group said in a letter.
Bill Hohenstein, director of USDA's Office of Energy and Environmental Policy, told the ag journalists the 30x30 goal isn't a problem for the United States to meet and will help in climate negotiations. "It gives us a platform to engage other countries, countries where they don't have that same legacy of conservation," he said.
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