Pork producers, and all of agriculture, have a tremendous stake in the nation’s efforts to address climate change. Currently, the U.S. government is considering legislative and regulatory efforts to limit the domestic emissions of greenhouse gases while also engaging in the negotiation of a multi-national treaty intended to cut global greenhouse gas emissions. Each of these efforts will result in the U.S. pork industry incurring substantial costs – both in the form of more stringent regulations and energy and equipment costs – as well as in further increases in prices.
Efforts to address greenhouse gas production will focus primarily on the energy industry. As a result, once in place, both legislative and regulatory efforts to control emissions will increase the cost of energy production. As part of an effort to limit these cost impacts, policy makers are looking at the creation of offset markets to allow “lower cost” reductions in emissions to occur. One such market is through the use of agricultural soils and forestry to sequester carbon. The impact of this policy, though, will eventually result in up to 50 million additional acres coming out of pasture and crop production and an estimated 60 percent additional increase in the price of corn. With 30 million acres in the Conservation Reserve Program, 40 million acres used for ethanol and 50 million acres for carbon sequestration and forestry, as much as one-third of crop acres may be unavailable for planting.
The pork industry may also be targeted for direct regulation. Pork production results in the emission of greenhouse gases primarily in the form of methane and nitrous oxide, which are generated by the biological activity that breaks down manure in treatment or storage. Methane (CH4) has approximately 20 times the greenhouse gas potential of an equivalent quantity of carbon dioxide (CO2), and nitrous oxide (N2O) has about 300 times the greenhouse gas potential of CO2. Different swine housing and manure management systems have differing levels of CH4 and N2O emissions, depending on the effect of these systems on the type and degree of biological activity that takes place prior to the manure being removed from the storage or treatment facility.
While NPPC supported an agricultural compromise that was reached in the House by Chairman Colin Peterson, D-Minn., the pork industry opposes passage of, in its current form, the Waxman-Markey climate bill before Congress because of the tremendous costs it will impose on producers. However, in comments submitted to the Obama administration, NPPC indicated that the U.S. pork industry believes a legislative solution to climate change is preferable to current regulatory proposals to treat greenhouse gases as regulated pollutants under the Clean Air Act.
Climate Change Legislation and the U.S. Pork Industry Facts• Worldwide animal agriculture has been reported by the United Nations in 2006 as responsible for 18% of GHG emissions.
• U.S. animal feeding operations accounted for only 5% of GHG emissions worldwide.
• The reasons for the difference: UN’s 18% figure includes emissions from “deforestation” to support grass-fed cattle (9%) and the fact that modern, confined operations are more efficiently.
• Confined animal agriculture in the U.S. does even better, being directly responsible for about 2.5% of total US emissions (as reported by the EPA in 2006). Of that total, the U.S. pork farmers were responsible for about 1/3 of 1%.
U.S. animal agriculture emissions relative to increased meat, egg and milk production
• A 2008 UN technical report said there are “limitations to emissions reductions in the agriculture sector particularly because of … providing food for a global population that is expected to continue to grow.”
• This report noted that modern agriculture is key to meeting the GHG challenge of reducing or ending the conversion of forestland “by producing more on land already in production.”
• U.S. agriculture is ready to meet this challenge!
o Total U.S. dairy farmer GHG emissions were reduced by about 41% between 1944 and 2007 – even while milk production was up close to 60%. GHG emissions per hundredweight of milk produced dropped by 63%.
o All of animal agriculture’s GHG emissions from 1990 to 2005 have remained nearly constant, increasing by only about 3.5% since 1990, while over the same period total U.S. red meat and poultry production increased 40%, milk production increased almost 20% and egg production increased about 32%.
o Between 1948 to the present, while the manure generated by U.S. meat producing animals has been reduced in total by 25%, the production of meat from the animal herd has been increased 700%.
Where do animal agriculture’s emissions come from?
• Enteric (animal gut) fermentation is the largest source of methane in the U.S., followed by manure management (according to the EPA inventory). In 2006, enteric emissions were 1.7% of the total, and methane from manure management was only 0.6%.
• Contrary to the conventional wisdom, farm emissions do not come from the energy needed to transport products to market, which for the red meat, dairy, poultry and egg sectors have been estimated to constitute about 10% of all animal agriculture emissions.
U.S. animal agriculture can generate low-cost offsets for use in a cap-and-trade market
• We can store and treat manure in methane digesters, allowing us to capture and destroy the methane our manure produces. Methane is 20 times more potent a GHG than CO2.
• We can change the diets of animals to reduce the amount of enteric emissions of methane.
• We make extensive use of animal manure in crop production as a substitute for commercial nitrogen fertilizer – with major energy conservation savings and GHG reductions.
Affects of Waxman-Markey Climate Change Legislation
• Using the EPA’s economic analysis of the bill, the cost to produce a hog in 2010 and beyond would increase about 5% from the direct effects of increased energy costs and increases in feed grain costs due to energy price increases.
• These pork production cost effects do not include the effects of the expected conversion of about 50 million acres of crop and pastureland to forest by 2050.
• This conversion is expected under EPA’s economic analysis given the value of carbon offsets and the relative economics of trees to corn production.
• The loss of 50 million acres would increase corn prices an additional 60%.
• As much as one-third of U.S. cropland will be in the CRP (30 million acres), ethanol (40 million) and forestry for emissions offsets (50 million).
• Higher corn prices would:
o Increase the price of pork and reduced global competitiveness of U.S. pork industry.
o Drive another 15%-20% of U.S. pork producers out of production.
How do U.S. animal agriculture GHG emissions compare to producers worldwide?