Farming and Green New Deal

If the same attention to the environment that we find in the stables was given to all the other human activities, the Green New Deal launched by Ursula von der Leyen would have much more chances of success.

Reaching climate neutrality by 2050. That means working to ensure that human activities have zero impact on climate change. It is the challenging “Green New Deal“- goal that the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has given herself. Even more challenging after the disappointing results of the last COP 25 meetings in Madrid, the UN Conference on climate change. But the President of the European Commission is not discouraged even when she is reminded that Europe can do little, given that emissions in European countries contribute only 10% to climate change. The other countries, says the EU president with conviction, will line up and in turn adopt the green deal philosophy.

Everyone, or almost everyone, agrees that fighting against climate change is necessary. It is important now to understand how to achieve the goal. We rightly speak about transport and therefore of planes, cars, trucks, cruise ships. A shift towards electric mobility is called for, but the road is still long. Someone remembers the progress in renewable energies that in some areas of the world (such as Texas) are taking over coal, and so on. But with less conviction than it would be necessary.

If the same attention to the #environment that we find in the #stables was given to all the other human activities, the #GreenNewDeal would have much more chances of success. Click To Tweet

The attitude changes when agriculture and its livestock farms are called into question, especially “intensive” farms. Emphasis is made on numbers that show exorbitant water consumption to produce a kilo of meat. With apocalyptic tones they indicate impoverished lands to produce food and feed for livestock. With alarmism, the emissions of climate-altering gases by ruminants are reported (bad neologism which includes methane and carbon dioxide). And here is the solution to all the troubles on the planet: reduce, or better eliminate, the consumption of meat and empty the farms, as some “qualified” self-proclaimed experts claim.

But are things really like this? I take as an example the considerations of “Bay Nature“, a Californian environmental association that has long been concerned with the protection of the extraordinary biodiversity that can be found in the Bay of San Francisco, in the USA. Among its activities, there is that of promoting the dissemination of knowledge in the naturalistic field, by publishing on paper and online the results of research conducted on environmental issues. All relying largely on the contribution of its supporters. For example, in the publications you can find out more about sea otters and their role as environmental sentinels, or learn about the project to repopulate the oysters of San Francisco Bay using oyster valves.

Lusher #pastures are at the same time a perfect machine to capture #CarbonDioxide. Click To Tweet

Leafing through the various scientific contributions, we find an article about the role of grazing and cattle breeding. We learn that with their presence animals promote the fertility of the soil, which can thus produce greater quantities of plant mass which then feeds the animals themselves. Lusher pastures are at the same time a perfect “machine” to capture carbon dioxide. Result: the “carbon footprint” is positive. In other words, the carbon retained by the soil is more than that emitted into the atmosphere.

And that’s not all. The presence of animals and farms is an instrument for controlling the environment, both preventing non-native plant species from taking over and avoiding uncontrolled development of vegetation, which can cause dangerous incidents such as the wildfires that have recently hit California.

The presence of animals and farms is an instrument for controlling the #environment, also preventing #wildfires. Click To Tweet

Getting back to the carbon footprint, the evidence obtained in California is no different from what has been found in Italy, both in pastures and in intensive crops. This has been shown by research conducted in the Po Valley using appropriate agronomic techniques, such as direct seeding. The numbers emerging from the research by Crpa (Center for animal production research) on the cultivation of sorghum testify that the carbon balance in this case too is positive. It also confirms that the presence of animals and the proper use of their manure is indispensable for improving soil fertility, while reducing the need to use chemical fertilizers.

The problems come when from pasture and extensive systems, such as that mentioned by Bay Nature, we move on to the intensive “formulas” of our farms. Many people think so, driven in their conviction by communication (and marketing) campaigns that describe farms as places where animals are piled on top of each other, in intense discomfort, “bombed” by drugs in impossible living conditions.

The presence of animals and the proper use of their #manure is indispensable for improving #SoilFertility, while reducing the need of chemical #fertilizers. Click To Tweet

On the contrary, farms are attentive to animals’ welfare (there are precise rules in this regard), the use of drugs is done only in cases of absolute necessity and with veterinary control (recent is the introduction of the electronic recipe, which allows to monitor each intervention). All oriented towards efficiency which translates into a lower environmental impact and more sustainable production. There is no shortage of scientific evidence. In addition, foodstuffs that reduce gaseous emissions and nitrogen dispersion are successfully tested on farms. And what remains is used for energy purposes (biogas is an example), before becoming a natural fertilizer.

So, be careful not to always attack farms. In fact, if the same attention to the environment that we find in the stables was given to all the other human activities, the Green New Deal launched by Ursula von der Leyen would have much more chance of success.

Professional journalist, graduated in veterinary medicine, director of journals dedicated to animal husbandry and editor in chief of journals in the agricultural sector, he has held coordination positions in publishing companies. Author of books on animal breeding, he is involved in the divulgation of technical, political and economic subjects of interest to the livestock sector.