For Immediate Release, October 6, 2022
Jennifer Molidor, (707) 888-9261, firstname.lastname@example.org
USDA’s $2.8 Billion Climate-Smart Corporate Handout Raises Questions About Industry Influence
Public Records Sought on Funding Decisions With Trade Groups
WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity submitted a Freedom of Information Act request seeking records from communications between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and large corporate meat and dairy industry trade groups about massive funding increases for the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities projects.
The request specifically seeks records of communications that USDA Administrator Tom Vilsack and other agency officials had with industry representatives about increased funding for meat and dairy corporations.
In September the USDA announced historic investments of $2.8 billion in 70 projects under the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities funding. Earlier in the year, Secretary Vilsack said the funding would total $1 billion. The $1.8 billion increase mirrored the $1.8 billion earmarked for meat and dairy corporations. Meat and dairy production are the primary source of U.S. methane emissions and are a leading driver of food-related carbon emissions, agricultural pollution, and land and water use.
“The fact that the budget increased by the exact amount that’s set aside for the biggest agricultural polluters is a giant red flag,” said Jennifer Molidor, senior food campaigner at the Center. “Many of these corporations are major contributors to the climate crisis and nutrition insecurity in the United States. It’s criminal that they’d receive the bulk of funds dedicated to climate smart agriculture.”
The public records request seeks USDA funding-related communications with Cargill, JBS and Tyson, three of four companies that together dominate 85% of U.S. beef and around 70% of U.S. meat markets. All three companies have seen record profits in recent years.
In addition, records are sought for animal agriculture trade organizations including the American Farm Bureau Federation, Animal-Agriculture Alliance, Dairy Farmers of America, Low Carbon Beef, McDonald’s, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Milk Producers Federation, National Pork Board, National Pork Producers Council, and the North American Meat Institute. The request also includes records on the criteria used to select winning projects, the scientific basis for these funding and oversight decisions, and metrics used to determine what constitutes climate-smart practices.
Animal agriculture is responsible for at least 16.5% of global greenhouse gases. Food production is responsible for nearly one-third of emissions around the world. In its most recent report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change confirmed that shifting to sustainable, healthy diets is a key strategy to mitigate climate change and achieve global emissions reductions targets.
The United States consumes three times the global average in meat and four times the global average in beef. At the 2021 global climate conference COP26, Secretary Vilsack, a former dairy lobbyist, suggested the United States does not have to reduce its production or consumption of meat and dairy to fight the effects of climate change.
“There’s a revolving door between big meat and dairy producers and the agency that’s supposed to keep them in check,” said Molidor. “We can’t address agriculture’s role in the climate crisis as long as the USDA continues to favor corporate polluters and voluntary half-measures.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.