Senator John Thune
Kimberley and I do our best to maintain a healthy diet. We eat our fruits and vegetables, we consume many high-fiber foods, and we try not to eat too many sweets. Part of our well-balanced diet and exercise also includes a good source of protein. We always enjoy eating a well prepared steak or pork chop on a warm summer evening. Not only are the steaks delicious, but our family also recognizes that our food consumption habits support industries that are important to our South Dakota economy.
That is why it was hard to believe that our very own U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the federal agency tasked with promoting agriculture production and consumption across our country, would encourage people not to eat meat. On July 23rd, USDA sent an in-house “Greening Headquarters Update” newsletter encouraging employees to participate in “Meatless Mondays” while dining in USDA’s cafeterias. The newsletter went on to attack the production of meat in the U.S., saying that meat production has “a large environmental impact,” and that an employee should “help yourself and the environment” by not eating meat.
South Dakota farmers and ranchers deserve an ally in the Department of Agriculture, not an adversary. USDA should be committed to policies, both internally and externally, that support our nation’s food and livestock industry. I recently signed onto a letter sent by the Senate Western Caucus to USDA Secretary Vilsack that asked for clarification as to whether he believes the discouragement of meat consumption in its facilities reflects the values of the department, and if the department believes their actions have shown support for farmers and ranchers in the midst of a very difficult drought.
USDA has since retracted their support for “Meatless Mondays” and removed the newsletter. While I was glad to see the department walk back their support, I hope others will join me in continuing to call out the dangerous claims made about the meat production industry, and support the important role ranchers and cattlemen play in our national economy. I look forward to others joining me over the next several Mondays in supporting the products of farmers and ranchers across South Dakota.