Congratulations Anthony Barnes
2019 Nevada Cattlemen’s Association Scholarship Recipient

Nevada Cattlemen’s Association would like to congratulate Anthony Barnes of Jiggs, Nevada for being chosen as the 2019 NCA Scholarship recipient.

Anthony has been involved in the Mound Valley 4-H Club President, Silver Sage FFA. Congratulations again to Anthony! We are very proud of you and have great confidence that you will continue to serve our industry well. Good luck on your future endeavors!

Please see below for Anthony’s winning essay.

Twenty-first Century Struggles of the Beef Industry

By Anthony Barnes, Nevada

Following the Civil War, the great cattle drives from Texas north to the railheads started to bring the “Wild West” and the cattle industry to life. After the adoption of the Homestead Act of 1862, cattlemen began to build homesteads throughout the west. It was in the era of the mid to late 1800s, that our nation’s beef industry thrived. With the support and demand for beef from society, and the endorsement of the establishment of agriculture in the west by the government, large cattle operations began to pop up throughout the west from Montana to Nevada and they became a common sight. Today’s cattlemen, however, aren’t afforded the same kind of support from society, and in many cases are shunned and criticized for their way of life. Members of Congress do not throw their support behind the beef industry or agriculture like they did in the old days. Some even propose legislation that would severely cripple, if not end, the beef industry as we know it, such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s “Green New Deal”. Not only has society become increasingly detached from the land and where their food comes from, but they are also believing the common negative misconceptions about agriculture and the beef industry, further threatening the survival of our culture and way of life. If that wasn’t bad enough, with these “anti-agriculture” groups becoming increasingly skilled at using social media to further their misconceptions and agenda, we as producers and progressive agriculturalists are falling behind. Now more than ever, it is important that cattlemen become involved in the debate and their local beef interest groups, know the facts about our industry to address these largely believed misconceptions, and begin using social media on a larger scale to advocate for our industry and way of life.

The first thing that we need to do as producers to combat these “anti-ag” interest groups is to become more involved in groups of our own. Currently, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s membership is around 25,000, while according to the NCBA there are approximately 727,906 beef cattle operations around the nation (Industry). This means that only approximately 3.5% of producers are involved in the NCBA. With so few people getting involved and advocating for our industry, it makes it increasingly difficult to defend ourselves against the massive backlash of society against our craft. These incredibly low numbers point to the fact that the younger producers who have been actively producing in the past twenty years are the least likely to be a member of the NCBA, which is no different in our state. According to Beef Magazine, “Today, the average age of an NCBA member is 60 years ... “ (Burt). That being said, it is becoming incredibly important for my own generation to step up and become involved. An increase in involvement from producers ranging from 18-35 would not only significantly drop the average NCBA member age, but it would also likely help in areas such as advertisement and the use of social media. Additionally, an increase in organized advocacy would greatly help in the fight for education about the misconceptions surrounding the beef industry. An increase in involvement isn’t the only issue, however. It’s also very important that as agriculturalists we encourage other younger members of my own generation to continue to enter production agriculture in the future, especially by promoting youth groups. In the past 20 years, 4-H is beginning to see a national membership decline, with the 1996 membership around 6.3 million according to the Journal of Extension (Harder). In 2016 the national membership of 4-H was just under 6 million ( 4-H). With this decline in youth organization participation, less young people both inside and outside of agriculture are becoming more disconnected from social and political groups. With kids becoming more uninvolved in youth organizations that could potentially expose them to agriculture, the beef industry is looking at yet another challenge to overcome regarding involvement. Without a younger generation to step in and take the reins from an aging industry, there will eventually be too few to effectively support the industry and with it our way of life. With an increase in participation and advocacy across generations, especially millennials and my own generation, the beef industry can begin to effectively spread the truth throughout the nation.

While participation may arguably be the biggest struggle facing the beef industry, the widely accepted misconceptions that often lead to negative regulations straining producers, also play a huge role in the public’s perception of us and the congressional action taken against our industry. Today there are many misconceptions and negative policies that affect the beef industry, with some of the biggest being on the topics of dietary guidelines, WOTUS policy, the labeling of fake meat, cattle grazing, and the environmental impacts of the beef industry. One of the most recent debates is about cattle’s methane emission’s effect on the environment. Many believe that cattle release large amounts of methane and have a large impact on the environment. Now although cattle do in fact release methane through the digestion of plant material, it’s not nearly to that extent. According to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, agriculture and forestry accounted for 24% of all greenhouse gas emissions, yet 20% of emissions were negated by greenhouse gas removal courtesy of plants (Rudolph). According to the NCBA, beef cattle only represent 2% of greenhouse gas emissions (Moncaster). The removal of gas conducted by plants via photosynthesis according to the AgriLife Extension is directly affected by cattle through grazing. Through research conducted on rangeland with and without grazing, scientists have proven the need and use of grazing to support healthy ecosystems and recover dessert-like rangeland and return it to productivity. Rangelands are very similar to a lawn; without the removal of grass tissue the grass matures and dies. This leads to less perennial grass development and a shorter timeframe in which the grass is actively growing and alive, not to mention a buildup of dead grass that also chokes future grass and leads to desertification (Hadley). Livestock grazing keeps the soil and vegetation in a healthier state longer which in turn leads to more developed root systems in perennial grasses and typically more biodiversity. So, what does this have to do with greenhouse emissions? According to biologist Allan Savory, the benefits of grazing described above, in addition to the fertilization and seed spreading that also accompany grazing, is the only way to reverse climate change and desertification. Through his research, he has been able to reclaim desert rangeland in Africa solely using his short intense grazing practices. Through his range reclamation, the land can retain moisture better and once again support vegetation (Savory). With more vegetation growing in places where it was mostly or entirely gone, more carbon is being removed from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. In addition, the moisture holding capabilities given by the rejuvenation of the rangeland also activates the biological soil crusts or BSC. This crust of microbiological life also removes carbon from the atmosphere and stores it in the soil (Thomas). It is facts like these that are supported by scientific research that we as producers need to know and spread to combat the misconceptions about our industry.

In order to stand up to the groups promoting this false propaganda hurting our industry, it is becoming crucial that we expand our utilization of social media to deliver the truths to the public. In this, the technological age, society, especially young people, are using social media more and more throughout their day. Many of the groups that circulate the lies and misconceptions about the beef industry utilize social media platforms to reach the most people possible on the most widely used parts of the sites. On the internet, there are hundreds of articles that spread negative propaganda and messages about the beef industry. Through social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more, people can “share” or “like” these articles and negative comments and further spread them to other people. This system certainly gives credit to my adage, “bad news spreads fast”, and we as agriculturalists need to learn new ways to educate the public and utilize this same system. Increased involvement of younger people would lead to better use of social media to the industry’s advantage. We need to become more active on all kinds of social media, from Facebook and Twitter to Snapchat and Instagram. If we expand our reach into this same method of spreading information, we can begin to right the wrongs done to society by the perpetuation of these false claims and truly become progressive agriculturalists in our own right.

Agriculture and the beef industry face many struggles not foreseen by our forefathers who started our great way of life. It is our duty as producers to stand up for our industry to protect and preserve it for generations to come. We must become more involved, more educated on our industry and its goals, and use social media to fight against the “anti-ag” groups that wish to solely see our downfall. We owe it to those who have come before us, ourselves and our families, and those who will come after us, to ensure that the facts of our way of life are understood by all.