Under pressure from beef producers and a U.S. Senator from a major beef producing state, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has retracted its support for the "Meatless Monday" initiative, which encourages Americans to exclude beef from their Monday meals.
In its July 21 online employee newsletter, Greening Headquarters Update, the USDA criticized beef production, "and dairy as well," as being harmful to the environment and "a major source of greenhouse gases and climate change." In the same breath, the USDA called on its 105,000 or so employees to participate in Meatless Monday, declaring the concept to be "a small change that could produce big results."
The only "big results" the USDA got was a world of hurt.
In a predictably scathing press statement, National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) president J.D. Alexander called the USDA's endorsement "an awakening statement, which strongly indicates that USDA does not understand the efforts being made in rural America to produce food and fiber for a growing global population in a very sustainable way."
Referring to Meatless Monday as an attempt by animal rights extremists to end meat consumption, Alexander stated, "USDA was created to provide a platform to promote and sustain rural America in order to feed the world. This move by USDA should be condemned by anyone who believes agriculture is fundamental to sustaining life on this planet."
At the same time, U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran from the very-much beef producing state of Kansas was telling his fellow Senators, "Never in my life would I have expected USDA to be opposed to farmers and ranchers."
"American farmers and ranchers deserve a USDA that will pursue supportive policies rather than seek their further harm," said Sen. Moran. "With extreme drought conditions plaguing much of the United States, the USDA should be more concerned about helping drought-stricken producers rather than demonizing an industry reeling from the lack of rain."
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Well, that was enough for the USDA. By July 25, before any more lawmakers and budget-deciders from beef producing states could pile on, the offending Greening Headquarters Update newsletter had been taken offline and the USDA tweeted that it had been posted in error.
"USDA does not endorse Meatless Monday. Statement on USDA site posted w/o proper clearance. It has been removed," tweeted the USDA.