Several years ago I was invited to travel to Washington, D.C., with the Ohio Farm Bureau during their annual president’s trip. The visit is wrapped around educating members of the OFBF on political issues and getting them up-close and personal with their representatives and players in the agricultural community. It also gives us in the media a great opportunity to flag-down those same representatives, who often do not have time to meet with you in the real world.
I was in the middle of an interview with an Ohio congressman who was on the House Agricultural Committee when we were interrupted by a bell that requested him to return to the chambers to vote on a piece of legislation. Upon his return, he brought a fellow congressman with him who was from another state but on the same committee. Although we were covering just those representatives from Ohio, I thought I would get some comments from this other rep who was on the committee. I was shocked by what I learned. He informed us during the interview of an amazing fact: animal manure stinks! WOW. Every thought running through your head right now was EXACTLY what I thought holding that microphone wondering if this dude even dresses himself.
Along the course of the interview, the representative discusses the rising concern of manure and its affect on global warming, greenhouse gases and air quality. It became almost more a lecture than an interview on how the media refuses to use its power to educate the general public on these facts. Again, I was struggling to hold on to my microphone without beating him over the head with it, thinking “that’s all the liberal media talks about.”
He starts rattling off stuff like according to a report published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalent — 18 percent — than transport, and the manure produced from the growing population of livestock accounts for respectively 37 percent of all human-induced methane and 64 percent of ammonia, which contributes significantly to acid rain.
This is why I have high blood pressure!
We can do a lot of things to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions, but cutting back on consumption of meat and dairy products isn’t one of them, according to a report presented at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.
The developed world should focus on increasing efficient meat production in developing countries, where growing populations need more nutritious food. In developing countries, we should adopt more efficient, Western-style farming practices.
There is no doubt, “Congressman,” that manure stinks (duh) and that livestock are major producers of methane, one of the greenhouse gasses. But the methodology has been proven wrong time and time again — contending that numbers for the livestock sector were calculated differently from transportation (according to the ACS).
Where I would like to see this discussion go is toward the use of manure to generate energy: basic combustion, in which manure is burned to produce heat to create steam that turns electricity-generating turbines. Manure combustion is as old as buffalo-chip campfires. Today’s manure-burning facilities can’t rely on the hot prairie sun to dry the fuel, but the concept isn’t much different — there’s energy stored in manure solids. Unleashing that energy would create a much-needed resource for both developed and developing countries.
The net result in either case is a net production of electricity and a substantial reduction in waste to be managed.
If we could only get the ACS to monitor the halls of Congress.
Here’s seeing you, in Ohio Country!
The writer is the owner of Wilson 1 Communications, an award-winning veteran broadcaster of more than 30 years and the cohost and producer of “In Ohio Country Today,” a nationally recognized television show. He offers radio commentary and ag reports locally on 92.1, the Frog WFGF Lima.