Clear the air on carbon committee (Editorial)
Farming interests clashed with Maryland’s government last month when two agricultural representatives told The Delmarva Farmer that a new state committee is quietly working to reduce the amount of beef, poultry, dairy and other animal products purchased by state agencies.
State officials have yet to fully address claims by Colby Ferguson, Maryland Farm Bureau’s government relations director, and Scott Barao, executive vice president of the Maryland Cattlemen’s Association — or committee documents that appear to support everything they said. Both men are recently appointed members of the Carbon-Intensive Foods Subcommittee, a 26-member group working inside the state’s Department of General Services.
We’re hoping the state rectifies this at the committee’s next meeting on Aug. 8 in Baltimore.
Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder and General Services Secretary Ellington E. Churchill Jr. say the committee, which met for the first time in July, has no “preconceived goal or mission” to reduce the amount of beef and other protein purchased by the state. But a timeline given to Ferguson and Barao says the committee is developing best practices to reduce “the volume of carbon-intensive foods purchased by state agencies and universities.”
A list of so-called “carbon-intensive foods” was also distributed to committee members. The memo, which Barao labeled a “hit list”, includes beef, lamb, goat meat, butter, shellfish, cheese, pork, chicken, cream, eggs and milk — all of which produce a comparatively large amount of greenhouse gases, the memo said.
“It’s more just a push to get rid of animal agriculture,” Ferguson told The Farmer.
When we called both departments for more information, spokespeople declined interview requests.
The state is interested in reducing its carbon footprint by encouraging state food purchasers, such as universities, hospitals and prisons, to buy less meat — or anything else produced by an animal. It’s an opportunity for robust debate at a time when the world is increasingly concerned about the consequences of global warming.
But for that to happen, the state will need to be more forthcoming — like committee member Chloe Waterman, a senior food campaigner at Friends of the Earth, a Washington, D.C., environmental advocacy group.
“Maryland is purchasing a lot of food,” Waterman told The Farmer. “Yet the food we’re purchasing isn’t aligned with (worldwide) goals on climate.”
Waterman doesn’t represent most farmers, but we certainly appreciate one thing about her: When we called her on the phone, she answered.
1-800-634-5021 410-822-3965 Fax- 410-822-5068
P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925