We need timely action and regulatory collaboration to reduce methane emissions
Food policy is front-and-center this fall: first, at the White House Conference for Hunger, Nutrition and Health; at the recent World Food Prize; and this week at the UN climate summit COP27. Every global leader, from the President of the United States to the United Nations Secretary-General, is sharing their visions for ending hunger and reducing diet-related diseases while curbing climate warming. While these conversations and commitments are clear and have the best of intentions, we need to start demonstrating immediate action.
I’ve seen firsthand the impact when federal agencies work together through a whole-of-government approach to meet a common goal — whether that was implementing HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) as the primary food safety program when I was secretary of Agriculture or, more recently, responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. We need leaders from the White House, the regulatory agencies of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Congress to work together in a way that transcends political and business interests by taking immediate action that collectively addresses food security, nutrition issues and environmental sustainability.
The clock is ticking. We have just eight years left to meet every major goal, from the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of zero hunger and good health and well-being to the Global Methane Pledge to reduce methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030. Failure, in this case, is not an option.
Other countries are moving more quickly than we are to identify opportunities and act. For example, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has approved a new feed additive that can reduce methane emissions by up to 30 percent in cattle. We need our farmers to have access to these types of innovative tools as quickly as possible.
Today, one U.S. farmer feeds 166 people annually around the world compared to 128 people per year when I was secretary of Agriculture in 1995. That is tremendous progress on food security that has been made in just 27 years. But America’s farmers — the foundation of our global food supply — need more tools, and fast, to continue to innovate food production — protecting our food security while tackling climate warming. Climate change is threatening our ability to grow nutritious food. Global food and nutritional security could become the first casualty of climate change.
Earlier this year, Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act, the largest climate action taken to date by the U.S. government, which includes funding for on-farm conservation trial funding, prioritizing initiatives that use animal feed and diet management to reduce methane emissions from livestock production. This new law is a huge step forward to ensure that farmers get the value from these conservation programs, but without additional tools, these trials will not have the environmental impact we need to truly make a difference and meet the goals of the Global Methane Pledge to cut emissions 30 percent by 2030. FDA, working in collaboration with USDA, should establish a clear and timely approval process for feed additives and other important tools which will help the cattle industry achieve major reductions in methane emissions.
By working together through a whole-of-government approach to improve animal diets, we can deliver meaningful impacts that produce more food to nourish a growing world, while hitting global sustainability goals.
Dan Glickman served as the secretary of agriculture from March 1995 until January 2001. Glickman is currently a Bipartisan Policy Center senior fellow and co-chairs its Food, Nutrition and Security Task Force.