A Republican US senator who has received nearly half a million dollars in campaign contributions from the agribusiness industry has slammed the Department of Agriculture for temporarily endorsing 'Meatless Mondays.'
The 'Meatless Monday' movement is an initiative of the Monday Campaign, Inc. and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health that promotes the environmental and health benefits of abstaining from meat for just one day a week.
The Raw Story reports that Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) expressed his indignation over a USDA newsletter that urged employees not to eat meat on Mondays for environmental reasons.
The USDA "Greening Headquarters Update," sent out last week, pointed out that it took 7,000 kilograms of grain to produce 1,000 kilograms of beef, and that the massive amounts of water, fertilizer, fossil fuels and pesticides involved in beef production were environmentally wasteful.
"While a vegetarian diet could have a beneficial impact on a person's health and the environment, many people are not ready to make that commitment," the newsletter continued. "Because Meatless Mondays involves only one day a week, it is a small change that could produce big results."
"Never in my life would I have expected the USDA to be opposed to farmers and ranchers," fumed Sen. Moran. "American farmers and ranchers deserve a USDA that will pursue supportive policies rather than seek their further harm. 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 a lack of rain."
The New York Timesreports that the ongoing drought, called the worst in 50 years and expected to last through October, is threatening to send the price of meat and dairy products soaring.
Sen. Moran added that he has asked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to let him know if it is "now USDA's official policy to discourage the consumption of American-grown meat."
"It is my hope that the USDA has not abandoned farmers and ranchers in pursuit of policies best left to the Environmental Protection Agency."
The Raw Story and OpenSecrets.org report that Sen. Moran has received nearly half a million dollars in campaign contributions from the agribusiness industry since 2007. The American Farm Bureau (AFB), a lobby group that is Sen. Moran's fourth-largest contributor, opposes 'Meatless Monday.' In contrast, AFB has endorsed what it is calling 'Meaty Mondays.'
"A full breakfast of bacon or ham and eggs is a good way to start out the work week," AFB's website says. "Eat a steak, pork or lamb chop for supper and suddenly, Monday's aren't so bad. The protein you're getting from the meat will help you make it through the week. Call it Meaty Monday, if you like."
Other Republican senators quickly joined Moran in slamming 'Meatless Monday.'
"Who as USDA thought 'Meatless Mondays' was a good idea?" asked John Thune of South Dakota. "Anti-[agriculture] agenda is irresponsible, even for a day."
"I will eat more meat on Monday to compensate for stupid USDA recommendation," Chuck Grassley of Iowa spat.
Grassley joined John Cornyn of Texas in placing an order for dozens of barbecue beef, brisket, sausage and rib sandwiches in an act of meaty defiance.
Additionally, the powerful National Cattleman's Beef Association called 'Meatless Monday' "a slap in the face of the people who everyday are working to make sure we have food on the table to say, 'Don't eat our product once a week.'"
In the face of such vocal and powerful opposition, the USDA then scrambled to retract its endorsement of 'Meatless Monday.'
"USDA does not endorse 'Meatless Monday,'" the agency declared in a Tuesday statement, adding that the newsletter "was posted without proper clearance."