Research to the rescue

2013-05-12T05:00:00Z Research to the rescueA Wisconsin State Journal editorial madison.com

On his trip to Wisconsin last week, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a prime example of the kind of smart investment the federal government should make to confront climate change and support the economy.

UW-Madison and six other universities are to share a $9.9 million grant for a five-year research project aimed at reducing the dairy industry’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The project is especially important to Wisconsin, where the dairy industry contributes more than $26 billion a year to the state’s economy. Climate change is a threat to the industry and, consequently, a threat to Wisconsin’s economy.

In the long term, climate change puts Wisconsin at risk of becoming less desirable as a location for dairying. But of more immediate concern is the dairy industry’s contribution to climate change.

The industry produces 2 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, which tend to keep more heat in the atmosphere. Customers, including Wal-Mart, are pressuring the industry to cut emissions. Furthermore, the prospect of federal regulation looms.

In response, the industry has pledged to cut emissions by 25 percent in the next seven years.

Just as climate change poses a threat, the response poses an opportunity. By finding ways to cut emissions, the industry can improve efficiency, which would boost profits.

University research on new technologies and strategies can play a central role in helping the industry meet its challenges and take advantage of its opportunities, as a look through history demonstrates.

Wisconsin was a wheat-growing state in the 1800s. But when wheat farming

declined, University of Wisconsin research helped the state become “America’s Dairyland.” During the Dust Bowl on the Great Plains in the 1930s, university research found farming methods that cut down on wind erosion. After the Dust Bowl, university research helped produce higher-yielding hybrid crops.

No doubt, some wag will ridicule the USDA grant as a waste of taxpayer money on a study of manure, which indeed will be a part of the research. But while these are times to control government spending, these are also times to invest in the country’s future.

Investing in research to combat climate change and improve the dairy industry is the right priority.

Federal investment in university research can help agriculture
face the challenge of global warming.

Copyright 2015 madison.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(5) Comments

  1. cedillon
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    cedillon - May 12, 2013 10:03 pm
    Whether or not predicted climate change is a threat to "the industry" is not what the government or the WSJ should be focused on. The concern should be on what's best for the state as a whole not one industry. If we assume the predicted climate change will happen as the op-ed implies, will it be good or bad on balance for the state as a whole?
  2. Dode
    Report Abuse
    Dode - May 12, 2013 5:26 pm
    Fortunately there is no such thing as glowbull warming or whatever the left is calling it this week. It is just a liberal's way to spend someone else's money and feel warm and fuzzy doing it. I think I have to go turn up my furnace. We are expecting frost tonight.
  3. GOOD DOG HAPPY MAN
    Report Abuse
    GOOD DOG HAPPY MAN - May 12, 2013 10:59 am


    "Solyndra Green IS people !"

    Well, it's our wasted tax money anyway.

  4. RutledgeStBlues
    Report Abuse
    RutledgeStBlues - May 12, 2013 10:40 am
    Hey DriveThru, how do you would you feed 5 million potential vegetarians in this state in the dead of winter in the way that say, doctors and the food pyramid recommend as "healthy"? Soylent Green? Seems like milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream etc.. provide protein and energy, in both a LOCAL and SEASONAL way.
  5. DriveThru
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    DriveThru - May 12, 2013 8:14 am
    No informed person would grow 10 pounds of feed to create 1 pound of cholesterol and saturated fat laden, no fiber containing meat or dairy. Calling any form of livestock agriculture "smart" is utter nonsense.

    We should be growing much healthier and environmentally friendlier human food like fruit and vegetables and legumes and grains, strictly for direct human consumption. If we switched from livestock agriculture, including the feed corn and soy industries, and grew human food directly, we could grow all our food on less than half the area now farmed returning the saved land to support natural systems and biodiversity. At the same time, plant based diets would save us 100s of billions of dollars in reduced medical expenses single handedly solving the sick care crisis. Livestock ag in the height of folly, and we shouldn't invest one nickel in it!
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