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Dairy cattle biologist: Denmark methane tax ‘premature’

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Jeff Tyson

Livestock farmers in Denmark will soon have to pay a tax for methane emissions from their cattle. It’s the first tax of its kind in the world and is meant to help lower greenhouse gas emissions in the Scandinavian country.

Joseph McFadden

Associate professor of animal science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Joseph McFadden, a professor of dairy cattle biology at Cornell University, studies ways to measure and reduce methane emissions from livestock. He says a tax of this kind places an “unnecessary burden” on farmers who need better tools to mitigate and measure emissions.

McFadden says:

“It is premature to tax farmers for greenhouse gas emissions emitted by cattle. Regulations imposed on farmers place an unnecessary burden at a time when technologies to safely and consistently reduce enteric methane emissions are practically nonexistent at the scale required. Moreover, the ability to accurately measure livestock emissions is questionable, which creates challenges when trying to quantify emissions at the level of the whole-farm or individual animal. 

“If we regulate farmers before providing them safe, effective, and affordable tools to mitigate emissions, we are doing little to protect the future of farming. 

“There is no question that livestock farmers have innovated to reduce natural resource utilization and lower emissions per unit of food produced, and the role of farmers is critical to maintaining our food security, but there is a disconnect between policy makers and the industry that provides us healthy and nutritious food.

“In the U.S., although carbon credits and government incentives have some potential to offset costs for farmers to adopt methane-lowering technologies, such efforts are grossly underdeveloped and not ready for nation-wide implementation.”

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