Guest opinion: Don’t waste opportunity for bipartisan action on emissions

Every day, over 42,000 members of the Smithfield Foods Family here in the U.S. come to work with a simple mission in mind: “Good food. Responsibly.®” We’re proud to deliver some of the nation’s favorite brands to dinner tables across the country, but more importantly, we’re passionate about doing it the right way. Part of our effort is constantly innovating how we do business so that we can better respond to a changing climate. 

Smithfield was the first major protein company to set the ambitious goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25% across our U.S. supply chain by 2025. Because we were well on our way to meeting that goal, in 2020 we set our sights even higher with the goal of becoming carbon negative in all our U.S. company-owned operations by 2030. We are set to accomplish these goals by using all the resources at our disposal, including those here in Utah. 

With a bit of ingenuity and the help of technology, nothing is going to waste. Working with Align Renewable Natural Gas, our joint venture with Dominion Energy, we are capturing methane gas from hog farming, which occurs when animal manure breaks down, and then converting it into renewable natural gas. The process exceeds carbon neutrality and is actually carbon beneficial, meaning it reduces significantly more emissions from the farm than are emitted during a consumer’s final end use. 

The operations we announced in the Milford area of Beaver County are on an unprecedented scale in the state of Utah. We will be converting manure from 26 family hog farms into enough energy to heat more than 3,000 homes and businesses while assisting participating farmers with manure management. The program is beneficial even to those whose homes do not stand to receive power from the project, as the effort is projected to reduce emissions by an amount equal to removing 23,000 cars from the road, or planting 1.8 million trees per year. Over the next ten years, our renewable natural gas projects across the country are projected to cut a combined 2.5 million metric tons of CO2e from being released into the atmosphere—the equivalent of eliminating half a million cars, or planting 40 million new trees. 

Farmers and agricultural workers are the original stewards of the environment and have a firsthand understanding of the impact of a changing climate on our natural resources. As responsible stewards of our lands, we are eager to be part of the climate solution. Supporting clean energy and other climate-related issues is critical for Utah and the rest of our country to address climate change in a way that not only involves but empowers farmers and other agricultural producers.

That is why commonsense solutions like the Energy Act of 2020 are so important. 

Passed by Congress last year, the package of legislation represents the first major energy innovation package passed in more than a decade. In total, it authorizes $35 billion in funding to help increase renewable energy production, develop emerging technologies like energy storage and carbon capture, and advance energy efficiency efforts nationwide. Importantly, the Energy Act of 2020 includes provisions taken from dozens of pieces of individual legislation that were crafted in the spirit of bipartisanship. 

A similar spirit is found in the Utah Legislature’s bipartisan Clean Air Caucus. Since 2013, Republicans and Democrats in the caucus have sought responsible solutions to persistent air quality problems. Their work to reduce emissions and harmful atmospheric pollution will pay dividends long-term for the environment and health of Utahns. 

With so much at stake for the future of America’s farmers, our environment, and our economy, we should continue to celebrate bipartisan policies and our elected officials on both sides of the aisle who are working together to find common ground on issues like climate change and clean energy. Let’s maintain this level of cooperation and coordination to advance smart, forward-thinking solutions that continue to address these issues in a way that is both environmentally and economically sustainable, and elicits America’s agricultural producers to help lead the way on climate solutions. Smithfield Foods is proud to be at the forefront of the clean energy movement, and committed to doing our part.