Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) on Wednesday blasted the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for encouraging its employees not to eat meat on Mondays.
“Never in my life would I have expected USDA to be opposed to farmers and ranchers,” Sen. Moran said. “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 the lack of rain."
The current drought in the United States is expected to increase the price of chicken, beef and turkey by approximately 4.5 percent because of the low supply of corn.
"I have requested that Secretary Vilsack let me know if it is now USDA’s official policy to discourage the consumption of American grown meat," Moran added. "It is my hope that the USDA has not abandoned farmers and ranchers in pursuit of policies best left to the Environmental Protection Agency."
Moran received nearly half a million dollars in campaign contributions from the agricultural industry from 2007 to 2012. His fourth biggest contributor, the American Farm Bureau, has been critical of the "Meatless Monday" campaign.
The USDA sent out a "Greening Headquarters Update" newsletter to employees this week that encouraged them to abstain from eating meat on Mondays. The newsletter said that meat consumption was environmentally wasteful because of the amount of water, fertilizer, fossil fuels, and pesticides used, further noting that it took 7,000 kilograms of grain to make 1,000 kilograms of beef.
"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 said. "Because Meatless Monday involves only one day a week, it is a small change that could produce big results."
The USDA quickly retracted the newsletter after other Republican senators joined Moran's condemnation of "Meatless Mondays." The agency insisted it "does not endorse Meatless Monday" and said the newsletter was "posted without proper clearance."