There’s “red meat,” and then there’s red meat. Our Budget-Butcher-in-Chief has marketed both kinds. Trump Steaks, Donald Trump’s attempt to sell actual red meat via The Sharper Image and QVC, was an infamous flop. But the huge hunks of “red meat” he tossed out during the 2016 presidential campaign surely helped him win the White House. His “rabid” base wolfed it down between howls of “build a wall!” and “lock her up!” (please note that I put “rabid” in quotes because it would be unfair to equate a few flecks of spittle with actual foaming at the mouth).
Trump grinds out one inflammatory tweet after another, like toxic sausage. But the cattle ranchers in Kansas who voted for Trump are finding his tweets less appetizing in the wake of this month’s catastrophic drought-fueled wildfires that decimated their herds. The livestock lobby has long boasted that red meat is an excellent source of iron. Now, thanks to Trump, we’re learning that “red meat” is high in irony; the “forgotten men and women” are feeling abandoned by the man who swore they’d be forgotten no more.
Garth Gardiner, a Trump supporter and cattle rancher who lost roughly 500 cows in the fires, told the New York Times that ‘he just wanted to hear a presidential mention of the fires amid Mr. Trump’s tweets about the rapper Snoop Dogg, the East Coast blizzard and the rudeness of the press corps...”Two sentences would go a long way.”’
Take a number, Mr. Gardiner. You’re in line behind the Central California farmers who voted for Trump who now fear the loss of billions of dollars in unpicked produce because the undocumented immigrants who picked their crops are facing deportation. Surely a savvy businessman would see the folly of letting their valuable crops rot in the fields?
The Kansas ranchers are hoping for emergency federal aid to offset the severe financial hardships that these fires―the worst in Kansas’ history―have imposed on them. But even if Trump offers temporary relief, a livelihood based on livestock looks like an increasingly bad bet, given consistently rising annual temperatures and extended heatwaves that raise the risk of future losses from such disasters.
As the New York Times notes, “Weeks without snow or rain and late-winter temperatures scraping 80 degrees are threatening to create even more blazes in Western states grappling with the growing fire danger posed by climate change.”
Extreme weather will continue to challenge our nation’s farms and ranches, but Trump’s proposed budget calls for slashing agricultural aid along with billions of dollars in other programs his team deems ineffective and unessential. Trump’s chomping at the bit to dismantle every program his predecessor created to monitor and mitigate climate change. As White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney stated emphatically last week, “we consider that to be a waste of your money.”
Even Energy Star, the venerable conservation program that’s saved billions of dollars over the past two decades, is on the chopping block.
The message to ranchers―and the rest of us―is, essentially, “Let them eat cowpies.”
Like our nation’s coal miners, whom Donald Trump also vowed to help, the ranchers’ way of life is threatened not only by environmental issues but also market forces, technological advances and cultural shifts that no president can control. Americans are eating far less meat, as reported in a National Resource Defense Council study released this week.
So, while the future looks cloudy for ranchers, that cloud has a silver lining. The NRDC notes that the steep decline in red meat consumption is motivated more by concern about cost and a growing preference for healthier sources of protein than ecological factors. But beef production generates the most greenhouse gases of any food we consume, so any substantial drop in red meat sales, for whatever reason, is a win-win for everyone who understands the urgent nature of our climate crisis.
For the farmers? It looks like a lose-lose. Evidently it only takes one disaster to steer a cattle rancher from feeling “fired-up” by Trump to just feeling burned. But there’s a solution; if Trump truly cared about those ranchers, he could enlist the Google folks, Bill Gates, and all the other Silicon Valley gazillionaires who’ve invested millions in “fake” meat. Together, they could launch a program to retrain the ranchers to become “fake” meat farmers. It’s a far more honorable endeavor than the extrusion of fake news.