COLUMBUS — Billboards targeting Gov. Jim Pillen pork production enterprise have been installed in Lincoln and one is set to be installed in Columbus this week.
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a national health nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., is sponsoring the billboard. According to the group’s website, its mission is to improving both human and animal lives through “plant-based diets and ethical and effective scientific research.”
The billboards target the new governor’s pork production enterprise and say, “Governor Pillen: ‘Suffocating Stench’ From Hog Operations? Subsidize Nebraska Crops!”
“Suffocating stench,” Physicians Committee said, comes from a 2000 lawsuit filed by 18 individuals residing near Pillen’s hog confinement operations in Boone and Nance counties regarding an odor nuisance.
However, while the Physicians Committee’s press release mentions the lawsuit, it mainly cites concerns over large-scale livestock operations contributing to climate change as they produce methane, a plant-warming gas.
A letter penned by the group and sent to Pillen asked that he phase out one of his own swine facilities to reduce methane emissions and to conserve water.
The group’s press release states that it takes much more water for large-scale livestock operations – to irrigate grains and grasses for feeding, as well as water for drinking and processing – than it does to grow crops that people can consume directly, such as vegetables or lentils.
“It’s important for the governor to increase support for Nebraska farmers who are growing beans, sunflowers, pecans, apples, and other crops that require less water compared to large-scale livestock operations,” said Anna Herby, a spokesperson for the Physicians Committee, in a provided statement. “Due to Nebraska’s drought, many ranchers have reduced their herds, and they should get government assistance if they wish to transition to growing lentils and other crops that use water more efficiently.”
The group also encouraged Pillen to seek funding through the Inflation Reduction Act that is available to farmers who want to transition from livestock to climate-smart crops.
Yet, Nebraska is known for its livestock and grain production.
According to the Nebraska Beef Council, agriculture is the No. 1 industry in the state with cattle production representing the largest segment of the industry.
Nebraska livestock consume $3.5 billion in grain annually, as reported by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, and the livestock industry is valued at $11.9 billion. One in four jobs in Nebraska are related to agriculture.
The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment.