By David Kruse

January 19, 2023


According to the Sierra Club Foundation’s website, the environmental organization promotes efforts to educate and empower people to protect and improve the natural and human environment. Some of the Club’s goals include solving the climate crisis, supporting programs and policies that get people outdoors, and to build a diverse, inclusive environmental movement that reflects and represents today’s American public. When the Sierra Club was founded in 1892, its sole purpose was to preserve parkland across the U.S., but as time progressed, environmental extremism became the focus of the organization.

Notably for the agriculture industry, the Sierra Club is adamantly opposed to CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), calling for a moratorium on building new CAFOs and expanding existing CAFOs. According to the EPA, a CAFO is an operation that confines animals for 45 days or more within a year for their meat or products, such as eggs or milk. These operations must house at least 700 dairy cows, 2,500 pigs, 1,000 beef cattle or 125,000 broiler chickens to be considered a large CAFO. The Sierra Club claims these agricultural operations operate with very few regulations, but that allegation couldn’t be farther from the truth.

When it comes to potential water pollution, CAFOs are strictly regulated by the federal Clean Water Act under the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permitting program. For soil and air pollution, USDA presides over those regulations. State and local governments can also establish regulations for CAFOs. All too often CAFOs get a bad rap due to misinformation regarding pollution, but the truth of the matter is they are strictly regulated to avoid pollution issues. 

If the Sierra Club had its way, CAFOs would be no more. This would cause food prices to increase significantly since CAFOs are able to produce meat and other products at an efficient, economical rate. At a time when access to food is a central issue and a growing problem around the world, CAFOs provide food security. 

On a similar note, the Sierra Club also condemns the use of genetically modified food crops, even though they provide numerous environmental benefits, such as the ability to grow more food on less land, and a decreased need for pesticides. Like CAFOs, the Club would like to see a moratorium on the planting of genetically engineered crops. Farmers and ranchers around the world have the ability and the technology to feed our growing population, but when we have organizations like the Sierra Club working to limit advancements in food production, there is no doubt people in underdeveloped countries or those living below the poverty line will go hungry.

The Sierra Club is also opposed to ethanol production. According to the Club, even though ethanol’s life cycle emissions are slightly better than gasoline’s, the renewable fuel causes loss of wildlands, soil erosion, water pollution, ocean dead zones, groundwater depletion, and rising food prices.

Through their narrow viewpoint, the Sierra Club has somehow overlooked the countless benefits of ethanol. Ethanol is a domestically produced renewable fuel that has assisted in reducing vehicle emissions, it improves air quality, it has increased our energy independence (which is huge at a time when the current administration continues to make our country more and more energy dependent), it has lowered fuel prices and it provides value added markets for American farmers. A recent study conducted by the USDA found ethanol production has become more efficient and currently emits on average 40% less CO2 than gasoline, a fact you would think an environmental group would be excited about. Of course, ethanol must be blended with gasoline, but the fact remains the renewable fuel has less of an impact on the environment.

Since it was first introduced, the Sierra Club has been a strong proponent of the Green New Deal, advocating for the U.S. to fully transition to green energy. The Club runs campaigns aimed at eliminating the use of fossil fuels, including “Beyond Coal,” “Beyond Natural Gas,” and “Beyond Oil.” Completely ending fossil fuel usage isn’t enough for the organization, however. The Sierra Club also opposes nuclear power and large-scale hydropower, two of the cleanest ways to produce electricity. The Club believes wind and solar can produce all the energy the world needs, despite the fact these energy sources currently contribute less than 5% of the power in the U.S. Adoption of such an unrealistic energy policy would be catastrophic for family budgets and the economy. According to Wood Mackenzie, an energy research firm, the cost of the U.S. power sector going green would be an additional $35,000 per household.

The Sierra Club has and will continue to use its deep pockets to advance its extreme environmentalist agenda. The Club’s growing influence and seemingly endless funds together have the potential to push through regulations that would cost our economy billions in compliance costs, which would unfortunately trickle down to every American. 


Given Sierra Club opposition to commercial meat production, its wish to eliminate internal combustion engines therein undermining use of fossil fuels and nixing ethanol production, it’s view of corn production as an environmental threat as well as offering no explanations as to what alternative source would produce the quantity of electricity needed to light bulbs or charge EVs…this lack of support for the necessities to sustain our society is irrational. They do not even embrace green wind, hydro or nuclear power. If all the directions that they promote were followed, human advancement would implode. Ultimately, the real issue as viewed by environmental extremists is that we humans are the ultimate threat to the planets physical well-being so it is best not to further procreate the human race. The Sierra Club is a nemesis to commercial Agriculture. They appear to like nothing about us. If our food production infrastructure was structured in their model it would not support local economies with the larger picture being that the global population and the human race could not sustain itself. They seem to be good with that. Agriculture and technological advancement are the foundational base for our economic growth. Global GDP would collapse under their model. 

The Sierra Club is heavily invested in the opposition to CO2 pipeline projects under development in the Midwest. These pipelines would transfer CO2 greenhouse gas produced from ethanol and other industrial plants to sites where it can be sequestered into deep underground depositories so it is not released into the atmosphere, there-in preventing contributing to the warming of the planet. While this is a positive contribution to the environment, the Sierra Club sees the benefit of CO2 sequestration to ethanol and corn producers as helping sustain industries that they oppose. CO2 sequestration from ethanol plants would lower the carbon score of ethanol to near that of an EV. This adds value to ethanol and sustainability to the ethanol and corn industries which they see as something that they wish to prevent. The ethanol crush produces DDGs as a by-product which is a feedstuff that supports commercial livestock industries which they also oppose. 

The Sierra Club is using opposition to CO2 pipelines as a hammer with which to strike at ethanol, corn and livestock production. They could absolutely give a rip about landowner’s rights or eminent domain. They are using landowner reluctance to allow CO2 pipelines easements to use of their property to further their agenda. They have a larger strategy that opposition to CO2 pipelines fits into. There is a natural opposition from landowners over any entity wishing use of their property. There is a horrible history of utilities paying landowners a pittance of a royalty for use of their land and an unfavorable track record of relations by these companies with landowners. Understandably there is genuine opposition to CO2 pipelines stemming from this negative history. Dakota Access poisoned the well that CO2 pipeline companies are asking landowners to again drink from. 

There are 3 CO2 pipeline projects under development and the one which I have personal experience with is Summit Carbon Solutions. I am familiar with their terms as I have signed an easement with them. They were predominately terms that I set in negotiation with them. I opposed a previous easement request by the Rock Island Power Line as it did not meet my standards. 

I have grown a lot of corn in my 50 years farming and realize that the ethanol industry has been the largest single wealth producer for our region over that time. Ethanol production made growing corn profitable again. Ag profitability generates more dollars for the community and state economies. What helps the ethanol industry flows directly and indirectly to farm income. Farmers did not have to invest in ethanol plants to enjoy the wealth created by them. Cash corn basis levels improved wherever ethanol plants crush corn. CO2 carbon sequestration is another addition to the foundational base further sustaining the ethanol and corn industries. 

In my 5 decades of participation in commercial agriculture, I have seen much progress in regards to environmental stewardess of land and livestock. Soil conservation through reduced tillage practiced, huge investment in water management, significant reductions in the load of pesticides applied and even more improvement in the amount of pesticides and fertilizer applied per bushel of productivity have all occurred. Technological advances through biotech seed and precision agriculture have been aggressively adopted by farmers with enormous positive result to the environment. I have seen livestock CAFOs that are run with the rectitude of a 4H project. 

What landowners really need for easements is a square deal from CO2 pipelines. Many are justifiably jaded by past negative experiences with the easement process. This has made them reluctant to engage with CO2 pipeline project asking them for easements. My experience with Summit Carbon (cannot speak to the others) was that they are attempting to break new ground relative to negotiating easements and developing positive landowner relations. The reason behind that is that this is the only way that their project can succeed in securing the easements they need from landowners to reach the threshold of acquiring voluntary easements required to gain the approval from the Iowa Utilities Board. I believe that they are setting new precedent in what they pay for their easements and the terms that they are agreeing to. 


David Kruse is author and producer of The CommStock Report, an ag commentary and market analysis available daily by radio and by subscription on DTN/FarmDayta and the Internet. CommStock Investments is a registered CTA, as well as an introducing brokerage.