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The Ag Agenda

July 2008

Climate Policy Needs to Take Agriculture into Account


Bob Stallman
President
American Farm Bureau
By Bob Stallman
President, American Farm Bureau

As the issue of global climate change heats up on Capitol Hill, the agriculture industry needs to be front and center during the policy-making deliberations. Farmers and ranchers could be significantly impacted by efforts to restrict greenhouse gas emissions. That is why it’s important for lawmakers to recognize agriculture’s contributions to reducing these emissions and not approve policy that will adversely affect our ability to provide a safe and abundant food supply.

U.S. agriculture is poised to play a unique role in the climate debate. But, if we don’t go about climate change policy the right way, it will be farmers, ranchers and consumers who ultimately pay the price.

Negative Consequences

A cap on greenhouse gas emissions could be devastating to farm and ranch businesses. Agricultural inputs that rely on natural gas would increase in price. Fertilizer costs, already high due to the soaring price of natural gas, would escalate even more, forcing farmers to make difficult choices. Increased fertilizer demand around the world would drive prices even higher, and could make fertilizer availability even more of a concern than cost.

Climate policy could severely impact farmers and ranchers by raising fuel, fertilizer and energy costs so high that it will no longer be economical to farm. In the end, it’s the consumer who will feel the aftereffect of these negative impacts on agricultural production, which would ultimately drive up the cost of food.

It’s critical that any climate legislation ensures that farmers and ranchers can continue producing the food and fiber that feeds our nation and the world at an affordable price.

Forward Thinking

If done right, practical climate policy would provide opportunities for producers to voluntarily reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a number of ways, including removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it in the soil, reducing emissions through manure and soil management, and the production of biofuels. Further, livestock greenhouse gas mitigation activities can convert greenhouse gases to energy, a seemingly ideal strategy because it reduces reliance on fossil fuels. Many farmers and ranchers have already adopted these carbon reduction and sequestration practices, which should be recognized in any forthcoming legislation.

Policymakers should reject provisions that would undercut or compromise the ability of U.S. producers to compete in international trade. Furthermore, Farm Bureau is adamantly opposed to a carbon tax, which is nothing more than a punitive method for regulating operations that must emit greenhouse gases in order to produce the goods, services, food and energy that sustain us.

Farmers and ranchers have a lot at stake as our nation moves forward in deliberating and formulating climate policy. Keeping our eye on the ball and an iron in the fire is not only important for the agriculture industry, it’s critical for the long-term sustainability of stable food production.