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The Ag Agenda

September 2009

A Climate Bill That Won’t Change the Climate


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

Climate change legislation currently being considered by Congress will have a devastating impact on family farms and agricultural production across the country. The House-passed bill (H.R. 2454), which is being examined by the Senate to serve as the potential basis for its climate change legislation, poses a real economic threat for the U.S. agricultural economy. It also places our nation at a competitive disadvantage with our trading partners and fails to provide viable alternative sources of energy to keep our economy strong and hold down costs. And, after all this, the measure would have little or no impact on the climate.

Not for Everyone

Farmers and ranchers are dependent on abundant and affordable energy not only for their vehicles, but also for the costs of fertilizers, irrigation and crop protection tools. Raising production costs while lowering farm income will affect all producers and all commodities. While offsets may help some farmers with these energy-related costs, it is not the complete answer. Even with a robust agricultural offset program, H.R. 2454 does not make economic sense for producers because a number of sectors will be unable to benefit.

Participating in an offset program will depend to a great degree on where the producer is located, what he or she grows and if his or her business can take advantage of the program. Not every dairy farmer can afford to capture methane. Not every farmer lives in a region where wind turbines are an option. Not every farmer can take advantage of no-till. And not every farmer has the land to set aside to plant trees.

Yet, these producers will incur the same increased fuel, fertilizer and energy costs as their counterparts who can benefit from the offsets market.

A Ton = A Ton

Our producers and the world depend on export markets. Unfortunately, H.R. 2454 doesn’t allow U.S. producers to stand on equal footing with their global counterparts. The bill’s cap-and-trade program would take effect whether or not competing nations like India and China adopt similar programs. The increased costs to U.S. producers will not be borne by competitive producers in other countries that do not have similar restrictions, putting our producers at a clear disadvantage.

H.R. 2454 provides no concrete alternative energy program, such as nuclear, to hold down energy costs. The bill creates a hole in our energy supply, leaving farmers, ranchers and others with either reduced sources of energy or energy that is too expensive.

Lastly, at the end of the day, there is no conclusive scientific data that all of these measures will have any significant impact on the climate. Most recently, the administrator of EPA testified before the Senate that H.R. 2454 would have a negligible impact on temperature by the year 2050 without the participation of other countries. Reducing carbon emissions must be a shared, global responsibility. Without other countries doing their part to lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, H.R. 2454 will not work. A ton of GHG emissions emitted in China is the same as a ton of GHG emitted in Virginia. Regulating emissions in Virginia without regulating emissions in China will have little or no effect on the environment.

And virtually everyone agrees that the U.S. alone can’t solve the problem.

It is imperative that Congress look at this issue closely, carefully and thoroughly. On a matter that will affect our nation for decades to come it would be the height of folly to rush to pass climate change legislation that threatens our economy and has little hope of changing the climate.