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Kansas farmers weigh in on climate change policy

WICHITA, Kan. (AP)--The acting Kansas agriculture secretary said July 30 that the U.S. Agriculture Department should have a leading role in any revisions of climate change regulations.

Josh Svaty said he wants the USDA rather than the Environmental Protection Agency to oversee climate change policy because the USDA, like the state's Agriculture Department, has dual roles.

"We are a regulatory agency, but we also promote the industry of agriculture and the Kansas farmer and rancher,'' Svaty said as the annual conference of Kansas wheat growers opened in Wichita. "It is important for us as we regulate to understand just how complicated and how up and down the industry of agriculture can be.''

Svaty was appointed by Gov. Mark Parkinson earlier in July to replace Adrian Polansky, who returned to his old job heading the Kansas Farm Service Agency.

A bill passed earlier this summer by the U.S. House that is now under consideration by the Senate would impose the first nationwide limits on greenhouse gases and require electric utilities to produce at least 12 percent of their power from pollution-free sources such as wind and solar energy by 2020.

The House bill would set up a cap-and-trade system, in which limits would be placed on greenhouse gas emissions and a market would be created where businesses could buy and sell permits to pollute.

Svaty said state officials must be prepared for whatever happens ``to make sure we have minimized the cost and maximized the potential for whatever comes out as policy in Washington, D.C.''

The climate change issue is expected to permeate much of the two-day conference of the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers and Kansas Wheat Commission because of the possibility of new regulation and its impact on farmers.

"Right now I don't know any farmers who are excited discussing climate change, let alone any legislation concerning climate change,'' said Paul Penner, KAWG president and a Hillsboro farmer.

He said most of the farmers he has spoken to believe the climate change issue is "contrived,'' but realize that in today's political environment they need to influence the legislation.

Many farmers are skeptical about the idea of a market for so-called carbon credits, Penner said. They worry that climate change legislation could lead to higher taxes and higher energy costs, which in turn will raise prices for fertilizer and chemicals like herbicides and pesticides.

"But we also realize the political realities don't allow us to ignore it and hope it goes away,'' Penner said.



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