AFBF urges committee to strengthen climate bill for ag
The president of the American Farm Bureau Federation called on the House Agriculture Committee to make drastic changes to a climate change bill before it is considered by Congress, telling the committee that to do less could result "in the economic equivalent of unilateral disarmament" if the government's optimistic assumptions don't hold true.
In testimony June 11, AFBF President Bob Stallman said Farm Bureau has serious concerns with H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act.
"Those concerns are extensive," Stallman testified. "They include not only mitigating the impact of higher energy costs but assuring that, whatever and however possible, we maximize the role of agricultural producers in any climate policy, including maximizing the opportunities to reduce and sequester carbon."
Stallman went on to tell the committee that, "We can certainly devise a set of assumptions just as valid as those used by EPA that could cut farm income nearly in half."
In his testimony, Stallman said any climate change legislation passed by Congress must include "a strong, robust, statutorily authorized program of agricultural offsets that are explicitly included in legislative language." Stallman also said the U.S. Department of Agriculture must be given the primary role in developing, administering and overseeing the offset program.
Stallman also expressed Farm Bureau support for H.R. 2409, the Renewable Fuel Standard Improvement Act, and said its provisions must be incorporated in any climate change legislation considered by Congress. H.R. 2409 provides a clear way to correct the indirect land use issue and clarifies the way greenhouse gas emissions are measured for both petroleum and ethanol, Stallman said.
Farm Bureau remains "very concerned" about the broad, potential adverse impacts of a cap-and-trade program on U.S. agriculture, Stallman emphasized.
"Even though some say agriculture will benefit, that will depend to a great degree on where the producer is located, what he or she grows, and how his or her business model can take advantage of any provisions in the legislation," Stallman told the committee.
For example, not every dairy farmer can afford to capture methane, because it is a capital-intensive endeavor. Not every farmer lives in a region where wind turbines are an option, and not every farmer can take advantage of no-till cultivation, Stallman said.
"Some agricultural producers will never benefit from the legislation under any scenario," Stallman said. "Most fruit, potato and vegetable producers will not qualify for offsets. Western ranchers whose operations are heavily dependent on the use of federal lands for livestock forage also have limited offset opportunities. Many areas of the West in general that are coal-dependent are also the areas that have limited offset opportunities. Not all areas of the country are able to productively adopt conservation tillage practices, thus restricting their offset possibilities. Yet these producers will incur the same increased fuel, fertilizer and energy costs as their counterparts."
Stallman's written testimony to the House Agriculture Committee can be accessed here: http://www.fb.org/newsroom/nr/nr2009/06-11-09/climate-agcomm-testimony09.0609.pdf.