A large coalition of agricultural groups has come forward to oppose the Waxman-Markey bill restricting carbon dioxide emissions.
In a July 14 opening statement at Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearings, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) noted he had received “letters sent by 120 agricultural groups opposing the Waxman-Markey bill.”
Among the groups are the American Farm Bureau, Pork Producers Council, USA Rice Federation, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Chicken Council, Council of Farmer Cooperatives, American Meat Institute, National Association of Wheat Growers, and North American Millers Association.
Long-Term Costs Much Higher
Tracy Taylor Grondine, director of media relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation, strongly disagrees with Waxman-Markey supporters who cite a Congressional Budget Office report asserting the bill would cost the average U.S. household merely $175 per year in the year 2020.
“Most media outlets are only focused on the front-end effects of the climate bill,” Grondine explained. “In 2020, carbon reductions will only be starting and the industry will be receiving significant carbon credit giveaways. But by 2050, the 17 percent cut in agriculture emissions from 2005 levels is estimated to rise to 82 percent, and there will be no more credit giveaways. So, by 2050 that 5 percent hit will grow to something more like a 15 percent reduction in farm income.”
Adam Basford, national affairs coordinator for the Florida Farm Bureau Federation, agrees the costs down the road will be much higher. “According to the EPA, the legislation would cost farmers $5 billion [initially] and by 2050 the cost would rise to $13 billion,” he said.
Using the initial numbers conceals the bill’s real impact, Grondine says.
“We can’t just highlight costs in the first 10 years. We must look further down the road to how this legislation will impact American households, farms, and ranches and the overall U.S. economy,” Grondine said.
Farmers Paying the Price
Raising consumer prices is actually the point of the bill, says Basford.
“The very essence of cap-and-trade is to increase prices so much that consumption, and therefore emissions, are reduced,” Basford explained. “Farm Bureau has continually said that any cap-and-trade legislation must make economic sense for agriculture. It must be structured in a way that the costs do not outweigh the benefits for family farms, rural communities, and the overall economy.
“The Florida Farm Bureau opposes this bill because it forces Florida’s farmers, consumers, and families to lose,” Basford explained. “They lose through increased electricity, fuel, and fertilizer costs—and eventually higher food prices.”
Grondine said, “Farmers want to be a part of the climate change solution, but such a solution should not jeopardize their economic sustainability in the process, nor should it pave the way for additional economic burdens on American families.”
James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is a senior fellow of The Heartland Institute and managing editor of Environment & Climate News.