The Oregon Natural Resources Report - Agricultural News from Oregon

Grassroots Voices Can Defeat Climate Change Bill

September 8, 2009

By John Hart
American Federation Farm Bureau

This summer’s raucous town hall meetings on national health care reform have brought high drama, while illustrating the considerable uneasiness of many Americans on the subject. Less theatrical, but equally important, are the grassroots efforts of Farm Bureau members on the Waxman-Markey climate change bill passed by the House that awaits Senate action.

To spotlight attention on this important issue, Farm Bureau joined forces with like-minded organizations to form “Energy Citizens.” The alliance focuses on publicizing the impact of the pending legislation and the potential harm it poses to the U.S. economy.

Urging the Senate to “get it right” and ensure that climate and energy legislation does not take money out of Americans’ pocketbooks, while costing the economy millions of jobs, is a primary focus.

A key part of the effort is 21 rallies across the country that began mid-August in Houston and conclude the first week of September in South Dakota. At many of the rallies, Farm Bureau members and leaders will take the podium and explain the severe economic consequences the legislation will have on American agriculture. They will point out that the climate change bill will mean higher costs for fuel and fertilizer with little to no benefit to farmers and ranchers. In the rallies and through their personal letters and contacts, farmers are speaking out, and with good reason.

Today’s farmers and ranchers receive on average 19 cents out of every retail dollar spent on food, compared to 31 cents in 1980. Expecting farmers and ranchers to survive on even smaller margins is simply unrealistic.

The climate change bill in its current form is bad for agriculture and bad for America because it fails to provide alternative sources of energy that could help hold down costs. It also places the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage to global trading partners who don’t face “cap-and-trade” restrictions called for in the House bill.

Proponents of the bill argue that it will be A-OK for farmers because they can benefit from an embryonic yet complicated scheme called “offset revenues” that has to do with changing the way crops are grown in order to capture and retain (sequester) carbon in soil. Although details are sparse, it’s apparent that no-till cropping – a type of farming that’s not an option for many crop producers – is the centerpiece of the plan. Further, fruit and vegetable growers would be virtually shut out of the program. Similarly, many farmers engaged in animal agriculture are likely to face higher costs that will exceed any revenues they might receive from the offsets program.

Fortunately, members of the Senate are beginning to hear the ringing voices of dissent from the countryside about the climate change bill. They will return to Capitol Hill after Labor Day with the knowledge that the bill in its current form will inflict serious harm to U.S. agriculture and the economy as a whole. Once again, the grassroots voices of Farm Bureau members are making a difference.
John Hart is director of news services for the American Farm Bureau Federation.

  
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Discuss this article

Doug fir September 8, 2009

What a shame that the farmers can’t see that:
* Agriculture is on balance deeply harmed by climate change, if for no other reason than increased uncertainty.
* Farmers “stock” goes way up under a sound climate policy because plant based hydrocarbons will be rewarded while fossil based hydrocarbons will be punished, and rightly so.

Try to be part of the solution, instead of a part of the problem.

Eleanor September 8, 2009

“Fails to provide alternative sources of energy”? Mr. Hart, that’s what this bill is all about–encouraging competition between innovative energy companies to increase Americans’ access to cleaner sources of fuel and lower prices on clean energy. What if Oregon farmers could purchase affordable, effective fuels and fertilizers that weren’t petroleum-based? It might sound far-off, but passing this bill would make that dream a reality. Oregon has a huge capacity to produce and distribute clean energy, and developing those energy sources will provide jobs right here in the state, jobs that Oregon really needs. And developing clean energy doesn’t have to come with costs for farmers. In places like Oregon, for example, farmers could partner with wind energy companies who could rent our land for wind turbines.

And what Oregon farmers really can’t afford is loss of crop yields due to the rising temperatures and droughts from climate change. According to one report I saw, potato yields could decrease 17%, and we could lose as much as 23% of our productive acres.

Instead, Oregon could lead the way on developing clean energy sources that put control back in our hands and don’t leave us at the mercy of oil speculators.

Jeff Merkley, Ron Wyden–if you want to stand up for the rights (and pocketbooks) of Oregon farmers, vote “YES” on the clean energy bill. It’s what our state needs, now and for the long run.

Marie September 8, 2009

I don’t trust this guy’s view on the climate bill one bit. “Grassroots voices”? The Farm Bureau is an insurance and agribusiness conglomerate that earns billions of dollars annually and doesn’t represent small farmers from Oregon or anywhere else in the country. Fortune magazine listed them among the top 25 most powerful special interest groups in Washington (which makes the comment about “voices of dissent from the countryside” just a little ironic). The Farm Bureau has large investments in the oil, pesticide, and automobile industries (thus the author’s interest in defending the profits of oil corporations), and historically they support factory farms, not family farms. It’s disappointing that the Natural Resources Report has chosen to publish such a biased viewpoint.

I trust Oregon farmers (and Senators Merkley and Wyden) to see what’s really right for us: passage of the climate bill, which will put Oregon family farms back in control of our energy sources and our profits.

Madeline September 10, 2009

It seems so counter-intuitive that anyone from the AFFB would be against the clean energy bill. The bill sets aside up to $100 million for farmers to use to upgrade and repair old, inefficient equipment, and these efficiency upgrades would save them thousands or more in savings on fuel costs and energy bills (because saving energy costs far less than wasting energy in inefficient machines and appliances). Also, farmers stand to lose the most, because their crops are so sensitive to changes in weather and climate. Crop yields and soil quality would surely suffer with increased temperatures and more frequent floods and storms.
Farmers would absolutely be able to earn money by selling carbon credits, as responsible farming practices actually lead to natural sequestration of CO2. No-till farming is indeed possible for many farmers, and would actually save them money over time by reducing their dependence on artificial fertilizer, as a no-till system replenishes natural nutrients. Details are not at all sparse on this topic – many large-scale farms have succeeded with crop rotation and no-till practices. There is also opportunity for methane capture alternatives for livestock owners.
No one is “asking” farmers to survive on less revenue. The bill stands to SAVE them money, as was listed above. I encourage individuals to educate themselves on the topic instead of listening to others’ misinformed opinions, because that is the best way to learn the facts.

Read the bill itself: see what it has to say about the ag sector, because it makes up a significant portion of the bill. All good things. None of the nonsense this article claims as fact.

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