OR Wheat Growers on Climate Change

President Newtson Outlines Oregon Wheat Position on Climate Change Legislation
by Jeff Newtson, President
Oregon Wheat Growers League

Pendleton, OR – The time has come for the Oregon Wheat Growers League to articulate its position concerning the Federal Climate Change Legislation.  The U. S. Senate Agriculture Committee is in the process of hearing testimony,  Wednesday, July 22, concerning the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (HR 2454).

The Oregon Wheat Growers League represents approximately 4,000 wheat producers and land owners who farm/own nearly one million acres in Oregon.  Representing the interests and advocating on behalf of these 4,000 wheat producers and land owners is the number one priority of this Association.  Many of our members have expressed serious concerns about the Climate Change legislation that was debated at the State level by the State Legislature and is now under consideration at the Federal level by Congress.

In fact, the League has been engaged in this issue for the past several months and as such met with officials in Washington, DC to discuss the potential costs associated with the implementation of Climate Change policies as well as providing testimony on numerous occasions during the State Legislative Session.  Testimony offered to the State Legislature was intended to educate policymakers that agricultural producers will ultimately pay the price for implementation of policies specific to limiting greenhouse gas emissions and low carbon fuel standards.

While the Oregon Wheat Growers League affiliates as a member of the National Association of Wheat Growers, with respect to the issue of Climate Change legislation, Oregon wheat producers are much more concerned about the costs that may be passed through to them by fertilizer and fuel distributors than they are about whether or not a program will be developed resulting in payments for the sequestering of carbon.  We further understand your concerns regarding the implementation of a regulatory program that may mandate your tillage practice as opposed to offering incentive based and voluntary programmatic options for your consideration as a business operator.

Prior to the Climate Change legislation’s passage by the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Department of Agriculture officials offered testimony to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee stating that the agriculture sector will face higher energy and input costs as a result of cap and trade legislation.  Furthermore, according to the Congressional Budget Office the reduction in emissions to the level required in this legislation would be accomplished mainly by stemming demand for carbon-based energy by increasing its price.  These statements have raised serious concerns in the grower community and the Oregon Wheat Growers League has responded to those concerns by signing onto a prepared statement by the Agriculture Energy Alliance (a coalition of farm organizations and agri-businesses).

The Agriculture Energy Alliance message to Congress states, “that the agriculture sector is highly energy intensive and relies on natural gas, refined petroleum products and other energy inputs for food processing, irrigation, crop drying, heating farm buildings and homes, crop protection chemicals, and nitrogen fertilizer production.  Any climate change legislation must directly address increased input costs and the potential to force fertilizer production and petroleum refining overseas.

Specifically, legislation should ensure that (1) fertilizer manufacturing is not adversely impacted from the projected increased costs of natural gas used as a feedstock, (2) energy intensive/trade-exposed industries are not subjected to additional production costs that competitors overseas are not required to pay, and (3) cooperative and other small petroleum refiners serving the needs of agriculture and rural America are not forced out of business by volatility in cap and trade auctions.

The Legislation must NOT result in forcing production of key inputs such as fertilizer and petroleum products to countries that do not regulate carbon emissions.  Climate policy is not just about energy cost increases, it is about availability.  To be viable, climate change must not and cannot place the unbearable burden of increased prices for petroleum products, fertilizer, electricity and other agricultural inputs on the backs of American farmers.”

As President of the Oregon Wheat Growers League, I assure our growers your concerns have been heard and this Association is actively engaged on your behalf.  A carbon sequestration program is not likely to be of any benefit to you if the costs of doing business escalate beyond an economically sustainable threshold.

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