Farm bureau weighs in on Senate climate bill

By Erin Voegele | October 06, 2009
Report posted Nov. 5, 2009, at 11:08 a.m. CST

The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works recently held a hearing on the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, which is the Senate's version of the climate bill. An important component of S. 1733 is the cap that would be placed on industrial carbon emissions. At the hearing, Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, testified on how this type of carbon cap-and-trade legislation could affect the agricultural community.

According to Stallman, the legislation would put American farmers and ranchers at a competitive disadvantage with producers in countries that lack greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions regulations. He said that resulting losses in U.S. production would also encourage more agricultural production in other areas of the world, where farming methods may be less efficient.

Stallman also said the legislation would lead to higher production costs. These increased costs, combined with lost competiveness, would ultimately result in reduced food production and higher food costs both domestically and abroad.

In addition, Stallman said the legislation would effectively limit the use of coal for power generation without providing incentives for a viable alternative. This could lead to an increased reliance on natural gas, which could create additional problems for farmers and ranchers because natural gas is the main ingredient of nitrogen fertilizers. According to Stallman, increased demand for natural gas would drive up the cost of domestically produced fertilizer and could also lead to a reliance on foreign sources of fertilizer.

Stallman pointed out that the Senate legislation does not maximize the contributions of agricultural in sequestering carbon. Unlike the House climate bill, the Senate version does not specifically provide a place for agriculture and forestry in its offsets program, which creates uncertainty for both industries. Without the assurance that they will be able to provide offsets to any market created under the bill, Stallman said farmers and ranchers have no mechanism to shield them from production cost increases.

The Senate bill also lacks any component regarding indirect land use change (ILUC). Stallman recommended the House's language, which would prevent the U.S. EPA from implementing ILUC programs until further scientific research is completed, be added to the Senate bill.

The Senate version of climate bill substantially expands the definition of biomass that was included in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007and Stallman stressed that any energy legislation that is enacted needs to include such corrections.