Agriculture Reacts to Climate Bill Proposal

May 12, 2010 07:00 PM
 
By Greg Vincent
AgWeb Editor

Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) introduced the American Power Act Wednesday afternoon. It received a cautious reaction from the Washington, D.C.-based agriculture lobby.
 
Watch for updates from more farm and commodity groups as they become available.
 
UPDATED 11:40 CT 5/13/2010
The American Soybean Association (ASA) issued this statement this morning. It appears any climate change bill is going to be met with skepticism.

"ASA remains concerned with the impacts that could result from enactment of climate change legislation that unilaterally subjects U.S. farmers, manufacturers and other businesses to emissions caps and increased energy costs without appropriate measures to ensure that the U.S. maintains economic competitiveness. Additionally, while the Kerry-Lieberman bill begins to recognize the threat of climate change legislation resulting in the afforestation of productive farmland, it doesn't go far enough to prevent it. ASA believes that strong safeguards need to be included to ensure that U.S. farmland, which is the most productive land in the world, is not idled or afforested in response to carbon sequestration incentives. Last fall ASA issued a paper outlining its concerns about and priorities for any climate change legislation that may be considered, and these concerns and priorities remain paramount today,"  says ASA President Rob Joslin, a farmer from Sydney, Ohio. 

Read ASA's position paper that fully outlines its concern with climate change legislation.
 
The National Farmers Union (NFU) is probably the most positive toward the proposed bill. Roger Johnson, NFU president, called the bill a "positive step forward.”
 
During the debate of the Climate Bill in the House of Representatives last summer, Johnson said many of the same things, but did not throw his support behind the bill until it was assured that USDA would manage any carbon offset programs for agriculture.
 
He seems to be taking the same approach with the Senate: "The senators and their staff have produced legislation that recognizes the key role of agriculture in mitigating greenhouse gases, strongly supports the U.S. Department of Agriculture's role in overseeing and administering agriculture offsets, and provides agriculture an exemption from EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] regulation for carbon pollution. These are very positive steps in the right direction.”
 
The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) voiced strong concerns and said it will continue to evaluate the bill.
 
While citing the potential for higher fertilizer and energy costs, AFBF President Bob Stallman said: "We do not want to see farmers driven out of business due to additional regulation and the potential for higher input costs. Agriculture also could be forced to shrink due to land moving out of production into trees to sequester carbon. We also believe it is imperative that any energy legislation must assure a greater supply of nuclear energy, renewable fuels and natural gas for American consumers. Further, we note the absence of renewable electricity standards in the bill and will work toward their inclusion in the future.
 
"We appreciate all the efforts by Sens. Lieberman and Kerry to address the concerns of farmers and ranchers and the agriculture sector as a whole. We will continue to work with them to see if further efforts can be made to minimize the harmful economic effects that occur for farmers and ranchers once policymakers decide to put a price on carbon.”
 
The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) does not like the bill. At all. With nearly 90% of the production costs for nitrogen fertilizer a result of natural gas, they do not like the proposal offering government incentives to utilities to use natural gas for electricity generation. "This will undoubtably increase the demand for and the price of natural gas, which there is no substitute for in the manufacturing process of nitrogen fertilizer,” says TFI President Ford West.
 
There are provisions in the bill, according to the release from TFI, that offer offsets for natural gas rate increases for industrial users. That falls short for fertilizer users, though. "Its design fails to protect the fertilizer industry from the threat of fuel switching since our natural gas feedstock purchases are not made through a local distribution company,” West says.
 
The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) says they have not had enough opportunity to review the bill yet, but President Darrin Ihnen states clearly what his group would be willing to support and what it would not, using the House version as an example.
 
"We have provided input to the Senate over the past several months on provisions pertaining to the agriculture industry and we will continue to offer feedback after we have a chance to review the text of this important piece of legislation.
 
"NCGA could not support the Waxman-Markey bill on the House side due to the potential adverse economic impacts on corn growers. In light of that, we will once again conduct an analysis of the new Senate version of climate legislation before taking a position on the Kerry-Lieberman proposal. We will also wait for the official analysis from the Environmental Protection Agency in the coming weeks."
 

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