U.S. Agriculture Interests Split Over Energy Bill

Tuesday, September 01, 2009
By Margery A. Gibbs
Associated Press

Omaha, Neb. (AP) – Legislation to confront climate change could be an economic godsend to farmers and ranchers. Or it could be an enormous financial burden.

It depends on whom you ask, and not even farmers and ranchers agree on the matter.

Those who are against the bill say it would lead to skyrocketing fuel and fertilizer costs, cutting into farmers’ and ranchers’ already unpredictable profits. Those who support it contend any losses would be more than made up for through a provision that would allow companies to meet their pollution targets by investing in offset projects, such as farms that capture methane or plant trees.

The legislation would cap emissions from major industrial sources, including power plants, factories, refineries and electricity and natural gas distributors. Emissions from agriculture would be excluded.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture report concluded that if the proposal passed, farmers and others in agriculture could see an initial 1 percent to 7.2 percent loss in income due to increased costs in energy and, therefore, fertilizer — which requires a great deal of energy to be produced. Those losses would be far outweighed by the tens of billions of dollars farmers are expected to rake in for projects to reduce greenhouse gases in years to come, the report said.

But Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., said the report is incomplete and believes the USDA rushed the study to address senators’ concerns after the House passed its bill in June. The Senate is expected to vote this fall.

“We still have a question about how is this going to impact livestock, corn, soybeans and wheat in our state,” said Johanns, who was agriculture secretary from 2005-2007 under President George W. Bush. “This makes no sense to me whatsoever. Why would the leadership of the House … put a bill out when they hadn’t had analysis on the ag sector? That not only impacts farmers and ranchers, it impacts consumers.”

Continues at CNSNews.com

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