Ag fight on climate to intensify
August 20, 2009
OMAHA (DTN) – Agricultural groups are doing more forms of outreach on climate change and asking farmers to voice their views on climate legislation and its potential impacts.
Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, attended a meeting with international farm leaders in Iceland last week to speak about the climate legislation in Congress. Johnson said the audience was surprised when he told the crowd of 300 people that there were Americans still questioning the science of climate change.
“I don’t think there was a person anywhere in that crowd who remotely question the science behind climate change,” Johnson said. “These guys are energized by it, and it’s top-of-the-mind discussion and they want to know what the U.S. is going to do, if we are going to have any leadership in the world on this topic.”
As Johnson returned to the states, he said he has seen a tone of skepticism among people about the need to reduce carbon emissions or develop more clean energy resources.
“The fear-mongering has really taken hold with a lot of folks,” Johnson said. “For some reason, there just seems to be more people saying the science is a hoax, and that seems to be the foundational argument with pretty much everyone who says we shouldn’t do cap-and-trade. They don’t believe the science.”
The National Farmers Union supports the legislation and argues that farmers could receive a net benefit from selling carbon credits for agricultural practices and forestry. Further, legislation would be more positive for farmers than a strict regulatory approach through the Environmental Protection Agency regulating greenhouse-gas emissions. The NFU also believes the science that climate change is real and demands action.
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“Global climate change is in fact happening, and it has these very strong correlations with greenhouse-gas concentrations in the atmosphere, and if we don’t do something to reduce and reverse, we will see more flooding and more droughts and more erratic weather patterns, insect pest and diseases move into non-traditional areas, especially further north,” Johnson said.
Johnson will be visiting NFU state affiliates next week in the Midwest to discuss member issues, including the impacts of the legislation.
The House passed a bill in June that would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions 17 percent by 2020 and up to 83 percent by 2050. The bill uses a cap-and-trade mechanism through pollution allowances and carbon credits to force companies to reduce emissions. Lobbying has intensified as the Senate prepares to take up the legislation after the August congressional recess.
The National Grain and Feed Association on Tuesday stated the group is “calling on all companies involved in the grain, feed and grain processing industry to contact their U.S. senators” and urge lawmakers to weigh the impact the legislation could have on the nation’s food supply.
“Congress must take extreme care to avoid adverse impacts on food security, prices, safety and accessibility to necessary consumer products,” NGFA and 14 other agribusiness groups said in a letter sent to U.S. Senate committees before the August recess.
NGFA stated more safeguards need to be built into the legislation to reduce possible increases in production costs through more expensive energy. Further, like farmers, the bill should allow food companies to generate credits for carbon offsets.
The American Farm Bureau Federation is taking a tough approach to defeat the bill. Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau, wrote in a column this week that the climate bill would “devastate” crop and livestock production in the country. Besides increasing energy costs, Stallman said the legislation would put the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage to other countries that don’t work to reduce emissions. Stallman also states, “And, after all this, the measure would have little or no impact on the climate.”
The Farm Bureau and eight state affiliates were listed Tuesday as sponsor representatives for a group called “Energy Citizens” that is largely an effort by several industries to build and coordinate resistance to the climate bill.
Energy Citizens launched a website on Tuesday and plans to hold rallies against the climate legislation in as many as 22 states in the coming weeks. The group is emphasizing that the climate legislation would raise fuel prices and cost jobs.
Earlier this month, Greenpeace obtained a letter from American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard that laid out how the campaign would be organized.
“The objective of these rallies is to put a human face on the impacts of unsound energy policy and to aim a loud message at those states’ U.S. senators to avoid the mistakes embodied in the House climate bill and the Obama administration’s tax increases on our industry,” Gerard wrote to other API members.
Gerard went on to explain that several industries, including agricultural interests, were collaborating to develop the events. The letter explained that companies involved should not worry about logistics in putting together the events.
“API will provide the up-front resources to ensure logistical issues do not become a problem. This includes contracting with a highly experienced events management company that has produced successful rallies for presidential campaigns, corporations and interest groups,” Gerard stated.
Agricultural groups that have officially signed on to the Energy Citizens campaign include: Agribusiness Council of Indiana, American Farm Bureau Federation, Associated Food and Petroleum Dealers, Dairy Producers of New Mexico, Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association, New Mexico Cattle Growers Association, North Dakota Grain Dealers Association. State Farm Bureau associations include Indiana, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia.