Oklahoma agricultural producers are concerned proposed climate change legislation now being debated in the U.S. Senate could increase their cost of production.
The Climate Security Act, authored by Senators Joe Lieberman, D-CT, and John Warner, R-VA, would impose significant increases in production costs through higher fertilizer and energy prices.
“We believe this legislation unfairly penalizes farmers by forcing them to comply with climate change regulations and makes it more difficult for them to compete in the global market,” said Mike Spradling, president of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau.
At the heart of the issue is the question of carbon sequestration. There is an active market in carbon credits, that is, giving farmers monetary credits for adding or maintaining carbon in the soil. Some scientists believe releasing carbon contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and is a factor in global climate change. This legislation does not assure producers will receive carbon credits.
“Agriculture can play a significant role in addressing climate change by reducing and sequestering carbon through tillage practices, manure and soil management and other practices,” Spradling said.
The Sand Springs rancher is especially concerned about how this legislation would increase energy costs.
“Agriculture is significantly affected by volatile fuel and natural gas prices, and we believe this legislation will raise the costs of energy and natural gas to levels that make it uneconomical to continue farming or ranching,” Spradling said.
An amendment by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-CA, exacerbates the problem by not allowing agriculture any opportunity to mitigate the increased costs of the legislation.
“This bill, especially the Boxer amendment, fails to recognize the benefits that agriculture can provide,” Spradling said.
The Farm Bureau leader praised Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-OK for opposing the legislation.
“He (Sen. Inhofe) considers this a hidden tax on agriculture producers,” Spradling said. “We are pleased to stand with Sen. Inhofe against this bill and laud him for wanting to protect our producers from unnecessary financial burdens.”
Spradling adds agriculture is not the only sector of the economy to suffer if this legislation is passed. Consumers will see higher electric rates because the bill forces utility companies to move away from coal generated power.
“The rural electric cooperatives are concerned this will mean higher rates for our rural customers,” Spradling said.