OpEd: Comprehensive Climate and Energy Policy is Beneficial to U.S. Farmers

Comprehensive Climate and Energy Policy is Beneficial to U.S. Farmers

OpEd by National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson

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Washington, July 13 - U.S. climate and energy policy is at a crossroads: BP's Deepwater Horizon oil spill has led to the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history; countries like China are passing us in the global race to dominate the green tech industry; and our dependence on foreign oil continues to fund hostile regimes.

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Opponents of a robust climate and energy bill claim it will ruin the U.S. economy and put farmers out of business. But there is a consensus among academics and experts that agriculture can benefit under a properly constructed climate and energy bill. So if we don't act now, when will we? After decades of talk about a new energy posture, now is the time to take action. National Farmers Union continues to seek comprehensive climate and energy policy that recognizes the role of American agriculture in reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

In order for the U.S. to move forward on climate and energy policy, it is necessary to have a frank and open discussion about effects, both positive and negative, that this policy would have on our nation's agricultural sector. Some claim that putting a price on carbon will hurt American farmers because of increased input costs. In the short-term, economic models predict slight cost increases but they would be largely offset by new income opportunities for agriculture through the use of agricultural offsets.

In the long run, energy costs for farmers would be more than offset by carbon sequestration projects. Numerous independent studies have consistently found that after a few years of implementing a comprehensive climate and energy bill, farmers and ranchers are expected to receive net benefits from participating in a variety of greenhouse gas reduction activities. In fact, long run economic analyses project that for every dollar of increased costs, agricultural producers will see four to five dollars of new income. The same studies also show that if emissions are regulated by the EPA without the benefit of multiple offsets, net farm income is projected to fall as a result of higher input costs.

Any climate and energy bill must include multiple opportunities for carbon offsets in order to recognize the positive role American agricultural producers can play in helping the U.S. become energy independent.

Renewable energy is also a major component of any future energy policy. A 25 percent Renewable Energy Standard as well as incentives to promote investment, production, and local ownership are vital to nurture this growing industry in our rural communities. By harnessing the potential of biomass, dedicated energy crops and wind power, American farmers will receive added income and the U.S. will become increasingly energy independent.

Comprehensive climate and energy legislation is not a burden for American farmers, it is an opportunity. Besides receiving significant economic benefits, farmers and ranchers are set to provide meaningful climate and energy solutions. Now is not a time to sit by the sidelines. We must seize this moment and move towards a clean, renewable energy future.

Roger Johnson is the 14th President of the National Farmers Union. Prior to his post at NFU, Johnson held the position of Agriculture Commissioner in North Dakota for 12 years and his family farms in Turtle Lake, N.D.

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