The American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) are among influential agriculture and rural-interest organizations joining in a coalition of trade groups preparing to challenge the Obama administration's regulatory efforts to address climate change.

Driven by big business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the Partnership for a Better Energy Future will "serve as the leading voice in support of a unified strategy and message in response to the Obama administration's regulatory agenda" on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the coalition said in a statement released Friday.

A principal element of the White House's policies addressing climate change - and a particular coalition target   are EPA regulations due in June governing GHG emissions from existing coal-fired power plants.

"If EPA takes coal off of the table, other costs are going to go up," Dale Moore, Farm Bureau's executive director of public policy, told Agri-Pulse, citing the potential for higher utility bills and fertilizer costs. That, in turn, will impose economic burdens on all of rural America, Moore said.

"Farm Bureau represents six million farm families across the country, but there are another four million families living in rural America and all face some real economic consequences from what the Obama administration might do with its climate change policies,” Moore said.

In the coalition's statement, Moore said farmers and ranchers each day “face the challenges that confront them . . . [including] the weather and a changing climate.” The agriculture community “[does not] expect their government or the EPA to craft further burdensome climate regulations that make their jobs that much harder.”

The Farm Bureau executive said, “Our members oppose any greenhouse gas regulation that will increase the costs for Americans, especially if that regulation doesn’t have a significant mitigating effect on climate. We are deeply concerned by the approach that this administration is embarking on and the challenges it creates for our members to provide the necessities of everyday life.”

Moore told Agri-Pulse that technologies being suggested by EPA and the administration to mitigate climate change remain relatively unproven and could result in unnecessary costs that must be borne by rural areas where they can least be afforded.

Jo Ann Emerson, NRECA CEO, issued a statement last week that echoed similar sentiments, saying that “the potential costs of [EPA’s] greenhouse gas regulations threaten every household and business on a budget, not to mention the ability of electric cooperatives to continue providing reliable and affordable energy.”

She said the “regulations hit hardest on Americans who can least afford to pay the bigger bills, lose their jobs or turn down their heat. And since electric cooperatives serve the majority of the (USDA-designated) ‘persistent poverty’ counties in the country, we take this seriously.”

Many of the groups in the coalition and the companies they represent have assets sufficient to generate a multi-billion dollar “public education” campaign challenging the Obama climate change plan.

While Moore says the coalition will “make every effort” to work cooperatively with the Obama administration to bring about “reasonable reforms” to the current regulatory approach, Farm Bureau and other groups are preparing a major, media campaign “to educate consumers,” as well as local, state and national policymakers on the impact that “poorly crafted greenhouse gas regulations would have on the availability of affordable and reliable energy.”

Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, the organizational co-chair of the coalition along with the manufacturers group, says that while each of the member organizations will work within their own grassroots networks and memberships, “this broad coalition will enable us to amplify and unify our efforts here in Washington and across the country. The unprecedented number of industries coming together cannot go unnoticed by the administration.”

The president’s call for the reduction of tax breaks for oil and gas development and possible regulations to address environmental concerns over “fracking” and other technologies used to recover oil and gas from deep reserves prompted Jack Gerard, the president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, to say Obama “runs the risk of unwinding the significant environmental benefits from natural gas, threatening our economic recovery and dampening our ability to create millions of high-paying American jobs.”

Fertilizer Institute President Chris Jahn said that after losing almost 50 percent of its production capacity in the last decade, the nitrogen fertilizer industry’s contribution to the economy is now growing, due largely to a stable supply of natural gas.

“Natural gas accounts for between 70 and 90 percent of the cost of manufacturing nitrogen fertilizer, and any policy that drives natural gas demand up puts high quality jobs in the fertilizer industry at risk,” Jahn said.

Farm Bureau’s Moore said while the coalition aims to work collaboratively and negotiate with the Obama administration, the business groups will not hesitate to litigate if those efforts fall short of the coalition’s expectations.


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