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Climate change bill could push farm costs up

Climate change is not just going to make you hot under the collar — if legislation now working its way through Congress becomes law, you’re likely to be paying more to farm, says Tara Smith, congressional relations, American Farm Bureau Federation.

“Our economists say this would have a significant impact on agriculture,” she said at a joint meeting of the Mississippi Boll Weevil Management Corporation and the Mississippi Farm Bureau Cotton Policy Committee. The 1,200-page bill, which narrowly passed the House on a 219-212 vote, could bring input cost increases of a minimum 9 percent, according to Farm Bureau calculations, she says.

“For corn, that could mean an additional $33 to $78 per acre; for soybeans, $8 to $20 per acre; cotton, $24 to $48 per acre; and rice $38 to $153 per acre.

“Increased costs would be primarily for fertilizer and diesel. Fertilizer industry leaders have told us if this legislation becomes final, within 5 years it could wipe out the domestic fertilizer industry.”

Climate change legislation is one of the top priorities of President Obama, Smith says. “When he said he was going to implement change, he wasn’t kidding.

“The Senate has just begun work on its version. I expect we’ll get something out of committee very quickly; then it will probably languish for a long time. If it drags on until next year, an election year, it will be all the more difficult to pass.”

While some of agriculture’s concerns were addressed in the House bill, “We don’t feel the benefits will offset the additional costs of compliance,” Smith says, “and Farm Bureau continues to oppose the bill.”

Ag groups are not united on this, she notes: The National Cotton Council and the rice organizations oppose it, she says, while the National Farmers Union and wheat growers support it.

Among other ag-related issues, Smith says a food safety bill has passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee, but no date has been set for floor action.

“We think it could gain momentum over the next year and a half, and we have some major concerns about it, including food traceability provisions, which some call Country of Origin (COI) labeling on steroids. It basically would require everything on the supermarket shelf to have labels detailing where ingredients originated.

“We’re concerned about the bill’s requirements for on-farm recordkeeping and the potential for lack of confidentiality, and that it expands the FDA’s authority into on-farm production practices. We hope as this moves forward that we can get grains, oilseeds, and other crops excluded from this legislation.”

Legislation to reform health care is “a moving target,” Smith says. “Both the House and Senate are working on legislation and coming up with different proposals almost daily. It’s a very complicated issue.

“We continue to support measures that will address the disparities between rural and non-rural communities and that will extend the self-employment deduction for health care that is important to agriculture. We oppose the proposed tax on sweetened beverages that would affect virtually everything that has a sweetener in it.”

Work on agricultural appropriations is in full swing, Smith says, with House floor action expected soon, and Senate markup already under way. Additional funding is included for broadband service to rural areas, “but a lot of strings attached.” There is also concern about a provision that would ban Chinese poultry imports. “We’re very worried about the implications of this, because it would open the door to retaliation by China against our exports. Even the U.S. poultry industry doesn’t support this.”


TAGS: Legislative
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