An Iowa State University assessment of climate change legislation concludes that while cap-and-trade legislation introduces uncertainty, failing to act now could lead to even more uncertainty, more downside risk and a much greater technological challenge. AgMRC co-director Don Hofstrand concludes with a pay-me-now or pay-me-more-later warning that not developing greenhouse gas reduction technologies today will lead to the need for developing technologies to help us adapt to climate change in the future. Hofstrand says this will be a much greater technological challenge.
Hofstrand adds up the potential negative impacts that the House-passed Clean Energy and Security Act could have on U.S. farmers and ranchers due to higher energy prices. He finds the overall impact on net farm income is expected to be relatively small: down about 1% in the next decade, decreasing by about 7% by mid-century. Hofstrand says even the 7% drop may be an overestimate since farmers have a long track record of improving productivity.
On the plus side, Hofstrand sees farmers and ranchers earning substantial income from selling carbon offsets. He says no-till farming already gives farmers a way to store large amounts of carbon in the soil. As new technologies are developed, he sees far greater income opportunities from increasing soil carbon sequestration with charcoal, capturing ethanol plant emissions, developing new feedstocks for nitrogen fertilizer, and transforming livestock manure emissions from a greenhouse gas problem to a major energy source.