Mike Strain, Louisiana's Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry greeted the general session of the 2010 Beltwide Cotton Conferences in New Orleans today with a warning that impending carbon legislation or regulation will certainly drive up the costs of doing business.
Strain says the proposed Cap and Trade legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last summer represents a tax on "every thing you use: fuel, fertilizer and chemicals."
"Such measures are not good for Louisiana and they're not good for agriculture," he noted, despite the income some agriculture groups have so eagerly sought in provisions to sell carbon credits to others. "Cap and Trade will change everything you do, forever," he explained, likening passage of the carbon taxation scheme to the South's artillery barrage of Ft. Sumter at the beginning of the Civil War.
At first the legislation was going to devote 20% of its tax take (80% going to the general fund) to renewable energy and carbon mitigation, which would help farmers who sell carbon credits, he explained. "Then the nuclear power industry got involved and, since it emits no carbon, demanded a hefty part of that 20%, which leaves less for farmers. Ultimately, Cap and Trade will cost agriculture far more than it will benefit," he predicted.
Strain also called for agriculture to get involved in the debate because even if Cap and Trade legislation is scuttled in Congress, the Obama Administration has given the bureaucracy of the Environmental Protection Agency permission to regulate carbon in similar ways as Cap and Trade -- fines and economic penalties for emissions, with no checks from elected officials.
Strain continued his presentation and welcome to the thousands of attendees at Beltwide with predictions that the southeastern United States will see unprecedented growth in agriculture over the next 40 years because of its abundant surface water. "Food production is expected to double by 2050," he noted, "And that doubling will have to come from areas with abundant water, and that is where we live."