National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson and National Corn Growers Association Past President and Climate Change Task Force member Fred Yoder represented their organizations Wednesday in testimony before the House Committee on Small Business.
"NFU believes the flexibility of a cap and trade program holds the most promise in making actual greenhouse gas emissions reductions while mitigating the overall energy cost increases that would result from such a program," Johnson said. "NFU policy supports a national, mandatory carbon emission cap and trade system, with an optional agricultural offset program, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."
Yoder agreed that agriculture can play a positive role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and outlined several NCGA policies that stressed that agriculture should not be subject to an emissions cap. He said efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from America's two million farms and ranches would be costly and burdensome.
"The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that agricultural and forestry lands can sequester at least 20% of all annual greenhouse gas emissions in the United States," Yoder said. "Agriculture accounts for about 7% of all greenhouse gas emissions, so it would seem unreasonable to concentrate on regulations for such a small and diverse industry."
Johnson said the voluntary Farmers Union Carbon Credit Program has taught NFU valuable lessons on how to properly construct a cap and trade program. He said the program demonstrates the commitment America's farmers and ranchers have to protecting the environment. Currently, NFU is the largest aggregator of agriculture carbon credits on the Chicago Climate Exchange. The program has more than five million acres enrolled across 31 states and nearly $9.5 million dollars has been earned for the almost 4,000 producers participating.
Despite those organizations' support for a cap-and-trade system, Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Committee, Frank Lucas, R-Okla., says he has very serious concerns about cap and trade and its impact on rural economies. Lucas described the program as being the most amazing tax increase of all time with far-reaching effects to consumers, businesses and especially rural America.
"Agriculture is a bull's-eye industry for cap-and-trade in the Waxman/Markey bill because it is an energy-intensive industry," Lucas said. He criticized the bill because it does not specifically recognize agriculture as an offset, nor does it exclude agriculture as a capped sector.