Once climate-change regulators strangle the economy and carbon-counters turn gas, oil and electricity into expensive luxuries, perhaps American farmers will recognize how “our friends” in Washington, D.C., sold us out in the name of political compromise.

Last week, Capitol Hill’s agriculture lobby had a choice:  withhold support from the Waxman-Markey climate control bill or agree to a compromise that provides cover to rural district Democrats who support it.

Without those rural votes, Waxman-Markey was bound for the shredder.  With those votes, it garnered just one more vote than the bare minimum needed for passage.

Colorado’s delegation illustrates the chasm between
Democrats with a real-world understanding of agriculture and those whose concern is as sincere as that pair of jeans they bought for county fairs.

Rep. John Salazar, a San Luis Valley potato farmer, staked out his “no” vote early, recognizing that Waxman-Markey will drastically increase energy costs.

Meanwhile, freshman Rep. Betsy Markey, a former staffer to then-Sen. Ken Salazar, voted for the bill, claiming that “critical adjustments were made to protect the agriculture industry.”  At least that’s what the agriculture lobby told her.

Markey is simply “dancing with the ones who brung her.”  Defenders of Wildlife spent $1.6 million to beat up her opponent last fall; those who think Markey isn’t a hard-wired environmental extremist are kidding themselves.

However, the economic illiteracy of agriculture lobby is embarrassing.  Waxman-Markey’s threat to farmers and ranchers isn’t limited to the carbon emissions of trucks, tractors and flatulent livestock.

In March, a dozen ag lobbying organizations – including National Association of Wheat Growers and National Farmers Union – agreed on nine “Principles for Greenhouse Gas Legislation.”

Not one of those principles addressed fuel or energy costs.  Yet Waxman-Markey will increase electricity rates by an estimated 90 percent and fuel prices by 58 percent, according to Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis.  The analysis projects cap-and-trade will reduce net farm income by 28 percent by 2012 and 94 percent by 2035,  That’s in addition to $1,241 per year that cap-and-tax will add to the average household’s energy bill.

Farmers recognize those costs, but agriculture lobbyists seem just as clueless as lawmakers who think milk and bread come from the grocery store.

Worse still, these lobbyists seem more concerned about “being at the table” than whether the deal they strike will hold up.  Simply put, agriculture lobbyists agreed to create a new bureaucracy in exchange for promises that bureaucrats won’t regulate agriculture and might even pay farmers for carbon sequestration and tree planting.

EPA’s analysis sees little upside for agriculture, anticipating declining crop production due to higher input costs and fewer acres for livestock grazing if landowners are paid to plant trees instead.

The agriculture compromise resulted in a 300-page amendment released at 3 a.m. on the day of the vote.  How many congressmen (or lobbyists) read the amendment or the 1,200-page bill?  Now ag lobby compromisers want the Senate to hold hearings to examine how these special provisions will work and “the effects of the complete bill on the industry.”

It’s a little late for that now, boys and girls.

These “principles” were naïve from the get-go.  Avoiding regulation that doesn’t exist is much easier than expecting special treatment from regulators when the agriculture vote no longer matters.

Agriculture is “a major polluter,” according to those who believe trading trillions in higher taxes, higher energy costs, and lost jobs for a minuscule possible reduction in temperatures is a good deal. Once the carbon caps are enforced, will climate-change zealots and non-exempt industries continue to give a pass to agriculture?

For that matter, does anyone believe that China, India or Russia will restrict their carbon emissions once the U.S. unilaterally imposes this burden on our economy?  In military or trade matters, giving away everything you have to trade would be recognized as foolishness.

All of this adds up to a rotten deal for agriculture and for everyone who consumes what we produce.  Maybe these agriculture lobbyists will understand that when they’re out of a job, too.

2 Thoughts on “Farm lobby blew it on cap-and-trade”

  • Mark, I think there are a million angles to go after this horrible legislation. But the only way to stop it is to focus on one: follow the money. This is a tax by a new name, and Wall Street will collect it. We can all agree that’s bad news.

    It really doesn’t matter if you believe in global warming or not. The climate-saving pretext of Cap & Trade is simply a diversion, so we should not waste time arguing that issue. Everything in this bill calling for reduced emissions is there for no other reason than to create a huge market for the world’s newest and most valuable commodity: the carbon-offset.

    Americans have no idea what a carbon-offset is, and how this new system will work, and that’s the plan: how can we protest something we don’t understand? The point of a carbon-offset, or carbon-permit, is that it allows energy users to go over an allotted emission level, or “cap”. If they stay under the level, then they don’t need any permits, and they can “trade” them.

    To understand it better, pretend you could get a “permit” to go over the speed limit by a certain amount. If you like to drive fast, the first thing you’d do is gather up some permits from friends who drive under the limit. Can’t find any? If you are less than honest, you might find a way to get permits issued to licensed people who don’t drive at all, and then use those. So you might end up being able to speed more than ever, only now it’s “legal” because you have the permits!

    This simple analogy let’s you see how a carbon-permit is simply a license to pollute that may result in little, if any, carbon reduction. Even though the bill calls for reduced emissions, that does not mean real-world reductions. The reductions exist only on paper, because the carbon-permits let you buy your way out of actually complying with the law. The plan invites abuse and manipulation. This is what has been seen in Europe in the few years the system has been in place, with no reduction in emissions there. So why use it? Why not just tax carbon emissions directly?

    That’s the scam: they don’t want us to know it’s a tax. But even worse, these carbon-offsets are now ready to be traded globally on a huge scale. The government will give nearly 90% of them to big corporate polluters for free. That’s right, free. Another bailout for them, utility bills that will double for us! This trillion-dollar market for Wall Street will boom, and see the same kind of complex investment bundling that mortgage-backed securities and derivatives did. It’s their next golden goose, our next nightmare.

    And that’s why all these ludicrous rules for reducing emissions in this bill: the guys trading the offsets need users to go over the allowances to really cash in. As emission caps are lowered each year, it will be harder to meet the regulations. But states will have to meet them to receive billions in federal dollars that will be tied in to this bill. So instead of meeting the regulations, states will be forced to buy carbon-offsets to get their federal funds. That will drive the cost of the carbon-offsets up, and someone will make a lot of money in this sneaky new game.

    Note the opposition to this bill from true environmentalists like Greenpeace. (If you lean left, check out alternet.org for great info on this.) This bill has actually removed existing EPA limits on carbon emissions. Why? Well, maybe higher emissions could even further enrich those who deal in carbon-offsets. The authors of this bill may end up increasing global warming. Some liberals can see this and are just as outraged as conservatives; nobody is saving the planet here, the rich are just cashing in.

    Once you understand the game, you see how truly insidious it is: those selling this big climate scare and its “solution” (not!) are the very ones who will manipulate the capping and trading to profit from it, at our expense. A trillion-dollar market is being created for the benefit of a very few: the traders of carbon-offsets on Wall Street who pushed this bill. Congress is complicit in the fraud. Only when Americans realize the next Enron is at hand will they wake up. (Oh yes, Ken Lay of Enron was an early booster of the carbon trade!)

    So please spread the word, and put pressure on your Senators to vote this down. And anyone in Congress who already voted yes on this should be run out of office in 2010!

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