Monday, August 3, 2009

Can Family Farms Survive Cap and Trade?

Commentary: Cap-and-trade deals final blow to family farms
By Rep. Peter Hoekstra

The "cap-and-trade" national energy tax bill passed by the U.S. House and now making its way through the Senate would impose nearly impossible burdens on agriculture and likely deliver a final death blow to the family farm.

Many Americans rightly fear the devastating effect cap-and-trade will have on our already foundering auto industry. They also understand the increased cost of generating electricity — a cost will be directly passed on to consumers.

Few, however, realize the destructive effect it will have on the family farms. Farming has never been a high-profit business, as those who grow our food can readily attest. They also would tell those of us who get our food at grocery stores that producing it consumes vast amounts of energy.

Energy consumption is essential to farming in so many ways. Vehicles fueled by gasoline and diesel till the soil, plant the seeds, spray essential fertilizers and pesticides, harvest the crops and transport them to processors.

Most fertilizer is made from natural gas and petroleum is an essential part of most pesticides. Many crops, such as commercial corn, which show up in so many of our prepared foods, must be dried using propane gas before being shipped to market.

Of course, none of this includes the high energy costs of processing, packaging and shipping the food to your super market or neighborhood grocery.

Agricultural products are commodities. Their prices are set by the worldwide market and do not automatically go up as farmers' "input" costs rise. In this case, market prices will be held down by imported food products that are not produced under the heavy burden of cap-and-trade.

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While it may be somewhat unclear on the exact impact that cap and trade legislation will have on agriculture in this country, there is no doubt that it will change the way we do business. It’s going to cause prices to rise. It takes energy to do most everything and this is going to be an energy tax to make it plain and simple. And all of this will be done in an attempt to stop our climate from changing for the first time in the history of Earth. In my opinion, it seems a lofty goal to think that we can stop the climate from changing. It’s been doing it for billions of years but many people think that needs to stop. Good luck with that.

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