Most farmers in the Southwest would prefer to see climate change legislation disappear but few believe that will happen, based on comments during the recent House Agriculture Committee farm bill hearing in Lubbock.
L.G. Raun, an el Campo, Texas, rice producer, told Texas Representative Mike Conaway, that passing the climate change bill, as it currently stands, would put Texas out of the rice business.
“That legislation would add $150 per acre to the cost of production,” Raun said. He figured energy costs would jump 20percent to 50 percent. “With that big an increase (ranging from $88 to $200 per acre) we would not have rice acreage left in Texas. We have no way of passing on that cost.”
David Cleavinger, a Wildorado, Texas, grain producer and spokesman for the Texas Wheat Producers Association, said he would prefer to “just say no to the whole business” of climate change legislation. ‘But I am concerned that EPA will take control.”
Conaway said Congress could limit EPA’s role in climate control regulation. “I think we can have reasonable congressional legislation that limits EPA,” he said.
Cleavinger said he would expect a backlash from consumers from that kind of legislation, especially considering a recent Supreme Court ruling that gave EPA latitude.
“I’d like to just say no and ignore that ruling,” he said. “But we have to have agriculture at the table, represented in the discussion. I don’t think we can just make it go away.”
Raun said rice, unlike other commodities with potential to reap some benefits from climate legislation through bioenergy production, is “confronted with no upside potential…but plenty of economic downside.”
He cited a recent analysis from the Agricultural and food Policy Center at Texas A&M University that estimates increases in input costs for rice, combined with the inability to participate in any offset program would mean all 14 of the rice farms in the study “would experience lower average annual net cash farm income.”
He said the American Farm Bureau estimates an increase in rice production costs as high as $153, per acre.
“From our vantage point, the cost, the cost of pending legislation heavily outweighs any potential benefits.”
Brad Bourma, a Plainview, Texas, dairy producer, said clean air legislation also affects the dairy and cattle industries.