Ag Policy Blog
Chris Clayton DTN Ag Policy Editor

Monday 01/28/13

NYT Looks at Farm Politics and Climate Change

The New York Times had a piece on Tuesday highlighting the farm politics involving climate change.

Pam Johnson, president of the National Corn Growers Association, was interviewed and expressed her deep concern about drought that "cut the harvest at her northern Iowa farm by about 40 bushels an acre." Johnson had to use rely on crop insurance to stay afloat.

As the story noted, Johnson's concern is not about how to deal with climate change. It's protecting the federal crop insurance program from budget cuts.

“We are Americans before we are farmers,” Johnson told the Times. “We know we have budget problems.” Still, she added: “For our farmers, crop insurance is the main concern. It helps keep us in business.”

Indemnities as of now for crop insurance are at slightly more than $13 billion. That number will continue to rise. My understanding is that with at least some crop insurance companies the payouts to farmers with $200,000 or more are being delayed by audits.

The Times noted the impact of global warming is expensive. The full cost of the drought could be $35 billion and Hurricane Sandy may be $65 billion. Yet, the costs in the future could be much higher.

The question is, how do you pay for those costs? A carbon tax? As the Times stated, "As things stand, drought is unlikely to change their minds. Farmers are still covered by crop insurance, and they have powerful allies in Congress who will fight to keep the subsidies in place. They may see little reason to support legislation that would make energy or fertilizer more expensive."

In quoting Johnson, “Farmers would be deeply affected by an energy tax."

http://www.nytimes.com/…

I have to add my two cents here.

Farm groups really helped lead us down a pathway of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions in the 2005 and 2007 energy bills that built out the current biofuels industry and started the current boom we are seeing in production agriculture.

Let's not forget the failed 2009 cap-and-trade plan in Congress exempted agriculture from any regulation on greenhouse gases and then would have given them a trading market for conservation practices to sequester carbon in the ground. Farm Bureau erupted with "Don't Cap Our Future." NCGA's president at the time said he can't no-till on his farm so he wouldn't benefit, even though he lived not far from one of the biggest no-till research farms in the country.

So cap-and-trade failed. And then a lot of advocates for biofuels lost their congressional seats shortly after.

Now, farm groups can't understand why Congress is siding more often with the oil companies and attacking biofuels. It's pretty simple. Biofuels are overseen by EPA and were put in place partially to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Well, farmers said we don't have to worry about reducing greenhouse gases. So why do we need biofuels?

We could take a look at what agriculture can do to help mitigate and adapt to climate change, but the House and Senate Agriculture Committees would rather pass farm bills scored at over $1 trillion over 10 years in cost without bothering to take a look at what climate change will do to increase the cost of USDA programs over the next decade.

I can be found on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

Posted at 7:20PM CST 01/28/13 by Chris Clayton
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