Ag Policy Blog
Chris Clayton DTN Ag Policy Editor

Monday 02/04/13

Following up with NCGA on Drought and Energy Taxes

One of the speakers this year at No-Till on the Plains was a regional climate director from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.

Doug Kluck highlighted all of the records broken in 2012, or records approached due to the heat and drought that swept across the country. He also pointed out our recent variability in some areas of the country swinging from flood to drought conditions.

The probability is that drought will persist or intensify across much of the plains through April, according to NOAA models. It's a 30-40% chance over the next six months that Kansas will get enough rain throughout most of the state to pull out of a drought. Throughout much of Texas and parts of Nebraska, the likelihood is lower. Farther west from New Mexico up through Colorado and Utah, the likelihood is even less.

Kluck cautioned, however, about the tendency in media to associate every major weather event to climate change. Research is required to associate the probability or intensification that came from a significant shift in weather, but we tend to pounce on these events and their impacts more readily in the press.

That brings me around to the New York Times piece last week, "In Energy Taxes, Tools to Help Tackle Climate Change." My initial blog posting on that piece was up to 17 comments at last count. I don't think I'd get 17 comments if I announced I had won the Powerball and was going to run off and buy farmland somewhere.

I talked with National Corn Growers Association President Pam Johnson on Friday about the interview with the Times. Much like Kluck was saying, context is needed to separate the line regarding how farmers cope with a particular weather event such as a drought and whether to implement an energy tax as a solution to climate change.

In the Time's piece, Johnson described some of the losses on her farm, but also noted that she was somewhat lucky with 40-bushel loss of her corn crop. Others were much worse.

"We are concerned about weather volatility and that's why it is so important for farmers across the United States to have access to crop insurance," she said when we talked.

Insurance will keep those farmers in business who may have suffered much deeper losses.

The issue of an energy tax is a separate discussion. Johnson said it wasn't until the Times article came out that that she realized the piece was about whether an energy tax would help solve the problem of climate change.

The core of the Times piece was about an energy tax, and the prospects of getting one implemented by the federal government. The talk with NCGA's Johnson was an anecdote used by the writer as a way to lead into what the reporter was really writing about: whether the country needs an energy tax to deal with climate change.

The Times article doesn't cite any specific legislation, and no such serious bill exists as far as that is concerned.

Johnson shouldn't need to be on the defensive for stating the obvious: farmers would be deeply affected by an energy tax.

An editor likely read the reporter's first draft on that story and asked "What did the farmers think of an energy tax?" Rather than get a follow-up interview, the question, and a quick response back from Johnson, was texted.

One element certainly missing from the Times piece was probing just how much industries such as agriculture would be affected by an energy tax.

Johnson noted that NCGA's policy on climate change cites that the group is mindful of the need to balance stewardship and energy supply, and the necessity for long-term profitability.

"We work very hard every year as farmers to deal with weather variability and that's why we invest in research, so we have better seed genetics and better agronomic practices," she said. "We certainly farm differently now, today, than we did in the drought of '88, or '56, or '36 and we know the benefits of having more organic material in the soil that not only sequesters water but captures carbon."

If and when proposals such as energy taxes or climate legislation are discussed, NCGA wants to be at the table, she said. "We do have a lot at stake," she said. "We want to be there to negotiate so energy costs here for industry and passed to consumers are affordable and we can continue to compete in the global marketplace."

We also need to reiterate that NCGA and other agricultural groups are working on ways to measure and improve agricultural sustainability. That includes projects helping track greenhouse-gas initiatives. Field-to-Market is one such group in which NCGA is working on an assessment tool that involves farmers in about a dozen pilot projects. In most cases the farmers the pilot project will be with USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service to make practice changes that can help farmers lower their emissions.

In another element of context here, farm groups and their associates in these endeavors need to broaden out and tell the stories in better, more detailed fashion about how they are working on these topics. Take another bite at the apple. Invite the Times reporter, or others, out to these pilot farms to come see how these projects are working.

The Times piece from last week: http://dld.bz/…&

I can be found on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

Posted at 6:37AM CST 02/04/13 by Chris Clayton
Comments (34)
Energy Tax? Carbon Tax? Good Grief! Another gimmic and game to steal cash from all Americans to subsidize the elevation of another Algore into a short lived national hero. The consequences of which are compounded contributions to the calamities being discussed. All people, especially those in New York, as an example, just need to accept being responsible for their surroundings, instead of assuming only other people exhale carbon dioxide.
Posted by Bonnie Dukowitz at 5:52AM CST 02/05/13
Farms will and already are playing a part in the energy/climate scene. Corn prices are where they are from ethanol and biofuel projects. Wind turbines are providing income for a number of farmers as well as solar farms. I agree that better communication is needed between the projects and urban people. Also we need to end subsidies to oil corporations and instead tax them for the protection they receive from the US military. The top 5 oil producing companies (corporate welfare queens) receive 10-52 billion in hand outs while making historic profits, how far would that money go in energy independence and diverting climate change instead of stock holders pockets?
Posted by Jay Mcginnis at 7:28AM CST 02/05/13
I had the pleasure of spending time with wonderful people on the West coast (Bay Area) for the holidays and the East coast for the Inauguration and never once did I hear the mean spirited, hate filled name calling of the rural population that occurs in reverse everyday on this web site by the people of rural America. Bonnie, you should actually listen to Al Gore and find out what his mission is. He is only the messenger of Climate Change reality. You certainly have the right to disagree but your attitude towards those who disagree with you is not reflective of what the rural population purports itself to be - Nice.
Posted by Don Thompson at 8:35AM CST 02/05/13
There are several other obvious and relevant facts that need to be part of this discussion. At the beginning of the past decade the government was guaranteeing a minimal amount of gross revenue per corn acre grown. Now many farmers receive a revenue guarantee of close to $1000 per acre of corn grown. Also the government was paying a minimal amount of insurance premium per acre. Now it is many billions per year. Some farmers now receive over a million dollars every year as a benefit towards the cost of their government crop insurance premium. Also the national debt has nearly tripled since the beginning of the last decade.
Posted by Lon Truly at 8:45AM CST 02/05/13
You have a rabid socialist in the whitehouse he lies about things he doesnt have to. He hates america the way it is, he does like the way americans live, he hates our military, he cant even give a person who builds a business the credit for it without injecting his precious govt. into it. The only experience he has is spending other peoples money. If you want to know what he has instore for the U.S.A. look at Greece or California and take a hard look at his home state of IL.they are so far in debt they cant even sell bonds anymore. There is not enough money in the world to satisify a liberal they fail everytime and still dont learn. IL. is agreat example of big promises to fool to get elected, now payment is due,oops no money !!!
Posted by GORDON KEYES at 10:59AM CST 02/05/13
Wow Lon, That is one crazy R winger!! Posted by Don Thompson at 1:05PM CST 01/30/13
Posted by Lon Truly at 11:23AM CST 02/05/13
Algore is so concerned with clean air, he sold his stake in his failing, liberal media in an attempt to stay atop, to Al Jazeera. I wonder how many wind generators have been built by either, in Qatar. I would guess you have not been to many local zoning meetings lately, Don. You also might want to start sitting in on some different legislative committee hearings. The anti-ag sentiment is huge and relentless. Nice and real are not always in the same discussion.
Posted by Bonnie Dukowitz at 12:58PM CST 02/05/13
Sounds like you Tea Party guys should run someone for president that shares your values,,,, maybe Mitt Romney?
Posted by Jay Mcginnis at 1:17PM CST 02/05/13
What ever makes you think that Mitt was the #1 preferred choice of the tea party?
Posted by Lon Truly at 1:25PM CST 02/05/13
Probably because David Duke wasn't on the ballot!
Posted by Jay Mcginnis at 2:53PM CST 02/05/13
Sure wish I had the time to jump on my no carbon emmitting majic carpet and go to both coasts to visit niiice people. I could attend a fund raiser for Algore to finance the gouging of the general public so he can sell us out to the oil barons and profit another 100 million. Then blame global warming on farmers and coal miners. What a nice guy!
Posted by Bonnie Dukowitz at 3:15PM CST 02/05/13
Lon,Jay some suggested reading it will give you an idea where your cute little liberal comes from. Read Oboma Sr.life story,then about his mothers storyboth who were leftist, His grandparebts basicly raised him. When his grand father was looking for a mentor he chose Frank Marshall Davis a communist and editor of Chicago communist party newspaper The Star. Then you can read the history of the 2 nut case that encouraged him to enter politics Bill Ayers and his wife Bernadine Dorn 2 complete loons. Then there is his pastor of 20 years you have to hear one of his sermons he hates America and everything about it and has ranter about it for years. Then there is his friend and shady partner in politics and real estate deals Tony Rezko , he is currently a guest of the state of IL.
Posted by GORDON KEYES at 3:37PM CST 02/05/13
Bonnie, Thanks for the scheduling suggestions. I am content with my state of enlightenment. Just because someone disagrees with you does not mean they want to destroy you. There is a difference. Possibly you could schedule in a few meetings where serious calm discussion takes place without weapons being drawn. And take Gordon with you. Why are you insulting the aviation industry? We burn more fuel than anybody and the pilots carry guns to shoot bad guys. What is more pariotic than that??
Posted by Don Thompson at 4:06PM CST 02/05/13
OOPS! "Patriotic" Please excuse my spelling error.
Posted by Don Thompson at 4:11PM CST 02/05/13
ALWAYS find out as much as you can about who and what you are dealing with ! Read Todd Neeley s column 2-4-13 there are several people who could have used alot more information . Always question the things that are promoted the loudest and most often .
Posted by GORDON KEYES at 9:29PM CST 02/05/13
Thanks for making my point, Don. Flying around the country, massive concrete landing strips, the surrounding asphalt jungle and the content attitude may well be the largest source and cause of climate change. We attend many local informational meetings concerning the environement and try to improve practices in our farming operation. I just don't think I could sell anything to a known international terrorist organization involved with the other side of our troops overseas. Not even for $100,000,000. Go ahead, defend him. I have no time for a traitor.
Posted by Bonnie Dukowitz at 6:45AM CST 02/06/13
Well the gist of the article is clear and I am glad that the majority of US citizens are concerned about carbon and energy. We have been and still are the largest user of fossil fuels and changing our habits will set an example for the world. It is only through innovation and change that this will happen and I will be very happy to see the US be forefront, not screaming and crying to maintain our carbon laced addiction. Just read an article that a company in the South West dessert will be selling solar produced electricity cheaper then coal produced,,,, THAT'S PROGRESS and the future we all want! My electric car has only needed air in its tires since last April,,, you don't know how weird it feels putting gasoline in my pick up truck and then HAVING TO PAY LOTS of money! That kind of change is progress and surely in the right direction! Bottom line of the article is that change is going to happen and farmers can either be part of it in a positive way or fighting it by kickin and screamin!
Posted by Jay Mcginnis at 8:01AM CST 02/06/13
Try broadening your list of reading material Jay. It is unbelievable that there are actually people that believe Gore and Obama are acting in America's best interest. See http://sayanythingblog.com/entry/another-electric-car-is-a-flop/
Posted by Lon Truly at 11:38AM CST 02/06/13
For an example of how clueless Obama is read http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials-on-the-right/020513-643259-hagel-seeks-to-get-rid-of-all-nukes.htm?p=2
Posted by Lon Truly at 11:55AM CST 02/06/13
Ummmm electric car a flop??? Gee I didn't know, then I guess my 9500 miles (since April) on my own solar produced electricity is just unAmerican? Well you conservatives keep on paying your gasoline price, I prefer driving my zero emissions flop and think about you every time I DON'T fill up. But I guess if I read the Right literature then I would know its a mistake and that i should be burning huge amounts of fossil fuel in an inefficient gasoline engine, dripping oil at oil changes BUT supporting good old corporate America! You don't have to take my word for it but don't get upset that I enjoy NOT using the "juice" that you guys are so addicted to!
Posted by Jay Mcginnis at 11:58AM CST 02/06/13
I had to look again at the banner at the top of this blog and sure enough it said "The Progressive Farmer". It appears that only Jay fits that billing and more power to him. He does not appear to be stuck in the 18th century in both his innovation and attitude. Here's to you, Jay.
Posted by Don Thompson at 8:42PM CST 02/06/13
Thanks Don and you are progressive also so heres to you as well. Sadly many here are fooled by the Tea Party to believe that oil and coal are patriotic (oil companies receiving between 10 and 50 billion a year in welfare) but truth is that they are just,,,, well, so "fossil"!
Posted by Jay Mcginnis at 10:01PM CST 02/06/13
A lot less concrete, asphalt and carbon free airplanes in the 18th. cent., we are told.
Posted by Bonnie Dukowitz at 8:58AM CST 02/07/13
Don & Jay - make sure you read http://news.investors.com/politics-andrew-malcolm/020713-643516-john-brennan-cia-confirmation-hearing-drone-killings.htm
Posted by Lon Truly at 11:03AM CST 02/07/13
I dont have to read it Lon,,,, if drone is in the title I am against it, we have no right to drone anyone. Just because I voted for Obama does not mean I give up my values to a party, I am not a democrat but sadly they are the lesser of 2 evils, and as Ralph Nader says, "the only difference between the 2 parties is the velocity that their knees hit the ground in front of corporations". Drones are wrong, every time one kills children and innocent bystanders we have parents and friends of those killed take up arms against us, guaranteed! But you continue to avoid the context of the above article and there I agree with the current administration,,, we need to get OFF fossil fuels and now!
Posted by Jay Mcginnis at 12:27PM CST 02/07/13
China can figure out that low energy costs are in their economies best interests. We have centuries and centuries of new available oil and gas discoveries recently found. We should mindlessly destroy our economy and increase the cost of producing food for no good reason. How does driving more Americans into poverty help anyone but politicians eager to pander to more people dependent on government? How does driving food prices still higher help the word's starving?
Posted by Lon Truly at 9:51PM CST 02/07/13
Hey Lon,,, you need to do some reading as well,,, check out the site "Oil Drum" a site about peak oil. Conventionally drilled oil peaked about 2006 and what is keeping us going (if you call $99/barrel going) are the "tight oils" that is what you call the "new oil finds" only we knew about them for many years. Tight oil is tar sands, shale oil and deep sea drilling. The return of energy to extract such oil is far greater then conventional drilling,,, 30-1 on conventional and something like 6-1 on tar sands. Also huge amounts of carbon is released in harvesting tight oil so we will increase climate change much faster. Shale oil has 2 components, fracking which releases oil like the gas fracking or the second shale oil is by preasuring shale and like tar sands takes huge amounts of energy to release it!!! YEAH there is years of oil left but you need prices over $100/barrel to extract it and lots of that energy reused to harvest more! Now you tell me which is the solution that will drive us to poverty????? Solar/wind/geothermal or cracking "tight oil"???? I do know which will drive corporations to poverty,,, there is the problem.
Posted by Jay Mcginnis at 11:02AM CST 02/08/13
Good Grief, If a person moves about by any means other than foot-power and covers oneself with other than a fallen figleaf, they are guilty of contributing to, so-called, unnatural carbon emmissions. Don't matter if you think you ride a majic carpet or an oil slick. Don't breath, don't eat, don't do anything unless you pass the Bama test. What ever that is this week.
Posted by Bonnie Dukowitz at 12:37PM CST 02/08/13
Try broadening your horizons Jay - see http://sayanythingblog.com/entry/thanks-fracking-americans-saving-billions-on-natural-gas/
Posted by Lon Truly at 7:03PM CST 02/10/13
Hey Lon,,, you still don't get it,,,, I don't care for personal use where fossil fuel prices go,,, I produce 95% of my own energy with solar/geothermal and wind,,,,enjoy your fracking gas!
Posted by Jay Mcginnis at 10:33AM CST 02/11/13
The facts are starting to surface Jay. The hazardous waste from this so-called environmental friendly energy is emerging. I am not opposed to alternative energy, however, agenda's disguise reality. With what appears to be your viewpoint, you may well glow in the dark before some of us.
Posted by Bonnie Dukowitz at 11:51AM CST 02/11/13
More continuing ed for you Jay - see http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/charles-lane-obamas-electric-car-mistake/2013/02/11/441b39f6-7490-11e2-aa12-e6cf1d31106b_story.html
Posted by Lon Truly at 7:50AM CST 02/12/13
Beat you to that one Lon,,,, you can read my response on the Washington Posts story! You and Bonnie enjoy your juice cars,,,, heard gasoline is heading to $4/gal by May!
Posted by Jay Mcginnis at 7:30AM CST 02/13/13
Yup Jay, The juicer has not been started for a week. Chores. Didn't have time to stick my nostrils to the window of the carbon emmitter.
Posted by Bonnie Dukowitz at 7:45PM CST 02/14/13
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