Senator Mike Crapo
“Opportunities for Agriculture, Forestry Communities, and Others In Reducing Global Warming Pollution”
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
July 14, 2009
Ms. Chairwoman, thank you for the opportunity to share a few words. I would also like to thank the witnesses for being here with us today to share your testimony on including agriculture and forestry in reducing emissions.
For many in agriculture and forestry, carbon offsets represent opportunities to obtain more value out of the land and new land management technologies in addition to the possibilities of reducing the costs of a cap-and-trade program. Agriculture and forestry offsets are already contributing financially to some farms and private forestry operations through no-till, anaerobic digesters and other carbon sequestration techniques. Estimates from EPA indicate that 20 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. can be sequestered in agriculture and forest lands.
In the 2008 Farm Bill, Congress recognized the potential for farms and forests to participate in providing ecological services to society through the creation of the Office of Ecosystem Services and Markets at USDA. OESM is working to establish technical guidelines for the measuring, reporting and registration of the environmental services provided through various land management practices. I understand USDA’s testimony today will touch upon these issues, and I look forward to hearing this testimony.
Responsibly managed domestic forests have a golden opportunity to participate in the reduction of greenhouse gases. Through projects like afforestation, reforestation, and avoided deforestation, forests across America can participate in offsets markets. States like Idaho, with unnaturally large fuel loads are ideal locations for carbon sequestration through forest health projects that result in net carbon sequestration. Additionally, wood products that harness carbon should be eligible for participation in the offsets market.
Because domestic forests are ideal participants in reducing global warming pollution, I must express my disappointment in not having a witness today from the forest industry to explain the benefits and challenges of domestic participation in this emerging market. This hearing would have provided a perfect opportunity for this Committee to learn more about the opportunities that we have here in the U.S. to care for our forests and to improve our air quality. In lieu of a witness, I would like to ask unanimous consent to include the National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO)’s testimony in the record so that the Committee has the opportunity to more thoroughly review this issue from the perspective of domestic forestry.
While offsets can potentially benefit our farmers and foresters, I have some major concerns with the overall effect of cap-and-trade legislation on these industries. For example, it is important that legislation and implementation does not turn into a mechanism to force certain planting or operating decisions that may not be beneficial to a particular agriculture or forestry operation.
Lately, I have become increasingly concerned that the costs of cap-and-trade will outweigh the benefits to farmers and foresters. For example, I have heard that some crops like potatoes and certain specialty crops are not suitable for no-till or other farming practices that sequester carbon in the soil. I also worry that livestock producers will be unable to feasibly purchase and utilize anaerobic digesters, which carry a price tag of $2-3 million.
Agriculture is an energy intensive industry. For some crops, energy inputs account for 70 percent of production costs. I have major concerns that input costs under cap-and-trade such as gasoline, diesel, and electricity will increase and surpass uncertain monetary benefits from offsets. Additionally, increases in the cost of natural gas will result in higher fertilizer prices. To put it in perspective, in 2008, farmers and ranchers spent $60 billion on fuel, electricity, fertilizer and chemicals.
I look forward to the testimony outlining the benefits to farmers and foresters of cap-and-trade, but I also would like to ensure this Committee engages in a well-rounded discussion of the costs associated with cap-and-trade as well. We all know that for farmers and foresters to be able to assist with reducing emissions, they must be able to remain on the land.