Capping our Future?

The American Farm Bureau Federation has a new campain: “Don’t Cap our Future.”  In opposition to a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gases, the AFBF is encouraging members to sign a cap across the bill and deliver it to their Congressman

The AFBF is concerned that a cap-and-trade system will lead to higher fuel, energy and fertlizer costs, and also the conversion of farmland to woodland to sequester carbon.  This translates into loss of farms, increase in food costs, and a decrease in the productivity of farms.  According to the AFBF:

Already, the economic situation in some sectors of agriculture is dire… For many, sheer determination is what keeps them in business.  Those who are persevering are doing so with a brighter future in mind.  They are also driven by the goal of being able to pass the farm or ranch on to the next generation when they retire or perhaps farming with their children as they grow into adulthood.

I personally am not a huge fan of cap-and-trade, since I think it’s a system that allows polluters to continue on polluting while paying for credits or often choosing to pay the fines for going over their limit since that’s less expensive than actually reducing their emissions.  One of the amazing concepts that I took away from my environmental law course was that it’s all about the money: businesses will do what’s right for them financially, not what’s right for the environment, and they’re able to continue polluting because a cap-and-trade system allows it, as long as they pay a fine or buy credits. 

However, I think that action is important, and I think cap-and-trade is better than nothing.  The real problem here, from my point of view, is that family farmers are not the big time polluters.  We know that industrial agribusiness is where the majority of the pollution takes place, but they’ve got the money to pay the lobbyists and lawyers, buy credits, and pay fines, while all farmers deal with the increase in fuel, energy and fertilizer prices.  Who will be hit harder by the increase in costs, agribusiness or small, family farmers? And who will lose their farms?

I’m categorically opposed to legislation that puts an unfair burden on family farms.  It’s a deeply emotional issue for me, since I think about MY family and OUR farm, and it breaks my heart to see families lose their farms.  However, I think that the American Farm Bureau Federation needs to take steps to work with legislators to reduce the unfair burden on small family farms, while still taking strides to reduce pollution and carbon emissions. 

For now, I’m taking a wait and see approach.  I won’t be signing and delivering a cap, but I also won’t be asking my legislators to support this bill.  What I will do is continue to support my local family farms.

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5 Comments

Filed under Local Agriculture, Sustainable Living

5 responses to “Capping our Future?

  1. Cap-and-trade may not be the best of all possible solutions, but the basic system actually has a good track record – we used it twenty years ago to reduce sulfur compounds and other pollutants that were causing acid rain. In that case, it was quite successful – and the gloom and doom “we’re all going out of business” scenarios proposed by the major polluters did not come to pass. I certainly agree that the financial burden of new legislation ought to fall on large corporations and not on family farms. I hope that any cap-and-trade sysrtem will have protections for family farmers in place. But we sure need something to help get carbon under control – and fast.

  2. I agree that the acid rain issue is a success story, in terms of regulation. However, I see abuses of the nitrogen trading system for wastewater treatment.

    I also think that big agriculture is using the family farm image to combat this bill, playing on emotions, (my own, for sure).

    As for getting carbon under control, I don’t see a 17% reduction as getting it under control. Sadly, I would predict that would be another missed goal and missed deadline, resulting in an extension.

    I still think that grassroots movements are the ones where real change is happening, and (as a pessimist) I think that government won’t get their act together until it’s too late, if ever.

  3. Out of curiosity, how do you define the difference between small family farms and industrial agribusiness? I struggle with that myself so I’d love your insight. I would call what we do a small family farm but realistically most of the farming that happens, at least in our region, is all done by other small farmers like ourselves. And that probably doesn’t make the fertilizers and sprays we use any better for the environment.

    • It’s you, Jena! You’re the enemy!!! I know it when I see it!

      Um, just kidding. I have to say, around here it’s pretty easy to define, and thanks for asking that question so I could clarify it for myself. In my mind, family farms are owned by families, where they do the majority of the work and own the land, which means they have a stake in its health in the future. Like I said, around here it’s easy to define because all farms are pretty small, mostly owned by families for generations.

      Industrial agribusiness, on the other hand, has certain characteristics in my mind: monoculture, overuse of pesticides and fertilizers, genetically modified crops, practices that lead to soil degredation and water contamination, animal cruelty (CAFO’s, etc.). Of course these things can be parts of a family farm, too. I can see though how in other parts of the country it would be more difficult to define. In my mind, big organic fits right in the industrial agribusiness arena, too… I’d be interesting to read more about it to better define it for me, too. I think I’ll have to do some research.

      From what I know about your farm, you squarely fit in the family farm category, being that 1: you are a family running the farm, and 2: you own and care about the land and its future, have diversified operations with both animals and crops, and are working towards sustainability. I’m not saying it’s perfect, my family’s farm isn’t perfect either. We use pesticides and fertilizers, too.

  4. Cap & Trade has far to many problems to work. I believe it will just make it worse.

    I’m all for C02 limits but in fair ways and not sure moving it all around.

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