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.