The state Farm Bureau is teaming up with its national counterpart to fight a “cap and trade” energy bill in the U.S. Senate. Like South Carolina’s Senator Lindsay Graham, Farm Bureau officials say the Waxman-Markey bill to cap emissions and re-assign areas of farmland will hurt business, in this case agribusiness.
David Winkles, president of the South Carolina Farm Bureau, says that agriculture in the state is a $34 billion a year industry. “It’s the state’s largest economic engine, so our message has been to our members of our General Assembly is ‘be careful’ about legislation that you pass because it can have effects, long-term negative effects.”
Winkles and National Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman offer the same message to Congress. Stallman will be testifying to California Senator Barbara Boxer’s Environment and Public Works committee on Capitol Hill Thursday. One of his issues with the current bill, he says is that there will be a period of time in which renewable energy will not be able to make up for the energy that is restricted by the caps on carbon.
“Senator (Lindsey) Graham is talking about increasing the use of nuclear energy, increasing offshore drilling , to provide some more domestic alternatives, particularly natural gas. That part’s positive. But that’s not going to be enough to solve the problems with this bill,” says Stallman.
Stallman says the bill may downsize American agriculture.
State Farm Bureau President David Winkles says the agriculture base believes South Carolina could lose 25,000 jobs in the next few years. They also take issue with other countries not being made to comply with carbon emissions caps, while the U.S. imposes restrictions on itself.
He says agriculture, by its nature, supports and depends on environmental conservation and that it is difficult to combat what are often emotional issues.
“But at the end of the day, economics rule. There are more than 200,ooo jobs directly related to agriculture,” says Winkles. “One of the most difficult things is to focus economic growth in the rural areas and to find industries and sectors to settle in those areas and to use our natural resources to make that happen.”