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Minnesota farmers oppose clean energy, clean water bills

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Neither clean energy nor clean water legislation win support from Minnesota farmers.

The U.S. House is slated to consider today the American Clean Energy and Security Act which establishes a cap and trade system for reducing carbon emissions.

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U.S. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, DFL-7th District, has opposed the bill, but this week worked out an amendment to create in the U.S. Department of Agriculture a program that realizes offsets from cap and trade allowances for farmers and ranchers.

"We applaud Chairman Peterson for holding his ground and reaching a deal that was beneficial to agriculture," Minnesota Farm Bureau President Kevin Paap said Thursday. "The Peterson amendment recognizes the role agriculture can play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and rewards farmers for carbon offsets."

Passage of the bill would move it to the Senate, where more amendments are expected.

Also in the Senate is the Clean Water Restoration Act, which updates the original 1972 act. The Farm Bureau also opposes that measure, as it gives too much control to the federal government over all waters in the United States.

Paap thanked Peterson for his efforts on the climate change bill as he "demonstrated his willingness to go to great lengths to ensure that agriculture's voice is heard.

"However, the jurisdiction of the House Agriculture Committee and the efforts of Chairman Peterson only go so far when looking at the entire bill. While we appreciate and strongly support the provisions in the Peterson amendment and recognize that offsets are available to farmers, there are a wide range of issues that will be detrimental to agriculture," Paap added.

The bill "will force the agriculture industry and all consumers to face significantly increased energy and input costs," he said. The American Farm Bureau Federation estimates that under a best-case scenario, by 2010 U.S. net farm income would be reduced by more than $5 billion annually under the bill.

"Farmers are not able to pass increased input costs on like other businesses," Paap said. "These costs are absorbed by the producers and prohibit them from making future investments in their farms, which in turn not only impacts their operations, but the rural communities in which they live."

Paap said the measure also creates an energy deficit for the United States and places the nation's economy at a competitive disadvantage with countries such as China that do not have carbon emission controls in place.

The climate change bill "will have a big impact on agriculture," he said. "In agriculture, we use a lot of energy, whether it's electricity, fuel, fertilizer. As we see some of these greenhouse gas regulations, that will have a big impact on increasing costs not only to agriculture but to those who use energy, use electricity."

The Clean Water Restoration Act, which will be spearheaded in the House by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar, DFL-8th District, counters two recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings that found the original act only gives the federal government jurisdiction in large, continuously flowing bodies of water, labeled in the act as "navigable waters."

"We are still concerned about changes in the Clean Water Act, taking out the word 'navigable,'" says Paap. "We're continuing to work on that to make sure that we don't change the regulatory reach."

The bill expands the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to "all inter- and intrastate waters and their tributaries, including intermittent streams, mudflats, wetlands, prairie potholes and natural ponds."

"We in Minnesota have that covered at the local and state level," says Paap. "We don't necessarily need a federal permit to go out and do that."

He said the Farm Bureau has been working to inform U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, DFL-Minn., about the bill's possible impact on Minnesota farmers.

"By taking the word navigable out, they will regulate all waters and all potential waters," Paap said. "Farm Bureau members have been very clear and policy is very clear if they take out the word navigable, we're not going to support anything. We've got it in place and it's doing its job. The Clean Water Act is 37 years old; it's done its job, it's working, let's make it work."

The Senate Committee on Public Works approved the bill June 18 in a 12-7 party-line vote, sending the measure to the Senate floor. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, however, placed a hold on the bill, so it is unknown when it will be taken up.

bswenson@bemidjipioneer.com

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