Farmers and Climate Change

Grist put together this great profile of Senator Ben Nelson and his likely position on Climate Change legislation. Senator Nelson’s concerns:

“I haven’t been able to sell that argument to my farmers, and I don’t think they’re going to buy it from anybody else,” Nelson said in an interview on CNBC. “I think at the end of the day, the people who turn the switch on at home will be disadvantaged.”

There are two related claims you hear on agriculture and Climate Change:
1) Climate Change legislation is terrible for farmers.
2) If I support Climate Change legislation it will be terrible for my relationship with farmers.

The first claim is categorically false. Farmers need us to pass climate change legislation or else they’ll all manner of ill effects. Additionally the while the ACES or CEJAPA will increase the price of some farm inputs, it’s misleading to think that the price increase is money out of farmers pockets. In most cases you can expect the price to passed on to consumers at no loss to the farmer. Indeed if you follow Conservative policy analysis this is basically how they criticize every proposed regulation of business, yelling about shadow “taxes on consumers”.

The second claim is substantially true. Farmers are usually Conservative and not surprisingly rarely support environmental regulation. Senator Nelson or other elected officials representing rural areas will find that selling farmers on this legislation is difficult. There is a significant danger that elected officials will overplay the political difficulty, but there is no denying it’s real.

So where does that leave us? In need of a lot of outreach and education on climate change. And bold political leadership.

Elected officials should vote to help their constituents regardless of how it polls, but in the mean time the rural community needs to talk with somebody other then corporate interests trying to profit from there legitimate concerns about the difficulty of farming in America. Right now I’m not sure environmentalists are doing a good enough job.

-Chris

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