Today I wanted to discuss Cap & Trade and the bill that is currently in the Oregon Legislature in Oregon, House Bill 2020. While it’s an ongoing conversation in my world, it may not be on everyone’s radar. Two weeks ago I was asked to come and speak to the Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction at the Capitol regarding this issue and how it would hurt farmers here in Oregon.
My son Hoot got to come watch me testify, which was “really awesome mom!”
It’s a complex issue and I only had 3 minutes to speak to the problems that need to be fixed for us, but I wanted to share my testimony. The video below is the Natural Resource panel from Feburary 11th. It begins with Chris Edwards, lobbyist for OFIC, my testimony, followed by another farmer’s. Then follows up with lots of questions.
Tomorrow I will be posting a few things that I wish I had time to include in my testimony and in my answers.
There is still time to comment and have your voice heard on this bill!! Comments are being taken until March 2nd. I will post more information on how you can comment tomorrow in my blog. Below though is my official testimony, if you’re not in the video watching mood….
Brenda Frketich, Oregon Farm Bureau
February 11, 2019
Chair Dembrow, Chair Power, Vice-Chairs Bentz and Brock Smith and members of the committee,
My name is Brenda Frketich. I am third generation farmer from St. Paul. My husband and I farm 1000 acres of filberts, grass seed, wheat, clover, vegetables and vegetables seeds.
I am here as a farmer and on behalf of Oregon Farm Bureau in opposition of HB 2020 as currently drafted.
The first issue is that as farmers and ranchers, we must absorb the full impact of cost increases from fuel and natural gas under HB 2020.
It’s difficult to assign the “cost” of cap-and-trade to the average family farm. However Farm Bureau surveyed their members to get an idea of the indirect costs, those responses are summarized on OLIS…AND they are significant.
My family farm would likely pay more than a $5500 increase in the price of fuel alone. Which is a 15% increase in our total fuel bill for our farm, in just the first year! I know other farmers would experience similar increases in fuel prices. Considering farms are natural sequesters of carbon already, this bill neglects to even touch the benefits that we already provide to the environment, only punishing us instead.
Those who use natural gas to operate peppermint distilleries, greenhouses, hop and hazelnut driers could see a 13% increase in their natural gas rates in 2021. And what about 2035 and beyond?
In December, the Carbon Policy Office presented an option to exempt ag fuels (or dyed diesel) from the cap to mitigate some of these increases. This was a first step in helping to alleviate some of the price impacts but now it is NOT included in this bill.
Our family farm operates on slim margins and as price takers. We can’t just pass on the increased costs of production to consumers. So we are saddled with the full costs of cap-and-trade—making us less competitive with growers across the nation and world. Without safeguards to keep farmers from absorbing these costs, it will be incredibly difficult to keep families farming in Oregon.
This also makes it much less likely that the farmland stays in production, and much more likely that farms are parceled and sold to development that won’t have the environmental benefits associated with keeping it in farming.
Our second issue is with how the incentive and offset programs are structured in the bill.
As written, I think you’ll see many farmers that could have participated in the offset or incentive programs will now avoid them. We’ve talked to California Farm Bureau, and offsets don’t really work in dynamic agricultural landscapes, especially with how diverse Oregon agriculture is.
Oregon Farm Bureau worked for months with state and federal agencies to craft workable incentive programs with sideboards spelled out in statute. Section 31 doesn’t reflect that work. I’ve participated in some of the federal conservation programs that offered incentives for soil health programs and irrigation water conservation, but I know that farmers are concerned that the incentives in HB 2020 won’t be accessible or affordable. California Farm Bureau said that administrative requirements kept farmers from even participating. My fear is we will see the same thing here in Oregon.
It’s important that any voluntary investments are made available to all of agriculture and don’t penalize early adopters. OSU should also be a partner in this effort.
The bill doesn’t include any of the policy fixes that we worked on with the Governor’s Carbon Policy Office in 2018 and will result in unnecessary costs for family farms.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.