Thompson Questions Secretary Vilsack on Cap and Trade Costs

June 11, 2009
Press Release

Washington, D.C.—In a hearing today before the House Agriculture Committee, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack answered the question of what the cost of the Cap and Trade proposal would be in rural America by saying that the Department of Agriculture had not finished its cost analysis but that innovation and green collar jobs would help to balance costs.

U.S. Representative Glenn `GT’ Thompson, R-Howard, said he understood how important innovation is, but that farmers in his district were already hurting.  “In Pennsylvania we have predictions that this legislation will raise electricity rates by 30 percent, gasoline by 76 percent and fertilizer costs will be through the roof because natural gas is a feedstock for it.  While you may not be able to quote actual dollars, can you tell us if the Waxman Markey Cap and Trade legislation will increase costs in rural America?” Thompson asked Vilsack.

The Agriculture Secretary’s answer was that everything Congress does has a cost. But that he has seen remarkable innovative changes in Agriculture and that there will be more changes in seed technology that will enable farmers to have lower input costs.  He said that he believes the legislation proposed should have a combination of options for farmers and ranchers to do things like put marginal agricultural land into growing trees in order to qualify for a credit under carbon sequestration.

In response to Secretary Vilsack's defense that the impact of Cap and Trade will be softened for the farm community by encouraging innovation, Congressman Thompson noted, "encouraging agriculture innovation should always be the mission of the Department of Agriculture and has nothing to do with this climate change legislation."

Thompson then commented that the options the Secretary was suggesting were speculative, while the farmers in his 5th District are in true crisis right now.  He mentioned timbering and dairy farmers as being in terrible straits.  He asked Vilsack, “Can you guarantee this legislation will not drain or distract Department of Agriculture resources from the crises our farmers are already living and struggling with?”

Vilsack replied that Agriculture is already trying to respond, trying to help dairy.  He asked that Congress give the Department of Agriculture more flexibility in the Commodity Credit Corporation.

Vilsack repeatedly said he supported the Cap and Trade concept, but in more than four hours of testimony, he never said he supported the Waxman Markey bill.