Following an announcement late last night that House Democrats have reached an agreement within their caucus to pass "Cap and Tax" legislation, Congressman Jack Kingston expressed grave concern over the legislation's impact on agriculture.
Congressman Kingston, who serves in the top Republican spot on the House Agriculture Appropriations Committee, noted agriculture's reliance on energy-related inputs.
"They've put lipstick on a pig but it's still a pig even though the lipstick looks lovely," Congressman Kingston said. "Agriculture is inherently a energy-intensive industry and this bill does nothing to mitigate that fact. From tractor fuel to fertilizer to livestock feed, farmers across America are especially vulnerable to this proposed national energy tax. Our farmers are already struggling with the high cost of fertilizer and feed and gas prices are going up. Now, in this time of economic downturn, is not the time to further drive up the cost of farming and the cost of food. American farmers can't afford it and neither can American families."
Approximately 65 percent of farmers' costs are dedicated to fuel, electricity, fertilizer and chemicals and Congressman Kingston believes that even a small increase could be devastating, especially to family farmers. Rural households also spend 58 percent more on fuel as a percentage of their income than urban residents.
As farming cost rise, Kingston says, food and grocery prices across the country will increase as the high energy costs are passed along to the consumer, further straining families' household budgets in every state, especially those operating on a fixed income.
According to a Heritage Foundation analysis of the national energy tax proposal, farm income will drop $8 billion in 2012, $25 billion in 2024 and over $50 billion in 2035. The average net income lost over the next 25 years would be $23 billion the report shows. In addition, by 2035 fuel costs are expected to increase by 58% and electric rates would be 90% higher.
UGA project would address farm energy consumption
While Congressman Kingston believes the legislation will negatively impact farmers, he's not sitting idly by - just last week he secured $1 million for a project sponsored by the University of Georgia to address the issue.
The project, known as the Agriculture Energy Innovation Center or Future Farmstead, will bring together all of the University's ongoing research and innovations to help increase farm productivity, reduce energy consumption and advance alternative-energy production on the farm.
"The work done at the Agricultural Energy Innovation Center will be at the forefront of research and implementation and will lead to more efficient farming and alternative energy production," said Congressman Kingston. "It will help alleviate this bill's impact on food costs and reduce our dependence oil."
The center, which will be based in Tifton, will couple all of the University's latest research, communication and control technologies with improved plant materials, byproduct use and energy capture and conversion techniques.
By teaming existing and emerging technologies, the center will facilitate the rapid advancement of new tools to increase agriculture and energy production. As a result, researchers at the center believe they can cut farm energy consumption by 50 percent over the next 20 years or less with equal or greater crop production.