With the return of spring, farmers are heading back to the fields to help feed and fuel our nation. As a farmer, I am honored to advocate for our farm families on the House Agriculture Committee.
Missouri's 9th District has more than 22,000 farms, covering more than 6.4 million acres of land. To put that in perspective, 72 percent of the total land area of our congressional district is farmland.
Besides dealing with the ongoing debate over the President's disastrous national energy tax in the form of cap-and-tax legislation, a big task for the Agriculture Committee's plate this year is to make sure that USDA implements the 2008 Farm Bill in a way that is consistent with Congressional intent. The committee will start to hold hearings on the 2012 Farm Bill as early as this spring.
Agriculture is a bull's-eye industry for an energy tax because it is energy-intensive. Whether it is fuel in the tractor, fertilizer for crops, or delivery of food to the grocery store, agriculture uses a great deal of energy throughout production. On average, 65 percent of farmers' variable input costs are fuel, electricity, fertilizer, and chemicals. Even a small increase in operating costs for our producers will be devastating to American agriculture.
Last year the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) signed an "endangerment finding" stating that greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, "threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations." These findings pave the way for EPA regulation of emissions even though the EPA has admitted that it has not evaluated possible job losses or shifts in employment that may occur due to its rules and regulation.
At the end of the day, the EPA endangerment finding and increased regulation is just another massive intrusion of government into the U.S. economy. This action has the potential to stifle economic growth and kill jobs, especially in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors. New EPA permitting processes and rules will cost billions of dollars to implement and could potentially affect millions of small emitters such as farms, hotels, hospitals, churches, and various other small businesses. The rules will inject uncertainty into the economy, delay or halt new construction, and deter investment.
To combat the aggressive overreach of the EPA, I have cosponsored legislation introduced by Representatives Ike Skelton (D-MO), Collin Peterson (D-MN) and Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) that would prevent the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the authority of the Clean Air Act, as well as change federal law to strengthen America's renewable fuels industry.
Just like in business, the government needs to get out of the way and let farmers work their land. Our farmers were the first conservationists and environmentalists, and I will continue to listen to their concerns and work hard on their behalf because they help feed and fuel our nation.