Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Climate Change Summit

This morning I joined Gov. Perry and commissioners from the Texas Public Utility Commission, Railroad Commission and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for a climate change summit.

Right now it is critical for us to take a stand. The current administration and some in Congress are pushing an environmental agenda that threatens the very livelihood of Texas farmers and ranchers. We must navigate this debate with a balanced approach enlightened by the reality that a clean environment and a strong economy can co-exist, and likely can benefit from one another. You can hear a small portion of my speech by clicking here or read the full text below.

Thank you, Gov. Perry for your leadership on this issue. I want to also say thank you to commissioners from the Texas Public Utility Commission, Railroad Commission and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Texas Commission for Environmental Quality for holding this climate change summit today.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (HR 2454) has been rightly called the Cap & Trade bill because if passed it will most assuredly cap economic activity, cap productivity and trade American jobs overseas.

In fact, it could have many names: it could be the
Pay More to Heat Your Home bill,
Pay More for the Food You Eat bill, or
Pay More for the Clothes You Wear bill.

At a time when Washington debates solutions for those without access to affordable healthcare in America, it contemplates this legislation, which will - if passed - add to the rolls of the uninsured.

How so? HR 2454 will add a new layer of uncertainty into the market place. It will, by the proponents’ own admission, increase the cost of energy and will be punitive not just to Texans, but to all Americans.

Uncertainty, volatility and lack of predictability freeze investment. In short, it costs jobs.

Cost of implementation of this legislation is all over the map. The most conservative estimates are from the bill sponsors, who say it will cost American families less than a postage stamp per day.

When did our country become so consumed with change that we have allowed our debate on policy to move from if it will cost, to who is right on how much it will cost?

Does anyone but me find it ironic they chose a postage stamp for a cost analogy? A stamp whose price tag has increased 144% since I graduated from high school in 1981. And, more importantly, the very future of our postal system is in doubt today.

American agriculture produces the safest, most affordable, most reliable food supply in the world.

HR 2454 threatens the ability for continued domestic food production.

The proponents’ own analysis says that total farm expenses could increase by $700 million each year. This is a far cry from the American Farm Bureau economists’ predictions that the bill will cost U.S. farmers approximately $5 billion in farm income each year by 2020, increasing to $13 billion annually by 2030.

They are not alone. The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau says the economics don’t add up for agriculture. They say this is akin to playing Russian roulette on energy issues. They say we are forfeiting America’s competitiveness.

I am proud of the fact that in Texas, agriculture contributes almost 9.5 percent of our GSP. Texas leads the nation in the production of cattle, cotton, sheep and goats, and is among the leading states in the production of citrus, vegetables, poultry products, sorghum, wheat and rice.

USDA claims agriculture can see net benefits in the long-term. Do you want me to tell you how they define long term? 2048! What will the price of a postage stamp be then?

Consumers might ask: How many farmers will even survive to the middle of this century?

The recently completed U.S. Census of Agriculture says the average age of the U.S. farmer has risen to age 57. Alarmingly, the number of farmers under age 25 has decreased by 30 percent since 2002.

The biggest factors blocking access to young people entering production agriculture are volatility and increased costs. Volatility and increased costs are the only two certain elements with this proposed climate change legislation.

Americans do not like being dependent on foreign oil. We cannot, and we must not, become dependent on foreign food.

From the House Committee on Energy and Commerce's Web site, the bill sponsors and advocates:

“Because of its balanced approach, the American Clean Energy and Security Act has received broad support from industry and environmentalists. Passage of the bill in the House was supported by electric utilities, oil companies, car companies, chemical companies, major manufacturers, environmental organizations, efficiency advocates, agricultural interests, labor organizations, and representatives of the faith community, among many others.”

I am a person of faith, and I’ll tell you what I believe: These guys just don’t get it.

An article from an American Farm Bureau publication points out, “Climate change supporters claim there will be droughts, floods, fire, loss of species, damage to agriculture, worsening air pollution and more, if the Senate does not pass the Climate Change bill.”

To draw from a recent Walter Williams article, “Are these the same people that in 1968 predicted there would be a major food shortage in the U.S., and in the 1970s, hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death.

“Or, in 1972, warned the world would run out of gold by 1981, mercury and silver by 1985, tin by 1987 and petroleum, copper, lead and natural gas by 1992.”

Either they are wrong or Texans are wrong. And we know Texans aren’t wrong. Here is how we know; it is supported by the facts. Let me tell you about the Texas experience.

In the last two years, if Texas were its own country, Texas had the highest GDP per person compared to the world’s largest economies. In a direct comparison of Texas with the U.S., U.K., Canada and France, Texas tops the charts at No. 1 in productivity per person.

Let me be perfectly clear: We must practice environmental stewardship. Agriculturalists are the original environmental stewards. Farmers know better than anyone you must take care of the land for it to take care of you.

In the words of our 34th President Dwight Eisenhower, “Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.”
Maybe Congress should continue this debate in the cornfields of America.

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