WAWG member submits testimony on HB 1091

Last week, Washington Association of Wheat Growers board member Michele Kiesz volunteered to testify on HB 1091 (proposal for adoption of a low carbon fuel standard) in front of the House Environment and Energy Committee. Unfortunately, the hearing ran out of time before Michele’s turn to testify came up, so instead WAWG submitted the following as written testimony.

“Chair Fitzgibbon, Ranking Member Dye and members of the committee,

For the record, my name is Michele Kiesz, and I’m a 4th generation wheat farmer from Adams County near Ritzville and a 4th generation deep-well irrigator in the Columbia Basin near Moses Lake. I’m a board member for the Washington Association of Wheat Growers and a member of the Washington State Farm Bureau. I’m here today to testify opposed to House Bill 1091, the low carbon fuel standard (LCFS).

As farmers, there are very few people that rely on a healthy environment as much we do. Farmers across the state engage in a number of conservation and environmental stewardship programs to do our part to grow your food in as efficient and sustainable way as possible.

We are also price-takers, meaning that we have little power to negotiate the prices of our products and cannot recoup the added costs that an LCFS would add to our fuel bills. Wheat prices are set by global markets, not local producers.

While we are appreciative of the exemption for dyed special fuel used for agricultural purposes, that is limited to diesel used on the farm itself and does not account for the fuel needed to transport our products to market.  Every input I use has to be imported or transported into my area, and after I use these products, I then have to transport my crops out. This bill will continue to peck away at any profit that I may or may not get with the sale of those crops.

An LCFS would raise fuel prices anywhere from the 19¢ (gas) to 21¢ (diesel) per gallon already seen in California to the 57¢ (gas) to 63¢ (diesel) per gallon estimated by Washington’s own Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (PSCAA).

The California legislature’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst Office also found that California’s LCFS has not resulted in meaningful greenhouse gas reductions and PSCAA’s report on their LCFS proposal did not include estimates of expected carbon reductions. So, not only is the program costly, it’s also likely ineffective at actually reducing carbon emissions.

Farmers are also concerned about the impact an LCFS would have on the state’s transportation needs. The increased costs of an LCFS would make it harder to raise money for needed transportation improvements across the state in both urban areas and Eastern Washington farm country.

Under this bill, the only thing that would remain the same for us is the price for our wheat traded on the global market. Meanwhile, here in Washington, it would be increasingly hard to compete, and our overseas competitors will benefit as they watch us struggle to survive.

Small farm consolidation is another risk raised by this bill. We hear a lot about fears of large corporate farms and the need to protect family farms from being absorbed by big industry.  However, policies like LCFS make it more and more difficult for the small family farm to survive and makes it more likely that large corporate conglomerates will scoop us up.

For my family, only one of our 4 sons has chosen to remain to continue the tradition and be the 5th generation on our farm.  Today’s high costs of equipment and operation would make the transition impossible for our son without our willingness to help him acquire the business.   Every time cost of operating farms increases, it makes it more difficult for our sons and daughters to come back and continue the tradition of family farming.

Wheat Growers support carbon reduction policies that recognize agricultural practices as a benefit to the environment, complement existing policies, do not impose inefficient costs on Washington agriculture and do not make wheat growers less competitive in the global market. LCFS does not meet those criteria.

Please vote no on this bill so that we can continue to grow the world’s safest food supply on these multi-generational farms.

Michele Kiesz”