WAWG president testifies again in carbon tax hearing

Ryan Poe, president of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers testified today in a hearing in the Senate Environment, Energy and Technology Committee on SB 5373, a carbon tax bill. You can watch the hearing here. Below is Poe’s testimony.

Good morning Chair Carlyle and members of the committee:

My name is Ryan Poe and I am a fifth generation farmer from Hartline.  My family’s farm is a centennial farm, which means some of our land has been owned since before statehood.  On our farm we grow kids, wheat, canola and beef cattle.

I am also the president of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers, and unfortunately, we are opposed to SB 5373 at this time, but wanted to express our sincere appreciation to Sen. Lovelett for the outreach she has done to the agricultural community to better understand our concerns, specifically that farmers and people living in rural areas are going to be disproportionately impacted by carbon pricing legislation.

Agriculture is simply an energy intensive industry. It relies on energy for tractor fuel, fertilizer, livestock feed and more. Any increase in petroleum and natural gas prices would have a direct effect on the cost of production.

We greatly appreciate that the bill excludes on-farm fuel usage from the tax and provides a five-year exemption for off-farm fuel usage, but are concerned about what happens after that expires. Unlike other industries, when the cost of doing business goes up, farmers cannot simply raise the price tag on our product. The price for most agricultural products is set by the global market, over which we have no control.

Any higher costs we’re faced with—like higher fuel prices caused by a carbon tax—is a financial hit that my farm is expected to absorb somehow. It’s a struggle because we’re already operating on a thin profit.

I’m also concerned about how a carbon tax will affect rural communities. In rural areas, families need to drive farther for everything: for work, for groceries, for medical care. We don’t have access to nearly as much public transportation as people in urban areas do. This means rural families will bear more of the financial burden caused by a cap and trade policy which is an important equity issue.

Wheat farmers across the state are committed to decreasing our carbon footprint because our livelihood depends upon a healthy environment and so does our future.  We are committed to continue these discussions with you.  Thank you for your consideration.