Word on Wheat: Climate Issue Shows It’s Vital to Be Involved

July 24, 2009 Bookmark and Share

Eric Hasselstrom, NAWG Environment and Renewable Resources Committee Vice Chairman

It is the middle of summer and, after a very wet spring, the transition to a scorcher was quick in the Pacific Northwest.  For those Idaho farmers able to beat the prevented planting date, the wheat crop from our northern border with Canada to the Wyoming state line looks good.

The U.S. Congress is also experiencing its fair share of volatile weather this summer. The “hot” topic in our nation’s capital lately has been the debate over how to develop a national climate change policy to stem man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

On behalf of wheat growers, NAWG has engaged in the national debate from the outset – putting growers in the front seat of the climate change bus.  As a director on the NAWG Board and through my leadership role within NAWG, I have advocated for legislation that is comprehensive, science-based and a net benefit to producers.  It was clear to me, NAWG and its member-states that the climate train was rolling fast down the legislative tracks.

In June, the train arrived at the station when H.R. 2454, which would regulate carbon emissions in the United States, passed the House of Representatives. After careful negotiations and hard work by key members in Congress and groups like NAWG, the final bill lessened the regulatory burden on agriculture while providing an opportunity for net benefit to some grain producers.

In my current role as president of the Idaho Grain Producers Association, wrapping my arms around the climate change issue is difficult. Its complexity causes even renowned scientists to disagree with each other. In general, Idaho growers do not believe in the climate change theory and are concerned that the added costs of any legislation will outweigh the benefits.  Regardless, my job is to represent the views of Idaho’s wheat growers within NAWG as best I can.

While the climate change issue has proved controversial in all facets, including within NAWG, I believe it has highlighted how critical our national organizations are in even finding a seat on the “bus”. If NAWG did not exist, wheat growers around the country would be at a major disadvantage in the deliberations of Congress. Thus, our livelihoods would be in jeopardy with only ourselves to blame.

The controversial issue of climate change will directly impact everyone – from the average consumer, to farmers, to manufacturers, our communities and the ecosystems in which we live. For the past few years, an international movement has successfully brought climate change to the forefront in the minds of the American public and the Congressional agenda – and ultimately to farmers’ doorsteps.

Thankfully the work of our national leaders and those producers active in their state associations has kept NAWG viable and proactive on our behalf. However our work is far from over. In September, the climate change bill will meet its next hurdle in the Senate. NAWG and other leaders from around the country will spend hours working to get the best deal possible for wheat producers.  I encourage more producers to make their voices heard.

– Hasselstrom is a wheat producer from Winchester, Idaho.