WASHINGTON — House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn. and Ranking Member Frank Lucas, R-Okla. received a letter from the National Pork Producers Council on June 18 stating its opposition to climate change legislation, which it charged will further raise pork production costs. Next week, the "American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009," H.R. 2454, could come up for a vote in the House of Representatives.

Among other things, the bill would set a limit, or cap, on the amount of greenhouse gases that specific large industries such as energy utilities could release to the atmosphere. A business that has an emissions amount that falls below its cap could sell the unused amount up to the cap as offset credits; one that exceeds its cap would need to buy credits or reduce its emissions. Uncapped sectors could also sell offset credits for adopting practices and technologies that reduce emissions. H.R. 2454 treats agriculture as an uncapped sector.

"America’s pork producers are intensely concerned over any policy proposals that will further raise the cost of production," the N.P.P.C. letter stated. "In particular, producers fear the impact that H.R. 2454 will have on the cost of electricity, diesel fuel, grain, propane, animal health products, fertilizer, chemicals, farm equipment and materials such as steel and concrete that are necessary for the continued operations of their farms and well-being of their animals."

Pork producers are already losing about $30 for every hog sold. "Any additional costs will drive them deeper and more firmly into financial despair," the letter stated.

Under the proposed climate change legislation, N.P.P.C. anticipates an increase in energy and input costs of more than 20%. It also doesn’t believe revenues from the sale of greenhouse gas offset credits will balance that increase. In addition, the association is wary of the impact the legislation would have on pork producers’ ability to compete fairly in world export markets.

N.P.P.C. stated if Congress insists on passing a climate-change bill, several areas in the bill must be improved before it could support it -- including the bill designate the U.S. Department of Agriculture, rather than the Environmental Protection Agency, as the lead agency on designing and implementing the agricultural greenhouse gas offset credits program and on developing any regulations affecting livestock producers.

Tremendous advances have already been made by livestock producers in reducing their carbon footprint – and the bill needs to more clearly address and account for this fact. Since 1990, production agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions have increased only 3.5% while U.S. meat production has increased 40%; since 1948, manure generated by U.S. meat-producing animals has been reduced 25% while production of meat has increased 700%. N.P.P.C. pointed out.