MITCHELL, S.D. (AP) -- A Washington-based research organization says climate change will cost farmers far more than pending legislation aimed at curtailing it.

The Environmental Working Group report singled out U.S. Sen. John Thune as one of the "leaders in the agricultural community" who are "shouting that the wolf is at the door."

"Instead of wringing our hands about the negligible costs of a climate bill, Congress should be very worried about how much climate change will cost farmers, our food supply and the environment," the report said.

The House passed a climate-change bill by seven votes in June and the debate has moved over to the Senate. The legislation proposes a cap on greenhouse-gas emissions from air polluters like power plants and industrial factories, and a system for the buying and selling of emission allowances.

Higher emitters would face greater costs and would therefore have an incentive to reduce emissions, according to the logic behind the effort. The goal is to cut down on greenhouse gases thought to be contributing to global climate change.

Thune has spoken out repeatedly against the legislation.

The South Dakota Republican said the potential costs imposed on polluters by the climate-change legislation would be passed on to consumers in the form of increased prices for things such as electricity, gasoline, diesel and fertilizer. Farmers, who rely heavily on energy, could be especially hard-hit if that happens, Thune has said.

The EWG said the cost of inaction on climate change could be devastating.

"The projected cost increases caused by the climate bill are so small they would be lost in the background noise caused by annual swings in farm income from yield variation, crop prices and the cost of seed and chemicals," the EWG report said. "A fertilizer spreader or herbicide sprayer that is out of adjustment would cost farmers more."

Thune's Democratic colleague, Sen. Tim Johnson, has said he is optimistic about the economic potential of the legislation.

"I am optimistic we can turn energy potential into reality and help create new job opportunities at home by producing more clean energy in the United States," he wrote in an August op-ed piece.

Democratic Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin voted against the House climate-change legislation because of "concerns about the negative effects it could have on South Dakota families and businesses, as well as the rushed process for consideration," she said in a June news release.

But she added that she believes it's imperative for Congress to address climate change.


Information from: The Daily Republic,

Copyright 2009 The AP.

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