OLYMPIA — A Seattle Democrat called agriculture an “enthusiastic supporter” of cap-and-trade, a claim disputed by several farm groups that say they still oppose the policy because it would raise energy costs.
At a recent committee meeting, Sen. Reuven Carlyle said agriculture was once “one of the strongest opponents,” but now backs cap-and-trade “because they’re receiving funding for reforestation programs.”
The Washington Farm Bureau’s position hasn’t changed; it opposes cap-and-trade, director of government relations Tom Davis said Monday.
“I’m not aware of any agriculture organization that has been supportive,” he said. “It (Carlyle’s remark) misrepresents what has been said in the public domain.”
Carlyle’s spokesman said the senator was too busy Monday to comment. His staff did not provide any information to support his statement.
Carlyle, chairman of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee, has led the charge to adopt cap-and-trade, a pillar of Gov. Jay Inslee’s climate agenda.
Manufacturers and fuel refineries would bid for a declining number of permits to emit carbon. The auctions are expected to initially raise roughly $500 million a year for government spending.
Traditionally known as cap-and-trade, the policy is now called “cap-and- invest” by Democrats.
“I would suggest that many years ago the agriculture community was one of the strongest opponents to a cap-and-invest program and now they’re (an) enthusiastic supporter,” Carlyle said March 22.
Cap-and-trade potentially pushes up the cost of electricity, transportation fuels and other products. Several agricultural groups, such as the Washington Association of Wheat Growers and Food Northwest, have testified against cap-and-trade this session.
No farm group has signed in to support the policy, according to a Senate report.
Agriculture lobbyist Ben Buchholz said he was unaware of any Washington farm group that supports cap-and-trade.
“I don’t know where Sen. Carlyle came up with that,” said Buchholz, executive director of the Northwest Agricultural Cooperative Council. “We do not support cap-and-trade.”
The cap-and-trade legislation, Senate Bill 5126, has passed two Senate committees, but has yet to be voted on by the full Senate. If passed by the Senate, it would go to the House for hearings.
“We’ll be opposing it,” said Mark Streuli, who lobbies for the Washington Cattlemen’s Association and trade groups representing potato and onion farmers.
If SB 5126 becomes law, the state would distribute some of the money raised at emission-permit auctions for “natural climate resilience solutions.”
The bill suggests farmers could get grants for fuel-efficient equipment and to hold carbon in the ground. To get money, a farmer must pay “family sustaining wages” and pensions, and provide paid family leave and “career development opportunities.”
Also, each proposal would be reviewed for “equity,” including pay to protected classes and assistance to “justice-affected individuals.”
”I can’t imagine there would be many farmers who would qualify,” Davis said.
The Department of Ecology anticipates spending $19.9 million over two years to write rules and implement the bill. The work would occupy the equivalent of 42.6 full-time employees, according to the department.
Carlyle said the bill was “overwhelmingly clear,” a claim challenged by Senate Republican Leader John Braun.
”It is not clear,” Braun told colleagues on the Senate budget committee. “I would suggest if given a quiz on this piece of legislation ... nearly every one of us would fail that quiz.”