Carbon Pricing and Farmers
Ask any farmer in Western MA, climate change is already accelerating. Do everything you can to reduce carbon emissions.” — David Jackson, Enterprise Farms, Whately MA
Farmers are on the front lines for increasing weather variability and will also be effected by the proposed solutions for lowering our emissions. Carbon pricing is an essential strategy being discussed in MA and the legislature needs to hear from you! Find out more below.
How Carbon Pricing Works
“The carbon pricing bill would help us operate on a level playing field — one in which, ultimately, pricing would more closely reflect the cost of doing business the right way.” — Lincoln Fishman, Sawyer Farm, Worthington MA
A price on carbon that reflects pollution and global warming costs will level the playing field for alternative green energy, spur conservation, efficiency and technological innovation.
A carbon fee-and-rebate program collects fees and then immediately plows revenues back in the form of a rebate. Basically, you get back in a rebate what you pay in by paying more for fuel. This puts an economic “signal” on fossil fuels. The less fossil fuels you use, the more you benefit from the rebate. And the fee is phased in to give you time to adjust.
Over 20 countries around the world have done something like this and it works! For example, British Columbia put in a fee-and-rebate system, and their economy has been the best of all the provinces, while they’ve also done better than others in reducing global warming pollution.
The analysis done by the MA Department of Energy Resources showed that carbon pricing can be good for our economy, good for poor and middle class consumers, and good for jobs.
Reducing our reliance on imported oil and gas and building our clean energy sector is both strong economic policy and strong environmental policy.
Interested in learning more? Here are some useful resources.
(Click to read)
What’s happening in Massachusetts
This is a big year for MA climate and energy policy. The legislature is working to get specific about what it will take to meet MA Global Warming Solutions Act mandates (to reduce emissions 25% by 2020 and 60% by 2050), and is making new policies for how we support solar and other forms of renewable energy. At the same time, land owners and other citizens around the state are protesting the Kinder Morgan NED Pipeline slated to go through private and public land. The time to identify and push for real solutions is now! Carbon pricing is an essential strategy for aligning everyday decisions based on cost with the emissions reduction goals of the Global Warming Solutions Act.
Two carbon pricing bills are now in the legislature, by Senators Michael Barrett (S1747) and Marc Pacheco (S1786). Sen. Barrett’s bill is a revenue-neutral carbon fee-and-rebate bill, which means all revenues go directly back to citizens and businesses. Barrett’s bill gives extra rebate money to groups like rural drivers who have to travel longer distances and use more gas. His bill also provides for extra rebates to help industries that are more impacted than others. Sen. Pacheco’s bill is less specific than Sen. Barrett’s. Pacheco’s bill rebates 80% of the revenue and spends the rest on clean energy and public transportation.
The Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy (TUE) joint committee that is reviewing these bills wants to hear what farmers think about carbon pricing – so your voice is needed! The Fair Carbon Pricing Coalition is working to make carbon pricing part of Massachusetts’ strategy for meeting Global Warming Solutions Act mandates. We want to hear from you too!
What MA Carbon Pricing Legislation Means for Farmers
“The severe climate disruptions brought by climate change are much more of an economic threat to us on the farm. A fee is something we can budget for and make smart decisions around as we run our farm business. Severe climate events we cannot” — Andrew Kurowski and Meredith Wecker the Benson Place, Heath MA
Carbon pricing will attach a fee to gasoline, diesel, and other fossil fuels. Initially it may seem like a carbon fee would raise costs for farmers but the rebate will actually return this fee back to farmers. Farmers that focus on efficiency, conservation, and/or implementing clean energy alternative will come out ahead. And as we reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuels we also become more resilient to uncontrollable market price spikes.
In practical terms, if the Barrett bill passes, the price of gasoline will rise about 9 cents a gallon in the first year, when the carbon fee is $10 per ton. When the fee reaches $40/ton in year seven, the increase will be about 35 cents a gallon. Oil and diesel fuel will be similar. The fee is phased in so people can get used to the impact and plan for how to reduce their use of carbon-based fossil-fuels. Meanwhile you’ll get a rebate based on your number of employees, and also rebates per person in your family. The bill also provides extra rebates for rural people who have to drive more, and for industries harder hit by higher fuel prices. All of these provisions will help farmers.
The sponsors of this bill want to make this work for farmers, so if you have questions, suggestions, or concerns, let us know and we’ll get them answered — or connect you to people who will.
So much of the energy used in the food sector is in transportation/ marketing/ distribution (about 80%), while so little is consumed on MA farms themselves; typically less than 20%. — Michael Docter, Winter Moon Roots, Hadley MA
Here’s How You Can Help!
Simple Actions YOU can take
- Send a letter to help get the carbon pricing bill S.1747 out of committee
Every letter from a Mass resident matters! Farmers and food-system voices are particularly helpful – the legislative committee wants to hear from you!
- Write to Gov. Baker to make fair carbon pricing part of the Commonwealth’s climate strategy. Gov. Baker is a big fan of market-based solutions. In survey after survey, over 90% of economists say the most efficient and effective way to reduce climate pollution is through market-based policies that put a price on carbon.
- Business owners, sign the Business Leaders for Climate Action Letter
- Share this page on Facebook or Twitter or email your friends.
- MA legislature needs to hear from farmers on proposed MA #climateaction like #carbonpricing. Learn more and weigh in
- Help your friends to take action too
If you’re willing to do a little work to urge friends and relatives in other parts of MA to support the bill, you can take these steps:
- Ask your friend or relative who their State Rep and Senator are (or lookup their town here)
- See if they’re on the TUE committee – by clicking this link (Click here to send a letter) you will get a complete list of the committee where the bill currently sits.
- If they’re on the committee, send the link to your friend or relative and ask them to send the letter – help them if they need it!
Learn More (References)
Bill line items
Provision to give more money back to drivers who live in rural districts: Lines 70-85: “The commissioner of energy resources shall set the amount of the individual rebate or rebates to residents; provided, that each resident shall receive an equal rebate, except that residents of rural municipalities shall receive an additional motor vehicle fuel rebate.”
Provision to give more money back to harder-hit industries: Lines 99-105: Barrett’s bill also has a part that allows heavily impacted industries to receive a larger part of the rebate. What it calls for, for example, is that the combine total fee paid by an industry, say farming, is then rebated back to that industry.
What Farmers Are Saying – Full Testimonials
Andrew Kurowski and Meredith Wecker the Benson Place, Heath MA: “We operate a 33 acre lowbush blueberry farm.. The blueberries are our primary source of income. We fully support the carbon tax bills on hand. Here on the farm this would mean an increase in our expenses and still I want to see this tax come through. This is because I believe that the biggest costs are to come and they are the costs of climate change. I believe that the severe climate disruptions brought by climate change are much more of an economic threat to us on the farm. A tax we can budget for and make smart decisions around as we run our farm business. Severe climate events we cannot. They are unpredictable and hurt us in a more costly way. That is why, to me, this tax is economically prudent. Now is the time, as a society, to consciously choose to spend more on carbon knowing that that will trigger shifts towards smarter energy sources and save us so much more money across the long-term. I can tell you that by my conscience I am happy to pay more money on carbon knowing that our society is moving towards a safer world for ourselves and our children. Farming is a business but it is also stewardship. Let us all be good stewards. Please support this bill to put a tax on carbon.”
Michael Docter, Winter Moon Roots, Hadley MA: “As a Hadley farmer who sells most of my production locally and throughout MA I can say that one of the best things that happens is when fuel prices go up. So much of the energy used in the food sector is in transportation/marketing/distribution (about 80%), while so little is consumed on MA farms themselves; typically less than 20%. A MA fuel tax won’t disadvantage MA farmers significantly, especially if we can get the rest of the states to follow suit and especially as we continue to localize our food supply. So I feel quite strongly that a carbon tax is essential.”
David Jackson, Enterprise Farms, Whately MA: “I’m in favor of this bill, especially if you take into account producing something vs. recreational use. Tractors don’t really use a lot of fuel, but transport to market is expensive. If I drive to Boston where people need what I produce, and the fuel is being used productively, this kind of driving should get more credit. When we’re running out of fuel as a society, we should help out the people who are feeding us – the farmers. Climate change is hitting farmers very hard already. Don’t fool yourself. Within 5 years, being able to grow food outdoors is going to get harder and harder. Ask any farmer in Western MA, climate change is already accelerating. Do everything you can to reduce carbon emissions.”
Lincoln Fishman, Sawyer Farm, Worthington MA: “My wife and I have a sustainable vegetable and meat farm in Worthington and we support this act. This email is to point out a side benefit of this act to sustainable farmers like us. We operate with one hand tied behind our back, as it were, because of our commitment to operating a carbon-neutral business. We use manure and cover crops instead of fertilizers, and we grow healthy plants instead of using herbicides and pesticides. This is an expensive way of doing business in a climate that favors fossil fuel consumption and cheap, subsidized food. Although our customers are willing to pay more for ethical food, the baseline prices at the supermarket are so low that we can’t reasonably charge enough to make minimum wages. The carbon pricing bill would help us operate on a level playing field — one in which, ultimately, pricing would more closely reflect the cost of doing business the right way. Thanks for your support, and for listening to our perspective.”