The goal for the U.S. to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, as it currently is proposed, will create undue hardships for rural Americans and, specifically, farmers, according to U.S. Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA, 8th District).
Scott, who is a member of both the House Ag Committee and the House Committee on Armed Services, shared his opinions on the goal during last week’s agriculture subcommittee hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives. The hearing was a result of the proposal, which was announced by House Democrats on June 30.
“The first thing that we need to understand is that the people that are driving the agenda on the left, the Environmental Defense Fund and others, do not like production agriculture,” Scott told AgriTalk Host Chip Flory on Tuesday. “If they had their way, everything would be small organic farms.”
Scott noted that one Georgia farmer who was part of the hearing last week does use organic production practices, which Scott said usually results in higher priced food products.
“I would tell the American citizens that he sells a small chicken for $20.99 on his website and four dozen eggs for $30,” Scott said. “There's a certain segment of America that is extremely wealthy and is capable of paying those prices. But if you want to walk into the grocery store and buy a rotisserie chicken for $6, then you need to understand the end result of these environmental policies that they want to apply to the farm is the end of that $6 rotisserie chicken.”
Flory interjected that he believes organic farming enterprises are viable options today in some scenarios. “If consumers want to buy the products, and producers can fill the demand and make a premium, good for them,” he said.
Flory added that his challenge is, “I don’t see how organic and sustainability go together—not a $20 chicken.”
Scott replied that he is keenly focused on profitability, which he views as a key part of sustainability.
“I’m from the South and from the farm, and I recognize if the bills don’t get paid then the tractor doesn’t run in the fields,” he said. “If there are (sustainable production practices) that are cost-effective, farmers will do those things—we just don’t want to mandate those things from Washington D.C.”
More of Scott’s comments during the AgriTalk segment are available here:
In his statements before the subcommittee last week, Scott added that he is prepared to work in a bipartisan manner to improve upon current programs and find new solutions to climate issues. “However, I will not support an extreme climate agenda that fails to consider that rural Americans will have to shoulder the burden of these staff proposals.”
Scott said he is sensitive to farmers’ current economic plight and that his district still struggles as result of Hurricane Michael, which swept through southwest Georgia in October of 2018. The storm caused more than $2.5 billion in losses to the state’s agriculture industry, according to estimates from University of Georgia Cooperative Extension economists.
“We lost a tremendous amount of capital, due to natural disaster,” Scott said. “Production has been good (since then), but the prices… quite honestly, if the yields aren’t record yields, we’re still upside down. There’s no margin left.”
Scott said he is advocating for another round of Market Facilitation Program (MFP) assistance to farmers and ranchers.
“Let’s be honest…MFP is not the long-term solution to the crisis we have in farming country right now,” Scott said. “But we have got to get the value of our products high enough so that good farmers can make their bills if they’re doing their jobs, and we’re not there right now.”
Flory added that he believes the ongoing pandemic has exposed some of the vulnerabilities in the supply chain. He also asked Scott about his concerns regarding foreign ownership of some parts of the U.S. food supply.
“It’s not just foreign ownership—it’s them injecting things into our food supply that concerns me,” Scott said. “You’ve got African swine flu out there in China and other parts of the world. We have to protect our food supply from those invasive diseases and invasive species.
"We've seen now where people are receiving packets of seed from China that are unmarked and that they didn’t order," he adds. "Certainly, if you look at what the python has done to the Florida Everglades and the destruction of that habitat, we have to be very careful in this country of what we bring into our country and the damage that it can do to our food supply, and we don’t talk enough about that.”