(The Center Square) – The impact of the Climate Commitment Act of 2021 loomed large at Tuesday afternoon’s press conference by state Senate Republicans detailing their “Cultivate Washington” agriculture agenda for the 2024 legislative session.
The cap-and-trade portion of the CCA, which went into effect at the beginning of the year, requires emitters to obtain “emissions allowances” equal to their covered greenhouse gas emissions at quarterly auctions hosted by the Department of Ecology. The agriculture, maritime and aviation sectors are supposed to be exempt from any fuel surcharges fuel companies pass along to customers due to the cap-and-trade program.
“We have not gotten that,” Sen. Perry Dozier, R-Waitsburg, said. “What we have seen in the past few years – especially this year – is the cost of our fuels ratcheting up more and more and more, especially this year.”
Dozier is a wheat farmer who has owned and managed irrigated and dryland farming operations in Walla Walla and Columbia counties for more than 35 years.
Earlier this year, the state Department of Ecology touted progress in carve-outs for select industries to fuel surcharges due to cap-and-trade.
During this year’s legislative session, Dozier was the lead sponsor of Senate Bill 5728 to develop a process to implement exemptions for certain fuels under the CCA. But the legislation didn’t even get a committee hearing.
“This is something we were told when the CCA was enacted that they would honor this,” a skeptical Dozier said. “I will be presenting this bill again this next session.”
Dozier took a shot at Inslee’s prediction before cap-and-trade was implemented that it would have a negligible impact on fuel prices.
“And, of course, the governor at the time said that the Climate Commitment Act would only add pennies to the cost of fuel,” he said. “Obviously, we’ve seen that this is not correct. And so what we’ve seen is a huge increase.”
Republicans contend cap-and-trade has increased fuel prices by 50 cents per gallon in Washington.
Fuel is a big component of inputs in farming, Dozier said, before going on to excoriate Inslee’s electrification plans.
“I mean, you won’t get to an electrified tractor that can do what we need to do at this point,” he said. “You won’t get to electrified trucks to haul our products – what you can do at this point right now. That being said, the Department of Ecology did not honor that.”
Farmers are still caught between the state and refining companies over the CCA’s carbon fuel tax, according to Dozier.
“It’s something that still needs to be discussed because that’s what we were told by Ecology, who is administering the program,” Dozier said.
Agriculture is big business in Washington.
“Agriculture here in Washington state, we generate $49 billion annually to the state’s economy,” Dozier said.
Washington-grown or processed food and agriculture exports totaled $8 billion in 2022, according to the state Department of Agriculture.
Other press conference attendees included Sen. Ron Muzzall, R-Whidbey Island, Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, and Sen. Shelly Short, R-Addy.
“Cultivate Washington” priorities also include reducing the regulatory burden on farming operations while balancing the interests of farmworkers, promoting new opportunities for the state to support small- and mid-sized farms, continuing work toward a reliable supply of water for crops and farm housing, seeking a balance between the needs of wildlife and the needs of farming operations, and working toward a renewed public appreciation for agriculture.