To the Editor:
OPEC, the Arab oil cartel, made clear how to deal with climate change in 1973 when it embargoed America’s oil supply. If we ever wanted to reduce our dependence on oil – which we now must to avoid runaway climate change – oil must be made more expensive. To that end, increasing numbers of nations, in addition to American states such as California and Washington, are promoting carbon taxes to reduce oil consumption.
But without provisions to protect small farmers, carbon taxes will bankrupt them. Eight of every 10 acres in northern Illinois already is owned by absentee investors, farmed by tenants who previously lost farms to bankruptcy. Small farmers today receive only pennies of every food dollar. Paying even more for agrichemicals will ruin them.
Despite subsidized pricing thus far, petrochemicals have torpedoed farmers’ financial security, not to mention their soil health, which is being chemically and mechanically destroyed. The U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates only 60 years of crops left in world soils. This devastation of small farms won’t end until petrochemicals become too expensive to continue nearly universal, self-destructive, “traditional” farming practices. Carbon tax exemptions for farmers only will prolong the deterioration of their soils.
A rising tax on carbon will produce three essential outcomes:
1. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
2. Tax revenue can be redistributed as a dividend to American households to ease the pain of higher-energy prices. Realistically, only the lower half of the income distribution should receive this help. The upper half doesn’t need it.
3. The remaining revenue instead should pay farmers to transition to regenerative, no-till farming, which restores soil health, sequesters carbon, grows healthier food and benefits farmers through lower production costs and premium-priced products to sell locally. It’s not a handout. Farmers earn every penny. Everyone benefits from more sustainable local farms. Pragmatically, they guarantee we still can feed ourselves locally, even after affordable oil becomes unavailable.
Contact your congressperson and demand a tax on carbon to reverse climate change, linked by law to payments to farmers for switching to regenerative, no-till farming. Then fight climate change by buying local regenerative food.
Donovan C. Wilkin
McHenry-Lake County Soil and Water Conservation District associate director