OLYMPIA – After Senate Democrats passed a pair of bills Thursday night that would cause gas and diesel prices to skyrocket, Sen. Perry Dozier is warning food costs would rise and small farmers would be driven out of the business.
Dozier, R-Waitsburg, a lifelong wheat grower, called the measures “a poison pill for agriculture” and said they would have the most profound effect on farming of any legislation passed in the last 40 years.
The steep increases in fuel costs are a top priority for majority Democrats in the Legislature this year. The two bills are expected to increase the cost of fuel about 55 cents a gallon by 2028, and nearly 80 cents at full implementation. The measures implement complicated schemes requiring manufacturers and other businesses to purchase “credits” and “allowances” to offset carbon emissions.
House Bill 1091, imposing a low-carbon fuel standards program on Washington, passed the Senate 27-20. Senate Bill 5126, imposing a cap-and-trade program, passed 25-24. Both measures go to the House for further consideration.
The big increases in fuel costs would come in addition to state and federal gas taxes of 67.8 cents a gallon, already the fourth highest in the country, as well as a 9.8-cent increase in transportation-related gas taxes under consideration by this year’s Legislature.
Dozier observed that agriculture is an intense user of fuel and other petroleum-based products including fertilizers. Higher costs will squeeze farmers, who are dependent on market prices for their crops.
“I have been doing this for four decades, living on a farm my entire life,” Dozier said. “I have been through the cycles that we find in agriculture – ups and downs and ups and downs. This will make the downs more prolific and the ups will be so softened we still may not profit.”
Dozier said artificially high fuel costs, forced by state-government mandates, would cripple the vitality of Washington agriculture, reduce the number of family-owned farms, and convince the young to seek other careers.
“The ground will still be farmed, but it will be farmed by much larger farmers,” Dozier said. “We’ll probably see a lot of young kids who won’t consider farming. I have two sons – they’re 24 and 26 – and I’ve encouraged them both to find other jobs and not come back to farming, because it is so volatile. I’m glad that both of them have good degrees and that they have jobs, because [farming] wouldn’t be a future for them.”
During Thursday’s fierce 8-hour debate on the bills, Republicans mounted stiff opposition, many pointing out that the new fuel mixtures mandated by the fuel standards measure tend to gum up older engines, such as those widely used in agricultural farm equipment. They noted that the measures would disproportionately affect the poor and those of low income, and that the bills would have no measurable impact on world climate.
After Dozier spoke on the floor against the fuel standards measure, Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, added, “We need to take it out in Sen. Dozier’s field and bury it.”