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This is how devastating the Green New Deal would be for Wisconsin

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To be a dairy farmer in Wisconsin is a daily battle. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Wisconsin lost 700 farms in 2019 — nearly two per day, on average. For three years in a row, Wisconsin led the country in farm bankruptcies. Now, Democrats are pushing the Green New Deal, which, according to Cynthia Leitner, president of the Wisconsin Dairy Alliance, means certain death for dairy in the Dairy State: “If we think we have seen a high exit of farms in Wisconsin in the past several years, this policy will close the door on any dairy surviving.” 

As Axios puts it, the Green New Deal “outlines a 10-year mobilization plan to move the country toward a 100 percent carbon-free power system and a decarbonized economy.” The proposal includes ending the use of fossil fuels, retrofitting every existing building, reaching net-zero carbon emissions from agriculture, overhauling the transportation system, providing a federal job guarantee and universal health care.

The Green New Deal is not some far-left fantasy. It was introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and has 98 co-sponsors in the House, including Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.). It has been supported by leading Democratic presidential contenders, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). And while it is easy for politicians to say on stage or in their glossy campaign memos that they support the Green New Deal, a recent study by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Power the Future, and our organization, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), shows how difficult this would be in reality for Wisconsin, families, farmers and manufacturers.

Accounting for the increases in the cost of electricity, as well as upgrading existing vehicles and buildings, the Green New Deal would cost the average Wisconsin household about $75,000 the first year and $40,000 every year after. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average household income in Wisconsin in 2017 was $59,305. You do the math. The Green New Deal would put the average household completely under water.

One of the hardest hit industries certainly would be agriculture and agriculture-related industries, which in 2017 employed 435,000 Wisconsinites, or 11.8 percent of employed people in the state. Using metrics devised by environmentalists, farmers would be liable for $230 per metric ton of carbon dioxide released. In other words, this carbon tax would cost Wisconsin farmers $2,000 per cow. Yikes! 

The average-size dairy farm in Wisconsin has 150 cows, which would result in a $300,000 annual tax to those farmers. Wisconsin also is home to large dairy farms, known as CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), which are made up of 700 cows or more. For a CAFO of 700 cows, the tax would amount to $1.4 million per year. Even mass production facilities don’t have the type of margins it would take to swallow a tax that big.

As for crop farming, WILL looked at corn and soybean production in Wisconsin, since those are two of the biggest crops in the state. Crop farmers will be hard hit by a move toward organic farming methods the Green New Deal would require. According to our study, because organic farming methods don’t use herbicides or pesticides and don’t genetically modify crops, the net crop yields would be greatly reduced. For example, Dutch researchers found that organic crop yields are, on average, about 11 percent less than crop yields from conventional farming methods. Applying that rate to Wisconsin soybean and corn crop yields alone would result in more than $200 million in annual losses for the industry.

The Green New Deal also would hurt manufacturing in Wisconsin. According to Scott Manley, executive vice president of government relations at Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, “Manufacturing is the number one sector of the Wisconsin economy. The Green New Deal would absolutely threaten the affordability and reliability of energy, and therefore the long-term success and viability of manufacturing and manufacturing jobs. From a macroeconomic level, it’s fundamentally a policy that will kill jobs and inflict significant harm and economic pain on middle-class families.”

When evaluating public policy, it is critical to determine the cost. Green New Deal proponents argue radical, unprecedented changes to the American economy and society are required to combat climate change. But those proponents are, without exaggeration, suggesting that the U.S. enact a plan that would destroy the Wisconsin way of life. It is, in short, a non-starter that moves us further away from consensus approaches to climate change, not closer. Implementing the Green New Deal won’t be as simple as flipping a switch.

Will Flanders, Ph.D., is research director at the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, a nonprofit public interest law firm in Milwaukee. Follow him on Twitter @WillFlandersWI.

Tags Agriculture Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Bernie Sanders Climate change Dairy farming energy costs Green New Deal Mark Pocan Organic farming Wisconsin

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