Congress must take prompt, decisive action now in order to avert a major energy crisis, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. U.S. farmers and ranchers in particular must have access to reliable, affordable energy inputs if they are to continue providing affordable food and fiber for the United States and the world, Missouri corn and soybean farmer Charlie Kruse told Congress.

Testifying before a House Small Business sub-committee, Kruse, president of the Missouri Farm Bureau and a member of the AFBF Board of Directors, said the United States’ failed energy policy cost U.S. agriculture more than $6 billion in added expenses during the 2003 and 2004 growing seasons.

Natural gas is especially important to agriculture, Kruse explained, because it is used to produce nitrogen fertilizers and farm chemicals, as well as electricity for lighting, heating, irrigation, and grain drying. Natural gas can account for nearly 95 percent of the cost of nitrogen fertilizer.

“Between 2000 and 2003, the average retail cost of nitrogen fertilizer skyrocketed from $100 per ton to more than $350 per ton,” Kruse said.

According to Kruse and Farm Bureau, domestic exploration and recovery of energy resources using sensible, environmentally sound methods must begin immediately. Greater use of renewable energy sources including ethanol and biodiesel also will go a long way toward solving our nation’s energy woes, Kruse said.

Farm Bureau also supports incentives for the use of clean coal technology in electric power generation and the use of nuclear energy.

Also testifying at the hearing was Georgia farmer Ben Boyd, who chairs the AFBF Young Farmer and Rancher Committee. Testifying on his own behalf, Boyd told the committee, “Natural gas is a critical resource for nearly every farmer in America.”

Boyd also said farmers cannot keep paying more and more for energy inputs. “We have cut our costs as much as we can,” he said. “We need help and reducing energy-related input costs is a good place to start.”