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    Op-Ed
    Saturday, March 02, 2024

    State farmers need help, not EV mandates without a plan

    Connecticut farmers are hard working. Agriculture is a $4 billion industry here, and likewise a vital part of our economy. Farmers pay taxes. They create approximately 22,000 jobs. They grow the food we need. However, farming is not easy. Many farms are finding it hard to make ends meet given the lingering economic effects from the pandemic, high inflation’s impact on the cost of feed and resources, and the state’s soaring energy costs. We all understand the economic headwinds still hitting us. Farmers are not insulated from it.

    Now is a time to renew help for farmers, many of whom were hurt by a bad cold snap and then flooding earlier this year. But the state and majority Democrats in the legislature are taking actions that will hurt farmers. That is wrong.

    A state mandate to significantly phase out new gas-powered trucks will hurt an already fragile farming community. This electric truck mandate stems from a 2004 law tying us to California’s very strict emissions standards. Many years later, executive action by the Governor and regulatory decision-making by state government has us now tied even more to what is happening on the West Coast.

    I share the serious concerns of the many farmers with whom I have talked, and the concerns raised by the Connecticut Farm Bureau (I am a proud Friend of Agriculture member). Farmers rely upon their equipment. From transporting food and goods to vendors across the state and beyond, or everyday farm operations to produce these goods, trucks do it all.

    Beyond heavy duty trucks, pick-up trucks are almost universal to every farm, big or small. When farmers need to replace them, they need reasonable choices regarding what they need and can afford. The proposed state mandate removes this individual decision-making. Why tell a farmer what he or she can and cannot do? What we should be doing is asking them what we can do to help. That is what I do.

    My concerns are real. Will electric vehicles be affordable? How will they perform in adverse conditions? How will farms pay for or find charging stations? Where will all the extra electricity come from and the expanded infrastructure to distribute it? Who will pay for it? Might it be taxpayers like you? Can you afford it?

    As we have seen, businesses cannot absorb rising costs and more unfunded mandates. These costs are transferred to you. How will you afford the increased prices that would get passed onto food, goods and services?

    Adding to concerns is that even without the EV mandate, real challenges exist as to how Connecticut will fulfill the rising demand for electricity. Connecticut relies on natural gas for 56 percent of its electricity generation. An EV mandate that spikes electricity demand without enough alternative sources in place could mean burning more natural gas, which is bad for air quality and the environment.

    Before acting through mandates, it is important to plan appropriately and carefully. This planning should include all stakeholders, including farmers, businesses and you.

    You do not need overly simplistic political mandates that are rushed to be enacted. We in Connecticut lack input into what is going on in California. We should be deciding what is best for us, not letting others elsewhere decide for us. Even worse, state government is not taking the needed time to hear from us.

    A limited public hearing on this topic occurred on one day in August. I asked for the hearing to be delayed, allowing more time for people to know what is going on and to participate. My request was denied. I then asked for the hearing comment period to be extended. Only one additional week was granted by state government.

    The entire legislature, as your elected representation, does not get to review and vote upon the new EV rules. Only the 14 members of the legislature’s Regulation Review Committee get to do that. This is the wrong process to follow on such an impactful set of mandates. Instead, the legislature should hold public hearings, listen to what you have to say, debate the policy proposal and make informed decisions.

    My Senate Republican colleagues and I are not a party of ‘no.’ We are the people who know that having an EV mandate with no plan is bad for Connecticut.

    I support reasonable, responsible and realistic efforts to deal with environmental concerns. Already, more people and businesses are buying electric vehicles without mandates. I welcome and support innovations in the EV market. Farmers and families need choices, not mandates. I am listening to what you have to say, and I am fighting for your voice to be heard.

    Sen. Jeff Gordon represents Connecticut’s 35th Senatorial District that includes the towns of Ashford, Chaplin, Coventry, Eastford, Ellington, Hampton, Stafford, Thompson, Tolland, Union, Vernon, Willington and Woodstock.

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