Electric Vehicle Mandates Crafted in California Weren’t Made for Minnesota’s Farmers, By Wanda Patsche

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As a rooster and a bull have completely different needs, so do the constituents of states across our country. Here in Minnesota, a place far different than California, we are fighting against a “one-size-fits-all” policy that will serve, when implemented, as a detriment to our agricultural community for decades to come. Electric vehicle mandates adversely affect the farming communities in Minnesota and I, as a lifelong Minnesota farmer, urge the state to reconsider this harmful mandate.  At the upcoming annual Minnesota FarmFest in Redwood Falls, fellow farmers should raise awareness about this electric car mandate’s negative consequences on our community.

Government leaders at all levels have put an emphasis on our nation’s transition to electric vehicles. These politicians are positioning these policies as crucial, immediate steps that need to be taken to reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector. From President Biden’s $170 billion dollar earmark in his infrastructure bill, to states like Minnesota and others across the country proposing mandates and additional subsidies for these vehicles and their infrastructure, the momentum is building. And while we all can agree a clean environment and less greenhouse gas emissions should be prioritized, government electric vehicle mandates are not the best path forward. The push to fully transition to EVs comes with serious drawbacks that would inherently limit consumer choice and burden consumers with higher costs – especially here in Minnesota.

If Governor Tim Walz’s administration gets its way, unelected officials in California will control the future of automotive emissions policies in our state – not Minnesota’s elected leaders. The result? A stringent electric vehicle mandate that will harm our state’s farmers, automakers and dealers, consumers, energy suppliers, among other constituencies. Starting in 2024, Minnesota would be forced to require an ever-growing percentage of EVs and vehicle retailers would have to stock an arbitrary number of non-combustion vehicles whether consumers want them or not. This would not only raise the cost of vehicles for Minnesota families and businesses, it would hamstring farmers and rural populations by forcing vehicle choices that make little sense for them. As written, the proposal falls far short of sound policy and common sense.

As for the agricultural community and the biofuels industry in Minnesota, instituting California’s combustion engine vehicle ban would disproportionately harm these sectors. Minnesota is currently the fourth largest ethanol producer in the United States with over 1.3 billion gallons of ethanol produced annually from 18 ethanol plants. In Minnesota, here are roughly 19,000 full-time jobs, and millions in tax revenue that is supported by the ethanol industry alone. An Agricultural Retailers Association study found that if Minnesota puts a ban on combustion-powered vehicles, total U.S. net farm income could decrease up to $27 billion, and both corn and soybean prices would be nearly cut in half. These numbers speak louder than any environmental opinion; Minnesota’s agricultural community must be prioritized for the sake of our entire nation.

Beyond the economic harm, this bill could cause in the future, there have been further injurious effects that have already come from this issue. Governor Walz bypassed the State Senate by forcing through the mandate administrative sanction. Governor Walz neglected his own state legislature’s input and is holding Minnesotans to standards set by the legislators of other, vastly different states. The democratic rights of Minnesota constituents have been not only ignored but completely circumvented in what is supposed to be a well-represented, legislative system.

While electric vehicles are more popular than ever, they still only makeup roughly 1.8% of the market and are far less cost-effective than traditional, gas-powered vehicles. The mandate would force automakers to ship more zero-emissions vehicles to Minnesota, regardless of actual demand. Minnesota currently sees 2,000 electric vehicles sold per year, and under the new mandate, dealers would have more than 18,000 electric vehicles dropped annually onto their lots. Demand and infrastructure limitations in Minnesota currently cannot support such an artificially high supply. While the mandate’s benefit to the environment is not clear, the harm caused to everyday Minnesotans will be heavily consequential.

The electricity used to power electric vehicles is a source for increased carbon emissions.  In Minnesota about 31% of utility-scale electricity generation still came from coal-fired electric power plants in 2019. Additionally, until batteries can be recycled, battery disposal will remain an issue similar to nuclear waste storage. This fact underscores the larger concerns surrounding electric vehicles and how they are not a silver bullet for addressing environmental challenges.

I have spent my entire life in southern Minnesota. If this mandate were to culminate in full effect, I would see our state undergo a change that will hurt my fellow farmers for decades to come. Government policies should work for all Minnesotans, while supporting consumer choice, instead of picking winners and losers. This mandate is not the answer to becoming more climate-friendly. Please rethink this mandate and its impact on the farming community. The Minnesota legislature should repeal the rule.  To put it simply: please don’t impose California values on my Minnesota.