South Carolina Proposes Anti-ESG Bill Aimed at Backing Farmers

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(Bloomberg) -- Republican lawmakers in South Carolina are now targeting the financial-service industry’s agriculture lending practices, marking the latest pressure point in the party’s campaign against ESG.

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Representative Patrick Haddon of Greenville, South Carolina, is leading a proposal that would prevent financial firms from denying services to agricultural producers for environment, social and governance-related reasons. Those include factors such as limiting greenhouse gas emissions, as well as using fossil fuel-derived fertilizers and oil-powered machinery.

GOP officials across the US have attacked ESG for more than two years now, saying the investing and financing strategy furthers liberal goals such as fighting climate change. In January, a dozen agriculture commissioners in GOP-led states, including Iowa, Mississippi and South Carolina, asked banks to provide information explaining how their climate policies impact their lending to farmers.

“I don’t want any industry governed by ESG principles,” said Representative Cal Forrest of Saluda, South Carolina, another sponsor of the state’s proposal.

Read More: Banks’ Climate Lending Is Now Target of Agriculture Officers

Both Haddon and Forrest referred to the farmer strikes in Europe as the catalyst for the bill. Earlier this year, angry farmers in France and Belgium protested against rising costs from the region’s push to achieve its Green Deal goal of reaching climate neutrality by 2050.

The Republicans want to prevent the possibility of similar unrest from happening in South Carolina. “It isn’t something that we’ve ever dealt with,” Haddon said.

If ESG-related restrictions on lending were allowed, “we certainly would see a lot of farms going under,” Haddon said.

The proposed bill in South Carolina is waiting for review by the state’s senate.

--With assistance from Amanda Albright.

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