Agriculture finds some middle ground in climate change bill

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Tuesday House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson worked out an agreement "that works for agriculture and contributes to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States" on the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 with House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman.

Peterson had fought hard to see agriculture rewarded for actions taken to mitigate environmental impacts but originally the bill did not provide an opportunity for agriculture to be rewarded for those actions. "The climate change bill will include a strong agriculture offset program run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that will allow farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners to participate fully in a market-based carbon offset program," Peterson said in a statement.

The other sticking point for Peterson surrounded the issue of indirect land use for biofuels. Peterson said, the agreement "also addresses concerns about international indirect land use provisions that unfairly restricted U.S. biofuels producers and exempts agriculture and forestry from the definition of a capped sector."

Reports indicate Waxman said a "five-year moratorium" on a proposed Environmental Protection Agency rule would be included in the legislation and USDA and Congress would have additional powers to stop the plan after the five years.

Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, congratulated Peterson and Waxman "on reaching a common sense solution to this very controversial issue." 

Buis stated, "We believe that additional study of the issue of indirect land use change will further demonstrate that these provisions should never have been a part of the 2007 energy law to begin with.  Chairman Peterson's steadfast leadership in ensuring an equal playing field for America's homegrown fuel producers was critical to achieving this resolution. This is a good first step in a longer process, including full review by the House and Senate."

The bill is expected to come up for a vote by Friday or Saturday before representatives head home for the July recess. Republicans remain against the bill.

House Agriculture committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas said his initial reaction to the deal is it doesn't fix the real problems with the bill. "No deal can address the devastation this legislation is going to wreak on America's farms. This agreement does nothing to address the higher input costs that our farmers and ranchers will invariably have to pay. This agreement does nothing to address the higher energy costs, lost jobs, and higher food prices this bill will cause. We are still looking at the most dramatic tax increase of all time and the agriculture community will be hit the hardest," he said.

The American Farm Bureau Federation also stated despite "stellar efforts of House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson and many rural members of Congress to win vital changes for America's farm and ranch families — efforts that we strongly endorse and support — there are simply too many flaws in the underlying bill. Peterson has shown once again that he is a determined advocate for America's farmers and ranchers and a leader to be reckoned with in the halls of Congress," AFBF President Bob Stallman said. 

AFBF added one of the chief challenges is the energy deficit the bill will create. "New technologies hold great promise for our nation, but are nowhere close to coming on line. The bill forces agriculture and other productive sectors of our nation's economy into a position of severe competitive disadvantage with trading partners like China and other nations who will not burden their economies to control carbon emissions."

Stallman said "the bill should be amended further or defeated."  


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