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Climate change bill gets a thumbs down from agriculture

Agriculture.com Staff 05/22/2009 @ 2:00pm

The California congressman who promised to write a far-reaching and controversial climate change bill before Memorial Day did exactly that on Thursday, when Representative Henry Waxman's Energy and Commerce committee passed the bill by a vote of 33 to 25.

Early Friday, farm group lobbyists in Washington were still reading parts of the more than 930-page American Clean Energy and Security Act but the entire agricultural community is united in at least wanting major changes, if not outright defeat.

Earlier this week, Waxman was quoted in The Hill, a newspaper that covers Congress, saying that "he believes his bill has fully addressed the concerns of the agricultural community."

Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, disagrees.

"I don't know anybody in the agricultural community who thinks that is the case," Johnson told Agriculture Online.

And Farmers Union has been one of the farm groups that's most supportive of the concept of lowering greenhouse gases by capturing carbon with no-till and other agricultural practices. It runs one of the nation's largest programs of pulling together agricultural carbon credits for a private offset trading program, the Chicago Climate Exchange.

The climate change bill passed by Waxman's committee Thursday includes a cap and trading system that limits carbon emissions from major industries (but not agriculture) and allows those capped industries to buy offsets. But the bill says nothing directly about agricultural offsets like the ones National Farmers Union has promoted.

Waxman and others in the Democratic Party leadership of the House have assured farm lobbyists that agricultural offsets will be part of the cap and trade program but that the bill says nothing directly about it because his committee has no jurisdiction over agricultural issues.

"One could still make that argument based on the language in the bill," Johnson said. "But we don't want to be in this never-never land of 'are we in or are we out? And who’s in charge?'"

The California congressman who promised to write a far-reaching and controversial climate change bill before Memorial Day did exactly that on Thursday, when Representative Henry Waxman's Energy and Commerce committee passed the bill by a vote of 33 to 25.

Farmers Union and such major commodity groups as the National Association of Wheat Growers, American Soybean Association and National Corn Growers Association had wanted the USDA to be in charge of regulating carbon offsets purchased from farmers.

The bill has three other sections. A clean energy title will promote wind and solar generation of electricity and capture of carbon dioxide put out by coal-fired power plants. An energy efficiency title seeks to make buildings, appliances, cars and industries use energy more sparingly. And another title protects low-income Americans and industries from some of the costs of switching to a clean energy economy.

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