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Groups seeking ag-friendly changes to climate bill

Agriculture.com Staff 05/26/2009 @ 2:44pm

Farm groups reacted negatively to last week's passage if a climate change bill by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, but some are waiting to see if the bill can be improved before deciding to support it or work against it.

Mark Gaede, a lobbyist for the National Association of Wheat Growers, wants to see trading of agricultural offsets added to the climate change bill, but he thinks other farm groups may be making too much of the fact that agriculture isn’t mentioned in the bill yet.

"Because there's been one markup of the bill in one committee does not mean we should be running around saying the sky is falling," Gaede told Agriculture Online.

Gaede said that he didn't expect to see agriculture in a bill coming out of the Energy and Commerce Committee. And that those involved in writing the bill have said their goal of capturing 2.2 billion tons of carbon a year requires including carbon trading of carbon credits from farms and forests.

"The only way you can get there is if you have agricultural and forestry offsets," Gaede said.

Gaede sees the efforts of Representative Zack Space to get farming practices included in the bill as a positive sign. Space wanted the bill to list agricultural practices that would qualify for carbon credit trading. The committee didn’t approve Space’s amendment, for technical reasons.

"The efforts of Congressman Zack Space of Ohio were nothing short of extraordinary," Gaede said.

Gaede expressed frustration at some farm groups that have come out in opposition of the bill too early, which makes agricultural interests less effective in trying to improve the bill.

"Agriculture can never make its case for this unless we're united," he said.

And, Gaede believes that killing the climate change bill might be a bad option for agriculture because it would leave regulation of greenhouse gases to the Environmental Protection Agency. That could be much more costly to agriculture and offer no change for farmers to benefit from carbon trading, he said.

He's hopeful that House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) will be able to change the bill to include agricultural offsets and to give USDA the responsibility for regulating them.

"I would just say that they (Congress) are in the first step in a very long process. We knew from the get-go that there wasn't going to be much about agriculture because the Energy and Commerce Committee doesn't have jurisdiction," Gaede said.

Farm groups reacted negatively to last week's passage if a climate change bill by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, but some are waiting to see if the bill can be improved before deciding to support it or work against it.

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