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Pelosi: Agriculture will have a role in shaping climate change bill

Agriculture.com Staff 02/09/2016 @ 7:52am

At a visit to a Des Moines, Iowa middle school Saturday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), said that the climate change bill recently passed by the Energy and Commerce Committee will go through more changes before coming up for a vote in the full House.

"The Energy and Commerce Committee was one step and now it will go to other committees and agriculture is very important," Pelosi told Agriculture Online at a press conference after a short public meeting with education officials to highlight the role that federal stimulus legislation is playing in schools.

Pelosi said that after her visit to Iowa she was headed to Minnesota, where she planned to meet with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, who has expressed his own reservations about the climate change bill.

His committee will hold a hearing on the bill this week. Republicans on the committee are opposed to the bill, citing concern over how the cost of reducing greenhouse gas emissions will affect agriculture and rural communities. More than 30 farm groups have opposed the bill. And even those who aren’t outright opponents -- the National Association of Wheat Growers, National Farmers Union and American Farmland Trust, have called for changes.

The bill sets up a system of trading carbon credits, which would be purchased by industries that put out greenhouse gases (agriculture is exempt from having to buy credits). Under the bill passed by the Energy committee, the Environmental Protection Agency, would run the cap and trade system. Agriculture is barely mentioned in the bill, even though groups like Farmers Union, which already participates in a voluntary carbon trading program, argue that farming and forestry has great potential to capture carbon from the atmosphere. They believe that farmers and forest owners should be able to sell carbon credits.

Representative Leonard Boswell, an Iowa Democrat on the Agriculture Committee, told Agriculture Online that he agrees with Peterson's concerns about the climate bill and that he's participated in discussions with Pelosi and also Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, where Peterson shared his concerns. Peterson has also threatened to vote against the climate bill if changes aren't made in the way the EPA is regulating biofuels. A recent rule proposed by EPA would include so-called indirect land use when EPA calculates the carbon output of biofuels production. The result of that calculation makes all biodiesel and ethanol from new plants ineligible for mandates that require the nation's fuel refiners to blend in biofuels.

Boswell said during Peterson's recent phone call with Pelosi, the Speaker seemed sympathetic to Peterson's concerns.

"She understands we have some issues and we're going to look after the needs of agriculture," Boswell said.

Boswell said that one change already added to the climate change bill by Representatives Bruce Braley (D-IA) and Lee Terry (R-NE) provides loan guarantees of up to 80% for companies that build pipelines to transport biofuels. Boswell said that he's hoping the Agriculture Committee will be able to increase the guarantee to 90%.

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