Senate Ag Hears Cap And Trade Concerns

One of Sen. Tom Harkin’s last acts as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee on was to preside over a Sept. 9 hearing on cap and trade and its effects on agriculture. Harkin (D-IA) expressed concerns about the structure of a cap and trade marketing system. “Markets that aren’t properly and carefully regulated will blow up and the economy and environmental goals of the program will blow up with it,” Harkin said.

Prior to hearing testimony from producers of corn and soybeans, dairy, rice, and grapes, ranking Republican Member Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) noted that Texas A&M University’s Agricultural and Food Policy Center (AFPC) last week released a report illustrating the effects of the House-passed American Clean Energy and Security Act on 98 representative farms in its database.

“The study says that 71 of 98 farms will be worse off under the House cap and trade plan, even in the early years of the program. Most concerning, the 27 farms that benefit do so only because other producers go out of business,” Chambliss said. “Not one rice farm or cattle ranch benefits, while only one cotton operation and one dairy benefit mainly due to the fact that they both grow a significant amount of feed grains.”

Ohio farmer Fred Yoder, past president of the National Corn Growers Association, was the first to testify on the producer panel. He raised concerns about language in the House bill that would penalize early actors who commenced no-till or other conservation practices earlier than 2001 and would be prohibited from participating in a carbon market. He also drew attention to an important provision in the bill related to the Renewable Fuels Standards that prohibits EPA from considering indirect land use change when conducting their life cycle analysis for corn based ethanol until a peer reviewed study can be conducted to verify the scientific accuracy of the current modeling. “The language in the House bill is a step in the right direction towards sound science a more rational life cycle analysis. We would urge the Senate to include the same provision in its version of the climate bill,” Yoder said.

Among those offering testimony on the subject of regulating carbon markets was David Miller, Iowa farmer and chief science officer for AgraGate Climate Credits Corp., a company affiliated with Iowa Farm Bureau. Miller gave his input on ways to structure and streamline the carbon credit program so that it would be an incentive to farmers and benefit the soil. “Market transparency is critical to the smooth operation of a carbon market, so that prices are publicly reported and readily available,” he told the committee.

He also indicated that right now offsets are valued differently for soil, forestry, or methane and value can even vary according to geographic location. “All these variances increase the transaction of costs associated with marketing carbon offsets,” Miller said. “The end brings fewer returns to the farmer or rancher hoping to enroll. That’s no incentive.”

This was the second hearing on the climate change bill in the Senate Agriculture committee and may not be the last. New Committee Chair Sen. Blanche Lincoln (R-AR) voiced concerns about passing cap-and-trade legislation at all this year. “If we do move forward, the regulation of carbon markets is something we need to get right,” said Lincoln.

(Source: ZimmComm New Media)

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