The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, passed by the House of Representatives in late June, allows farmers to fully participate in a carbon offset program, which permits payment for farm activities that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
It contains other bonuses for agriculture, including moving oversight of carbon-reduction efforts by farmers from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to USDA, providing a list of eligible agricultural offsets and prohibiting the use of indirect land use calculations in evaluating biofuels.
"This is the best deal agriculture could have gotten out of the House,” says Laura Sands, a partner at The Clark Group, an environmental consulting firm. "If Congress doesn't enact some type of greenhouse gas emissions policy, we've received a clear message that EPA will. Agriculture will fare much better through a cap-and-trade policy than regulation by EPA.”
Not So Sure.
Many farm groups fear the bill will hurt ag producers. The American Farm Bureau Federation estimates net farm income will drop at least $5 billion/year by 2020 if the legislation passes.
The National Pork Producers Council foresees significant increases in energy prices and pork production costs.
Some agricultural groups also worry about provisions that would impose tariffs on imports in 2020 for any country that doesn't take the same climate-change steps as the U.S.
To learn more about climate change and related legislation, visit www.epa.gov/climatechange
. —Jeanne Bernick