House Ag Committee Hearing: EPA Indirect Land Use Proposal Leads to Questions on Climate Change Legislation; Budget; Food Security; and H1N1
House Ag Committee Hearing: EPA Indirect Land Use Proposal Leads to Questions on Climate Change Legislation
A news release issued yesterday by the House Agriculture Committee stated that, “Today, the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Energy, and Research held a hearing to review the impact of the indirect land use and renewable biomass provisions in the renewable fuel standard.
“‘We are very upset with the path EPA has taken us down and sent that message back loud and clear in today’s hearing,’ said Chairman Tim Holden of Pennsylvania. ‘If we continue with these provisions in EISA [Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007], we will not only harm the biofuels industry but also shortchange a large part of the country before we even get started. We need to expand the reach of biofuels, not hamper the farmer and forest owner.’”
A complete list of witnesses and their opening statements from yesterday’s hearing can be viewed here.
The tone of yesterday’s hearing was set early when House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) delivered a passionate assessment regarding developments over the EPA proposed rule and included additional comments on possible climate change legislation. Chairman Peterson’s comments can be heard here in their entirety (MP3-3:13).
At the conclusion of the first panel of yesterday’s hearing, Subcommittee Chairman Tim Holden (D-Penn.) indicated that, “Ranking Member [Bob] Goodlatte (R-Virginia) and I have been serving on this Committee with Chairman Peterson for over 16 years and he has never been shy about what’s been on his mind—but that’s about the most direct frustration that I’ve seen in over 16 years coming out of his mouth and I would just like to say that I share his frustration.” To listen to Rep. Holden’s comments in his own words, just click here (MP3-0:48).
In addition, Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) questioned USDA Chief Economist Joe Glauber yesterday about the USDA’s perspective on the EPA proposed rule, asking him specifically, “Is USDA comfortable with the direction of the proposed EPA rule?” To listen to this discussion, which also included interesting follow up comments and observations from Rep. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), just click here (MP3-6:19).
And Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) also took part in yesterday’s hearing. In part he questioned Dr. Glauber about corn yields, land use and corresponding changes in forest allocation decisions in other parts of the world. To listen to this interesting exchange, just click here (MP3-4:20).
A related news release issued yesterday by the American Soybean Association indicated that, “The American Soybean Association (ASA) today submitted comments to the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Energy and Research regarding the impact of the indirect land use and renewable biomass provisions in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) expanded Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS-2). ASA sees numerous potential flaws in the approach EPA is using for indirect land use changes in its proposed rule. Further, there are numerous factors that ASA believes refute the possibility that significant international indirect land use change would result from the relatively small increase in U.S. biodiesel production called for under the RFS-2.”
With respect to news articles on yesterday’s House Ag Committee hearing, Reuters writer Charles Abbott reported yesterday that, “The Obama administration is unfair to the ethanol industry with its proposals on greenhouse gas reduction, the House Agriculture Committee chairman said on Wednesday, and he will not support any climate-change bills.
“‘You’re going to kill off the biofuels industry before it even gets started. You are in bed with the oil industry,’ Collin Peterson told officials from the Agriculture Department and the Environmental Protection Agency at a hearing on ethanol’s impact on land use and greenhouse gases.
“‘I want this message sent back down the street. I will not support any climate-change bill. I don’t trust anybody anymore,’ said the Democrat from Minnesota.”
Mr. Abbott explained that, “Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has a goal of sending a climate-change bill to the House floor by the end of May. It is not clear if there is enough support to pass a climate bill. Peterson said he would oppose Waxman’s bill.
“Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says climate-change bills could mean money for farmers who plant crops or use tillage methods that lock carbon in the soil. Skeptics fear higher fuel, fertilizer and pesticide prices.”
Bloomberg writer Alan Bjerga reported yesterday that, “The proposed methods to gauge greenhouse-gas emissions, part of the EPA’s implementation of a 2007 energy law, are based on ‘ideology’ and aren’t reliable enough to craft policy, Peterson told reporters today outside a congressional hearing in Washington. He said the EPA plan is prompting him to oppose any climate-change legislation that Congress may consider.
“‘You can’t trust them,’ the Minnesota Democrat said of the agency, which would write rules under any bill that would be passed. ‘I no longer have any confidence in the EPA.’”
And DTN Political Correspondent Jerry Hagstrom reported yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “Peterson’s opposition could cause major difficulties for the Obama administration and congressional leaders in their efforts to pass a climate-change bill. Peterson’s committee makeup includes 28 Democrats and 18 Republicans. House Agriculture Committee ranking member Frank Lucas, R-Okla., has already expressed his concerns about climate-change legislation. If all the members of the House Agriculture Committee opposed the bill, that would be 46 votes against it, and there are other rural House members who do not sit on the Agriculture committee.”
In related news, House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas appeared yesterday on the AgriTalk Radio Program with Mike Adams.
As part of the discussion, Mike Adams and Rep. Lucas discussed issues associated with cap and trade legislation with particular emphasis on the agricultural sector. Like Chairman Peterson, Rep. Lucas also expressed reservations with respect to the potential legislative impacts of climate change legislation. To listen to this portion of the conversation, just click here (MP3-6:14).
Meanwhile, Patrick O’Connor and Lisa Lerer reported yesterday at Politico.com that, “As the clock ticks on a self-imposed deadline, Rep. Henry Waxman is facing fire from all sides over his landmark measure to curb carbon emissions.
“After months of haggling, he still doesn’t have a deal that moderates will support. On Wednesday, he had to back off his threat from a day earlier to skip a key subcommittee vote after members raised a ruckus. And, to top it all off, the president and others are breathing down his neck to wrap up work on climate change so that Waxman can turn his focus to the blockbuster fight of the summer over health care reform.”
The Politico writers added that, “This is the first real test for House Democrats since Barack Obama moved into the White House. Failure to move this climate change measure through the chamber would be a body blow to the whole party — even if isn’t going anywhere in the Senate. And negotiations, to this point, have only highlighted the divisions Waxman must try to bridge.
“Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) came to the defense of the legislation on Wednesday, telling reporters, ‘We will be on schedule to move the energy bill, make no mistake about it. It’s our highest priority.’”
More specifically with respect to agriculture and issues regarding international climate change, the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development, along with the International Food Agricultural Trade Policy Council, recently released a paper entitled, “International Climate Change Negotiations and Agriculture.”
In part, the paper noted that, “Agriculture will be greatly impacted by climate change and will require substantial adaptation efforts. At the same time, the agricultural sector is responsible for a significant amount of global greenhouse gas emissions, and has an important potential role in climate change mitigation. While its importance is recognized, agriculture has not figured largely in the international climate change negotiations to date. It is, however, expected to figure more prominently, as witnessed by the first ever workshop on agriculture recently held as part of the negotiations in Bonn.
“The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of the existing international climate change agreements and the international negotiations underway and to point out the ways in which the agricultural sector – is – or may be – addressed in the international climate regulatory framework.”
Jackie Calmes reported in today’s New York Times that, “President Obama on Thursday will unveil nearly $17 billion in additional budget cuts for the coming fiscal year to showcase what a top adviser called a ‘constant’ effort to find savings at a time when the government’s costs for bailouts, health care and wars are mounting far faster.”
The Times article added that, “But the money for abandoned mines as well as proposed cuts in farm subsidies illustrate the difficulties the administration will face in Congress, where, as administration officials acknowledged, every program has its patrons. When Mr. Obama proposed cuts in the mine and farm programs as part of his budget outline, lawmakers from rural and Western states objected.”
A news release issued yesterday by the office of Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wisconsin) stated that, “U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI), today voiced concern with the lack of farm subsidy reform included in this year’s budget, particularly in light of a recent poll.
“‘Farm subsidies have long been an important and highly debated issue, especially in Wisconsin,’ said Rep. Kind. ‘I am disappointed that our budget did not take subsidy reform into consideration this year, especially as the government seeks to remedy federal spending and farmers have continually voiced concern.’
“Reforms were initially proposed by both Congressman Kind and President Obama for this year’s economic plan, although the recently approved budget failed to address further limits on federal subsidies to large agribusinesses. Lawmakers rejected both a proposal to limit subsidies to individual farmers at $250,000 total and a proposal to eliminate subsidies to producers with an adjusted gross income of $250,000.”
In other budget developments related to agriculture, the AP reported yesterday that, “President Barack Obama is proposing that the government provide $1.25 billion to settle discrimination claims by black farmers against the Agriculture Department.
“The White House said the money would be included in the president’s 2010 budget request to be unveiled Thursday.
“Obama had taken criticism earlier this year from black farmers and lawmakers who said the federal government was neglecting the need for more money to fund claims under a decade-old class-action lawsuit against the government.”
The Associated Press reported yesterday that, “The number of hungry people in the world could soon hit a record 1 billion, despite a recent drop in food prices, the U.N. food aid organization said Wednesday.
“The recent financial crisis, though it has helped bring global food prices down, also has led to falling trade and lower development aid, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization’s general director, Jacques Diouf.
“As a result of the crisis, an additional 104 million people were likely to go hungry this year — meaning they receive fewer than 1,800 calories a day, Diouf told reporters after a two-day meeting in Paris between the FAO and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
“‘We have never seen so many hungry people in the world,’ Diouf said.”
The AP article indicated that, “‘Food security is a matter of peace and security in the world,’ [Diouf] said, stressing that the food production will have to double by 2050 just to keep pace with population growth.”
A news release issued earlier this week by the Senate Agriculture Committee stated that, “A bipartisan, bicameral Congressional delegation sent a letter today to President Barack Obama asking his help to combat unfounded concerns that are impeding pork trade in domestic and export markets. The initial references to the H1N1 virus as ‘swine flu’ have created fears that pork can transmit this virus, dealing a terrible blow to an already struggling U.S. pork industry. Science shows that pork products are safe for human consumption. A misunderstanding of the transmission of this virus, however, has caused some nations to shut down pork exports from the United States. Today’s letter asks the President, along with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, to continue to place a high priority on maintaining access to pork and meat export markets around the world.”
Philip Brasher reported yesterday at The Des Moines Register Online that, “China is stopping imports of pork from Iowa and 34 other states, even as other foreign markets ease restrictions imposed after the outbreak of H1N1 flu.
“The Chinese restrictions apply to states where human cases of the flu have been reported, but the limits do not affect pork imported through Hong Kong.
“‘We’re concerned because China has been adding states as there are positive cases reported,’ said Nick Giordano, a trade specialist for the National Pork Producers Council.”
And the AP reported yesterday that, “Indiana hog farmers are among those pork producers nationwide stepping up health protection measures and bracing for the impact of swine flu on an already struggling industry.
“Purdue University agricultural economist Chris Hurt says Indiana hog farmers have been losing money every quarter for the last year and a half, and it’s gotten worse since the swine flu scare hit a few weeks ago.
“Hurt estimated Indiana hog producers were losing about $5 a head on April 24; he said that number is now $20. Hurt estimates that in the week after the swine flu outbreak, the United States pork industry lost about $30 million.”
Meanwhile, Elizabeth Landau reported yesterday at CNN.com that, “For influenza, the new ecological stress points mostly relate to industrial-scale livestock and, in the case of avian flu, backyard chicken farming, she said. In both of those cases, there are ‘economic lives at stake’ in making decisions such as killing certain animals, she said.
“‘We have to figure out a way we can surveil those populations, surveil that ecology, without the industries at stake — or, in the case of chickens, the small family farmer in Indonesia — feeling that their livelihood is challenged just by the very fact that anybody’s even trying to do surveillance,’ [Laurie Garrett, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations] said.
“But the genetic lineage of the virus does offer useful clues, she said. Cooperation among the United States, Canada and Mexico in every step of the investigation has been profound, she said. By contrast, Indonesia has refused to share bird flu samples with the World Health Organization in the past.”
The CNN article added that, “Some researchers say it’s not surprising that a new virus such as 2009 H1N1 would seem to have its focal point in Mexico.
“A 2008 Nature study co-written by Peter Daszak, president of Wildlife Trust, an international organization of scientists, used computer modeling to find that hot spots for emerging infectious diseases include China, Southeast Asia, Mexico, parts of Brazil, Europe and the United States.
“The study showed that socioeconomic, environmental and ecological factors correlate with emerging infectious diseases and help identify ‘hot spots’ for where they crop up.”