FarmPolicy

August 2, 2014

Climate Change- Floor Vote by Friday; EPA Issues; Food Security; and Ag Sector Issues

Categories: Climate Change

Climate Change- Floor Vote by Friday

Jared Allen reported yesterday at The Hill Online that, “In a surprising development, House Democrats have reached an agreement to bring a sweeping climate change bill to the floor by the end of the week, Democratic aides announced late Monday night.

“Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) has brokered enough of a pact with wary Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) to pave the way for a bill to be voted on by week’s end. But it remains to be seen whether the measure has the votes to pass. Most Republicans are expected to reject the bill while some conservative Democrats, such as Reps. Jason Altmire (Pa.) and Gene Taylor (Miss.), are firmly against it.”

The Hill article explained that, “Waxman filed the bill with the House Rules Committee Monday night. House Democrats had previously suggested the measure would be voted on after the July 4 recess. The vote, whenever it occurs, will be one of the biggest roll calls of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) political career. She has labeled climate change her ‘flagship issue.’

“‘There are some issues still under discussion, but we are confident we can resolve them by the time the bill goes to the floor on Friday,’ said Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Pelosi. ‘The Speaker, [Majority] Leader [Steny] Hoyer [D-Md.] and Chairmen Waxman and Peterson have all agreed on this approach for moving this historic climate change and clean energy jobs bill.’”

Patrick O’Connor, writing yesterday at Politico.com, reported that, “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will roll the dice on a top priority this week, bringing a contentious climate-change bill to the floor despite strong misgivings from her rank-and-file and an outspoken chairman who remains a major impediment.

“The speaker filed the legislation with the Rules Committee on Monday night, her spokesman said, even though its authors, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey, are still working out a deal with Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson.”

Mr. O’Connor added that, “Peterson, who articulated the complaints of farm-state Democrats, has come to stand for many other rank-and-file lawmakers who oppose the bill. The rural Democrats are concerned it puts a disproportionate burden on farmers, without the possibility of rewards, while others in the party are concerned about the economic impact of the bill and its impact on the separate, but related, fight over health care.”

And Dow Jones writer Siobhan Hughes reported yesterday that, “Efforts to advance the legislation had stalled amid opposition from farm-state lawmakers, who worry that their states will face disproportionate costs under a law to curb greenhouse-gas emissions. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., had been leading the charge against the legislation, holding out for more concessions for the Farm Belt.

“A new version of the energy and climate bill was filed late on Monday with the House Rules Committee, a step that precedes a vote on the House floor. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the revised measure contained the outlines of any deal.”

Meanwhile, Philip Brasher reported yesterday at The Des Moines Register Online that, “Iowans could see their power bills jump as much as 25 percent if Congress enacts a House bill aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, industry officials say.

“MidAmerican Energy Co. and other Iowa utilities say the climate legislation is unfairly skewed toward consumers on the east and west coasts, where power companies are less dependent on coal to produce electricity.”

Mr. Brasher pointed out that, “Iowa’s rural electric co-ops could see their rates going up 11 to 18 percent, said Allan Urlis of the Iowa Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives.

Alliant Energy, another utility serving Iowa, expects double-digit rate increases, depending on the price of the allowances, spokesman Rob Crain said.

“Utilities worry that speculation in the allowance market could create wild swings in prices of the credits.”

And an update posted yesterday at The Foundry Blog (The Heritage Foundation) indicated that, “Farmers use a lot of electricity, a lot of diesel fuel, and a lot of natural gas-derived chemicals and fertilizers to grow crops and maintain their farms. So it shouldn’t be surprising that a cap and trade program that artificially drives up the cost of energy will unfavorably affect farmers. What may be surprising is how unfavorable these effects are, causing expected farm income to drop $8 billion in 2012, $25 billion in 2024, and over $50 billion in 2035. These are decreases of 28%, 60% and 94%, respectively.”

Yesterday’s update added that, “Proponents of cap and trade trying to push the bill through Congress are touting farmers as the beneficiaries of a carbon offset program because farmers can use cleaner technology, reduce nitrous oxide emissions, or simply not grow crops. Rex Woolen, a corn and soybean farmer, chose not to grow part of his crops, thereby reducing his carbon footprint. He said, ‘They called me a tree-hugger. Then I showed them my first check.’

But because so many can take advantage of the carbon offset program, there will be little left for farmers. Page 60 of the Environmental Protection Agency’s analysis of the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill is projecting that most of the domestic offsets will come from forestry and growing trees. The little bit for ‘other ag’ may add up to 15 million tons per year by 2035.

“The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis estimate that the allowance price (in 2009 dollars) will be just under $140/ton in 2035 (our last year of the model). So if ‘other ag’ and ‘animal waste’ add up to 15 million tons per year and the allowance price is $140, then the total offset revenue going to farmers is $2.1 billion—and that’s assuming no cost of creating the offset. Compare $2.1 billion in offset revenue to $29 billion of lost farm income (again after adjusting for inflation to 2009 dollars). Just this component of lost farm income is over ten times the offset revenue.”

And with respect to the recent cost analysis of the Waxman-Markey bill that was released Friday by the Congressional Budget Office, a news release issued yesterday by the House Agriculture Republicans indicated that, “Today, Ranking Member Frank Lucas issued the following statement on the release of a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis of the estimated costs to households from cap-and-trade provisions in the Waxman-Markey bill (H.R. 2454).

“‘The CBO studied one year of one part of one title of a four title bill that is written to last forever. This study is a snapshot that does not examine the full impact this entire bill will have on American families, farmers, and small businesses. This study just points out how much we still need to learn about the consequences of passing this legislation,’ said Ranking Member Frank Lucas.”

Meanwhile, an audio overview of agricultural issues and the Waxman-Markey bill was posted yesterday at Southeast Ag Net Online (1:30).

In a clip from yesterday’s audio report, Ranking Member Lucas stated that, “[I]n all fairness to Chairman Peterson, negotiating with Mr. Waxman and Mr. Markey and I suppose Speaker Pelosi behind closed doors, we in the ag community won’t know what they have done until its over with. It will take us months to figure it out- if they agree to something. That is not the way to make law.”

Climate Change- Chairman Peterson

In a separate article posted yesterday at The Hill Online, Jared Allen reported that, “Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) is unlikely to suffer the same fate as Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.).

Despite the House Agriculture Committee chairman’s vocal opposition to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) No. 1 legislative priority of climate change, Peterson’s gavel is secure, according to lawmakers and staffers interviewed for this article.

“Dingell, the last chairman to stand in Pelosi’s way on climate change, is no longer a chairman.”

Mr. Allen explained that, “Pelosi and her staff repeatedly denied that she was behind now Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman’s (D-Calif.) surprise bid for Dingell’s gavel late last year. In the wake of Waxman’s triumph, some eyebrows have been raised with Peterson’s pointed remarks about climate change legislation.

“Yet, Dingell’s loss of his chairmanship inoculates Peterson somewhat because few, if anyone, would believe that a challenge to Peterson wouldn’t have Pelosi’s fingerprints on it. Pelosi, in essence, has only so much political capital to eliminate chairmen who get in her way.

In fact, many Democrats – including those in leadership – believe that Peterson has strengthened his power considerably by bucking the Speaker.”

Yesterday’s Hill article noted that, “Beyond climate change, Peterson has tapped into a larger well of dissent over the lack of a Democratic farm agenda, something that a large portion of the caucus – and a number of senators – are noticeably frustrated by.”

Near the conclusion of the article, Mr. Allen stated that, “Pelosi appointed Peterson to her rural working group when she became Speaker and carried last year’s farm bill through a skeptical caucus after Peterson put it together.

“And whatever happens to the climate bill, Pelosi is stuck with her friend leading the Agriculture panel now that she has removed term limits for most committee chairmen. While some on Capitol Hill believe climate change will pass the House this year, few believe it will become law. So Peterson’s concerns about climate change could be voiced for years to come as Pelosi seeks to enact legislation aimed at combating global warming.”

EPA Issues

An update posted yesterday by Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa) at The Hill’s Congress Blog stated that, “Last week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers on the House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from implementing a harmful rule that would drive up costs for farmers and hardworking American families without providing any tangible environmental benefits.

“I introduced the amendment, which passed by a 31-27 vote during a full committee markup, to stop the EPA from imposing upon animal producers a federal mandate that would require them to monitor and report greenhouse gas emissions in manure management systems. In all likelihood, such a rule would force producers to foot the bill for the equipment and personnel to monitor the emissions, adding a significant expense to an industry that’s already dealing with struggling markets and the economic downturn.”

Rep. Latham added that, “The EPA also reported that the ruling would cost each affected animal operation around $900 to implement, but equipment costs to measure methane would be closer to $15,000 per facility. Additionally, livestock operations also would have to pay personnel to operate and maintain the equipment.

“Farmers have a duty to protect the environment. After all, their livelihood depends on a healthy ecosystem. But this regulation does nothing to impact the environment or improve manure management procedures. It contains no mechanism or incentive to encourage farmers to adopt environmentally friendly agricultural practices. This is regulation for its own sake, and it will drive up the cost of doing business in one of the most important sectors of our economy.”

Food Security

Bloomberg writer Rudy Ruitenberg reported yesterday that, “Africa’s savannah zone is a ‘sleeping giant’ better placed than similar regions in Brazil and Thailand for rapid growth in farming, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization said.

“The savannah running from Senegal to South Africa holds the potential to turn several African countries into global players in bulk commodities, based on a comparison with northeast Thailand and Brazil’s Cerrado region, the FAO said in a statement today, citing a study published with the World Bank.”

Ag Sector Issues: Livestock- Egg Production

The AP reported yesterday that, “Ohio should have a board to set guidelines for the care of livestock, Gov. Ted Strickland said Monday, adding to the debate between farm interests and the nation’s biggest animal welfare organization.

“The head of the Washington, D.C.-based Humane Society of the United States said such a board would give farmers too much leeway and wouldn’t guarantee a ban of crates that are used to confine breeding sows or cages that are too small for laying hens.

“‘It provokes us to do a ballot initiative,’ said society president Wayne Pacelle, who has guided successful initiatives and legislation in several states. ‘It almost forces our hand to seek a measure for November 2010 on confinement practices.’”

The AP article indicated that, “Pacelle has said that Illinois, Massachusetts and Washington also are in the group’s sights.

“The constitutional amendment backed by Strickland, who didn’t cite any current standards for the care of farm animals, would create a 13-member Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board. If approved by the Legislature, which will take it up Wednesday, the plan would go before voters this year.

“‘The board,’ Strickland said in a statement, ‘will ensure that Ohioans continue to have access to a safe and affordable local food supply and will make our state a national leader in the level of animal care and responsibility.’”

Ag Sector Issues- Dairy

A news release issued yesterday by the National Farmers Union stated that, “The National Farmers Union Board of Directors late last week voted to encourage Congress to pass a dairy stimulus package as an immediate financial lifeline for America’s dairy producers. The board expressed support for the concept of the Federal Milk Marketing Improvement Act of 2009, providing an adequate economic safety net and establishing an inventory management program.

In a letter to Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and Ranking Member Frank Lucas, R-Okla., NFU President Roger Johnson said dairy operations of all sizes and across all regions of the country are facing an unprecedented economic disaster.”

Keith Good

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