FarmPolicy

November 29, 2014

Climate Change; Executive Branch Rural Tour; HSUS; and the Acreage Report

Climate Change: House Reflections, Politics and Senate Action

After the House of Representatives narrowly passed climate legislation on Friday, news articles continue to examine issues associated with the bill’s advancement.

John M. Broder reported in today’s New York Times that, “As the most ambitious energy and climate-change legislation ever introduced in Congress made its way to a floor vote last Friday, it grew fat with compromises, carve-outs, concessions and out-and-out gifts intended to win the votes of wavering lawmakers and the support of powerful industries.

“The deal making continued right up until the final minutes, with the bill’s co-author Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California, doling out billions of dollars in promises on the House floor to secure the final votes needed for passage.

“The bill was freighted with hundreds of pages of special-interest favors, even as environmentalists lamented that its greenhouse-gas reduction targets had been whittled down.”

The Times article noted that, “Mr. Waxman defended the deal making as necessary to address a problem that affected every region and every industry.

“‘We worked hard to craft compromises that addressed the legitimate concerns of industry without undermining the environmental integrity of the legislation,’ Mr. Waxman said. ‘Tackling hard issues that have been ignored for years is never easy.’

“In its odyssey from introduction in late March to House passage, the climate-change bill sponsored by Mr. Waxman and Representative Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, grew to more than 1,400 pages from 648 pages.”

With respect to agriculture, today’s article stated that, “Some of the toughest negotiations were between Mr. Waxman and Representative Collin C. Peterson, Democrat of Minnesota and a fierce defender of agricultural interests.

“Mr. Peterson wrung numerous concessions on provisions opposed by agribusinesses and forestry companies. Several had to do with so-called offsets, which allow industrial polluters to meet emissions targets by buying carbon reductions from other sectors, particularly farms and forests, which actually take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

In the original bill, those offsets were to have been regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, considered a bogyman in the farm states. Mr. Peterson got oversight shifted to the farmer-friendly Department of Agriculture. He also broadened the list of activities that would qualify as offsets, bringing a potential windfall to farm interests.”

Patrick O’Connor and Glenn Thrush reported yesterday at Politico.com on Friday’s House vote and indicated that, “At the end of it all, Pelosi, who floated in and out of the House cloakroom all day, impossible to miss in an arctic-white linen pantsuit, gambled big and pulled off one of the most important legislative victories of her career, a win she views as a personal vindication, according to those close to the San Francisco Democrat.”

The article added that, “Despite the most coordinated push yet between Democrats on the Hill and the Obama White House, the outcome was not certain until the very end, according to two dozen aides and members of Congress interviewed by POLITICO.”

“Members who wanted to be spared of the Pelosi treatment — slinked in and out of the chamber hoping the speaker wouldn’t notice them,” the article said.

Meanwhile, the vote on the climate bill could also be an issue in the 2010-midterm elections.

A Reuters news article from yesterday (posted at DTN, link requires subscription) noted that, “‘Voters in the Midwest who decide (presidential) elections, elected Barack Obama and the Democrats to fix the economy, not the environment,’ [Paul Sracic, head of the political science department at Youngstown State University in Ohio] said. ‘Republicans are smart to portray this as a jobs-killing measure.’”

Jonathan Martin and Alex Isenstadt reported yesterday at Politico.com that, “Republicans believe a handful of junior House Democrats may have taken a career-ending vote by supporting the controversial energy bill last week and are planning to launch an ad campaign in targeted districts to try to seal their fate.

“The National Republican Congressional Committee is planning to air TV and radio commercials and unleash robocalls against Democrats who hail from districts that could be adversely affected by the narrowly passed legislation, are GOP-leaning or both.

“Those likely to find themselves with targets on their back after the 219-212 vote: freshman Reps. Harry Teague of New Mexico, Betsy Markey of Colorado, John Boccieri of Ohio, Thomas Perriello of Virginia and Alan Grayson of Florida and second-termer Zack Space of Ohio.”

The article stated that, “Space, who represents rural Ohio’s 18th District, voted for both the final bill on the floor and a version out of the Energy and Commerce Committee that may be even tougher to sell in a state that is heavily dependent on coal for its electricity.

“And Space’s next-door colleague in eastern Ohio, Democratic Rep. Charlie Wilson, opposed the bill, making Space’s support stand out that much more.”

Recall however that Rep. Space garnered praise from some agricultural groups in May when he introduced an amendment in the Energy and Commerce Committee markup of the climate bill that sought to address the issue of agricultural offsets and carbon sequestration.

A May 26 article at Agriculture Online stated that, “[Mark Gaede, a lobbyist for the National Association of Wheat Growers] sees the efforts of Representative Zack Space to get farming practices included in the bill as a positive sign. Space wanted the bill to list agricultural practices that would qualify for carbon credit trading. The committee didn’t approve Space’s amendment, for technical reasons.

“‘The efforts of Congressman Zack Space of Ohio were nothing short of extraordinary,’ Gaede said.”

And a May 26 National Corn Growers Association news release stated that, “The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) has commended Rep. Zack Space (D-OH) for demonstrating leadership and commitment to the agriculture industry during the House of Representatives Committee on climate change legislation, the Energy and Commerce mark-up of H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act. During Committee proceedings on Thursday, Rep. Space offered two amendments that would be beneficial to corn growers and the entire agriculture industry.”

As the climate vote issue works its way into the election debate, an update posted yesterday at CQPolitics reported that, “Americans oppose the climate change bill that just passed the House – or, at least what they know of it – by 41 percent to 37 percent with 22 percent not sure, and a plurality believe it will hurt the economy, according to a Rasmussen Reports poll conducted June 28-29.

“That concern about the economic impact is clearly something the Republicans are already zeroing in on as an issue they believe will work for them.”

And while Senate action on the climate measure is setting up, an article written by Dan Looker and posted yesterday at Agriculture Online rhetorically asked, “Expensive fuel and fertilizer, or the salvation of the biofuels industry?

“In a nutshell, that’s how two different agricultural leaders view a climate bill that heads to the U.S. Senate after narrow passage in the House of Representatives last week.

A lobbyist for the American Farm Bureau Federation thinks the bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate.”

Mr. Looker indicated that, “But commercial agriculture may have a vested stake in the climate bill through the ethanol industry, which already accounts for about a fourth of the crop, second only to feed use.

“Tom Buis, CEO of the ethanol lobbying group, Growth Energy, told reporters Monday that he believes the Senate will take up energy legislation this fall after it deals with health care reform.

“‘I think the prospects are really good in the Senate for an energy bill of some type,’ Buis said.”

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As of yesterday, there is one less variable to consider with respect to Senate debate on the climate bill: How many Democratic members serve in the chamber.

Naftali Bendavid and Greg Hitt reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “The Minnesota Supreme Court cleared the way for Democrat Al Franken to become Minnesota’s new U.S. senator, ending a festering eight-month election dispute and giving the Democrats a 60-seat voting majority in the Senate.”

EPA Regulation Argument- Some Controversy

As the climate bill was being debated on the House floor on Friday, recall that some Democratic lawmakers argued in favor of the legislation by stating that if the legislative branch did not act on greenhouse gas emissions by passing a law, executive branch action by the Environmental Protection Agency in the form of regulation could ensue- action that lawmakers would be left out of.

On the issue of potential EPA authority to regulate greenhouse gasses, Tom LoBianco reported in today’s Washington Times that, “Republican lawmakers, coming off a loss Friday in their attempt to block passage of a massive climate bill, have seized on a global warming memo they say was suppressed by the Obama administration.

The memo, drafted by two environmental economists, is highly critical of the science behind an Environmental Protection Agency memo that found carbon dioxide to be a greenhouse gas.

“Sen. James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Sen. John Barrasso, Wyoming Republican, said the memo shows that the EPA did not have accurate information when it completed its finding.”

The article added that, “An EPA spokeswoman noted that the memo’s author, Alan Carlin, is an economist, not a climate scientist, and denied the claims of suppression.

“‘Claims that this individual’s opinions were not considered or studied are entirely false,’ EPA spokeswoman Adora Andy said Tuesday.”

Mr. Carlin appeared in an interview on the Fox News Channel recently, to watch this five-minute discussion, just click here.

Climate Change- Editorial Opinion

The New York Times editorial board stated in today’s paper that, “The Senate will not be an easy sell. It has rejected less ambitious climate bills before. While 60 filibuster-proof votes are needed, only 45 Senators mostly Democrats, can be counted as yes or probably yes. There are 23 fence-sitters and very little Republican support.”

The Times opinion item added that, “The Senate should also remove the House version’s more glaring defects. Among these is a provision — inserted at the insistence of the farm lobby — that would postpone a systematic accounting of the carbon emissions from biofuels like corn ethanol. The farm lobby and its allies on the Agriculture Committee are clearly nervous that the accounting would cast corn ethanol in an unfavorable light.”

New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman opined in today’s paper that, “Now that the bill is heading for the Senate, though, we must, ideally, try to improve it, but, at a minimum, guard against diluting it any further. To do that we need the help of the three parties most responsible for how weak the bill already is: the Republican Party, President Barack Obama and We the People.”

Mr. Friedman added that, “[Pres. Obama] is going to have to mobilize the whole country to pressure the Senate — by educating Americans, with speech after speech, about the opportunities and necessities of a serious climate/energy bill. If he is not ready to risk failure by going all out, failure will be the most likely result.”

Executive Branch Rural Tour

A news release issued yesterday by USDA stated that, “President Obama announced today that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will lead the Obama Administration’s Rural Tour. Over the next several months, Secretary Vilsack will be joined by top administration officials, including several Cabinet Secretaries, at discussions throughout the country about how the USDA and other federal agencies are working to strengthen rural America.”

Adriel Bettelheim reported yesterday at CQPolitics that, “Though Republicans still love to portray him as an urban elite, President Obama managed to more or less split the rural vote with John McCain during last year’s election. Now, the White House is mounting a summer-long effort to help tailor the administration’s agenda to small-town America.

“Obama on Tuesday announced a rural tour that will see Cabinet secretaries fan out across the country to discuss issues including broadband deployment, rural health, economic development and agriculture.”

The CQ item pointed out that, “It’s hard to imagine these visits won’t include strong campaign-style pitches for the president’s ‘Big Three’ legislative initiatives: health care, energy and financial regulation.”

Philip Brasher noted yesterday at the Green Fields Blog (The Des Moines Register) that, “Many of the stops are in states likely to be important in the 2012 election, including Virginia, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Ohio.”

Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)- AgriTalk Interview

Wayne Pacelle, the Humane Society of the United States President and CEO, was a guest on yesterday’s AgriTalk Radio program with Mike Adams. Mr. Pacelle and Mike Adams discussed animal agricultural issues for the entire show and covered several important issues.

In this audio clip from yesterday’s program (MP3-4:54), Mike Adams asks Mr. Pacelle to sort out the differences between “animal rights” and “animal welfare.”

And in this clip (MP3, 10:00) Mike Adams sought additional detail with respect to HSUS action in the state of Ohio.

Mr. Pacelle also updated his blog yesterday with a post that began by saying: “There are two groups that politicians fawn over in ways that make sensible people shake their heads: the gun lobby and agribusiness.”

The update added that, “[I]n Ohio, The HSUS has publicly discussed the prospect of launching a campaign to phase out the confinement of veal calves, breeding pigs, and laying hens in small crates and cages on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), or as they’re more commonly called, factory farms—similar to our ballot initiative, Proposition 2, which both rural and urban Californians overwhelmingly approved last year. Despite entreaties from The HSUS, the Ohio Farm Bureau refused to engage in any negotiations to find a political solution to the conflict over these confinement systems, unlike more foresighted agriculture groups in Colorado and Maine where they engaged in actual compromise.”

For perspective on this issue from the Ohio Farm Bureau listen to this clip (MP3-10:00) from Monday’s AgriTalk program where host Mike Adams discussed this debate with Jack Fisher, the Executive Vice President of the Ohio Farm Bureau.

Acreage Report

Lauren Etter and Carrie Porter reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “U.S. farmers planted more than expected this spring, potentially giving some relief to ranchers, food companies and ethanol makers, which have endured relatively high grain prices in the past two years.

“Unless there is a dramatic change in weather over the growing season or some other unexpected disruption to the crops, corn and soybean prices could stay relatively low over the coming months, analysts say.”

The Journal article noted that, “American farmers planted an estimated 77.5 million acres of soybeans this spring, up 2% from last year and the biggest on record, according to the Agriculture Department’s crop acreage estimates. The agency estimated that the U.S. corn crop will come in at 87 million acres, up 1% from last year and the second-largest planted acreage since 1946.”

Javier Blas reported yesterday at The Financial Times Online that, “The surge in planting will ease pressure on global food prices and will lower concerns about a return of the 2007-2008 food crisis, which saw record highs for agricultural commodities and riots in developing countries.”

For more on yesterday’s USDA Acreage report see:

– Growth Energy- “Growth Energy Says USDA Crop Report Shows Farmers Can Grow Enough for Food and Fuel.”
– American Farm Bureau Federation: “AFBF: Greater Corn Supplies Could Lead to Higher Ethanol Blend Rate.”
– USDA Daily Radio Newsline (audio report)- “Peanut Growers Slash Acreage: U.S. peanut growers are slashing the number of acres they are devoting to peanuts.”
– National Cotton Council- Cotton Acreage Summary.

And for a more detailed look at yesterday’s USDA Acreage and Grain Stocks reports see, “Corn Acreage Jumps, Stocks are Large,” by University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Darrel Good.

Keith Good

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