Bloomberg writer Robert Fenner reported yesterday that, “Australia’s government will stick by plans to reintroduce legislation in February to create a national carbon emissions trading system after the bill was rejected by the Senate earlier this month.
“‘The parliament meets at the beginning of February and we will be putting the legislation again to the parliament,’ Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner told reporters in Melbourne today. ‘That commitment stands.’
“The government plan, employing carbon trading similar to that used in Europe, would raise average annual household costs by A$624 ($556) and make services such as electricity more expensive, Tanner said today, citing Treasury data. Opposition leader Tony Abbott, who took the role one day before the Senate rejected the bill, argues the proposal will raise costs by A$1,100 without mitigating climate change.”
Ben Geman reported yesterday at The Hill Online that, “Senate Democrats will face a problem when they return in January every bit as tough as crafting the healthcare bill: Assembling a climate and energy package that can be shoehorned into the election-year calendar.
“Imposing limits on greenhouse gases is a White House and Democratic priority, but it’s stuck in line behind healthcare, Wall Street reform and jobs legislation.
“It’s also become increasingly apparent since the Copenhagen climate summit that the Senate will go forward in a dramatically different direction than the House, which approved its own climate bill last summer.”
Associated Press writers Margie Mason and Martha Mendoza reported yesterday that, “[M]ore and more Americans — many of them living far from barns and pastures — are at risk from the widespread practice of feeding livestock antibiotics. These animals grow faster, but they can also develop drug-resistant infections that are passed on to people. The issue is now gaining attention because of interest from a new White House administration and a flurry of new research tying antibiotic use in animals to drug resistance in people.
“Researchers say the overuse of antibiotics in humans and animals has led to a plague of drug-resistant infections that killed more than 65,000 people in the U.S. last year — more than prostate and breast cancer combined. And in a nation that used about 35 million pounds of antibiotics last year, 70 percent of the drugs — 28 million pounds — went to pigs, chickens and cows. Worldwide, it’s 50 percent.”
Lisa Lerer reported yesterday at Politico.com that, “Bruised by the health care debate and worried about what 2010 will bring, moderate Senate Democrats are urging the White House to give up now on any effort to pass a cap-and-trade bill next year.
“‘I am communicating that in every way I know how,’ says Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), one of at least half a dozen Democrats who’ve told the White House or their own leaders that it’s time to jettison the centerpiece of their party’s plan to curb global warming.
“The creation of an economy-wide market for greenhouse gas emissions is as the heart of the climate bill that cleared the House earlier this year. But with the health care fight still raging and the economy still hurting, moderate Democrats have little appetite for another sweeping initiative — especially another one likely to pass with little or no Republican support.”
Yesterday, the USDA’s Economic Research Service released its “Agricultural Income and Finance Outlook” report, which stated that, “All three measures of U.S. farm income are projected to decline in 2009—net farm income is projected to decline by 34.5 percent, net cash income by 28.4 percent, and net value added by 20 percent. Considerable uncertainty surrounds the forecasts of farm assets, debt, and equity in 2009, given the volatility of commodity, energy/input, and financial markets.”
The report noted that, “Average farm household income of principal farm operators—from farm and off-farm sources—is forecast to be $76,065 in 2009, down 3.5 percent from 2008. [See related graph from the report comparing farm operator household income, by source, with U.S. household income.] The recent instability in national housing and credit markets, as well as rising unemployment, has increased the economic vulnerability of some farm families to income and asset loss. The primary sources of this potential loss are financial and housing equity investments, plus income loss due to the greater risk of joblessness among farm households with off-farm labor earnings. As of 2008, average farm household income was 15 percent higher than that of all U.S. households.”
CORRECTION: The hotlink to the “Copenhagen Accord” in yesterday’s FarmPolicy update was incorrect- as it was a link to a draft of the agreement. The correct link to the final “Copenhagen Accord” can be found here.
Climate Issues- Senate Perspectives
Politico writer Lisa Lerer reported yesterday that, “A day after the U.N. climate change conference ended in a fizzle, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said Sunday that he hopes the Senate will pass its own climate change bill sometime next year.
“But to meet even that not-so-firm deadline, supporters will have to win over critics who say that President Barack Obama promised too much in Copenhagen — and that the international community didn’t do nearly enough.”
Andrew C. Revkin and John M. Broder reported in yesterday’s New York Times that, “With the swift bang of a gavel on Saturday morning, a prolonged fight between nations small and large over an international pact to limit climate risks that was forged the night before by the United States and four partners came to a somewhat murky end.
“The chairman of the climate treaty talks declared that the parties would ‘take note’ of the document, named the Copenhagen Accord, leaving open the question of whether this effort to curb greenhouse gases from the world’s major emitters would gain the full support of the 193 countries bound by the original, and largely failed, 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change.”
“‘This is going to be a first step,’ said President Obama, who acknowledged that the agreement falls short of what will be necessary in the long run to mitigate the global warming forecasted by scientists.
“While it is not the binding treaty that had been the initial goal of the Copenhagen talks, the deal appears to boost efforts to pass climate change legislation in the Senate.”
Climate Issues: Copenhagen Background- U.S. Tries to Jolt Talks Forward
An update posted yesterday at CQPolitics.com reported that, “Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the United States would help to raise $100 billion annually through 2020 for a fund to help poor countries adapt to climate change — but only if all countries submit to outside verification of their carbon emissions. [A full transcript and video replay of Sec. Clinton’s presentation yesterday is available here.]
“Clinton’s offer is intended to end a stalemate with China at the Copenhagen talks. China has refused to allow outside inspectors to monitor its emissions reductions. Its response to Clinton’s speech was muted, and it was unclear whether the offer of a massive fund would jump-start talks.”
The CQ article noted that, “Until now, the United States had committed only $1.2 billion to such a global fund for 2010, and support for a $10 billion global fund through 2012. The European Union also made an offer of $3.6 billion annually through 2012. But developing nations and U.N. leaders have repeatedly urged rich countries to kick in more, and Japan upped the ante last night with a commitment of $15 billion annually for two years.”
AP writer Arthur Max reported yesterday that, “U.N. climate negotiators looked Wednesday to the United States to bring fresh ideas — perhaps in the form of extra billions of dollars — to try to salvage a bare-bones political agreement by the end of the week on controlling global warming.
“The U.S. must find ways of meeting demands by a suspicious world on reducing greenhouse gas emissions without exceeding what Congress will allow. It must also find the cash in a tight budget.”
The article pointed out that, “The U.S. delegation objected to a proposed text it felt might bind Washington prematurely to reducing greenhouse gas emissions before Congress acts on the required legislation. U.S. envoys insisted, for example, on replacing the word ‘shall’ with the conditional ‘should’ throughout the text.”
Reuters writer Charles Abbott reported yesterday that, “Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack downplayed his own department’s analysis of U.S. climate legislation on Tuesday, saying ‘more current’ studies do not foresee carbon-capturing trees taking over millions of acres of farmland.
“If farmland shifts to trees, there would be smaller output of crops and livestock. Critics such as Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns say climate legislation means higher energy and feed prices ‘will likely drive many producers out of business.’”
A news release issued yesterday by Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska stated that, “[Sen. Murkowski] today announced her intention to file a disapproval resolution to stop the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. Murkowski’s resolution comes in the wake of the agency’s recent endangerment finding, which will result in damaging new regulations that endanger America’s economy.
“‘I remain committed to reducing emissions through a policy that will protect our environment and strengthen our economy, but EPA’s backdoor climate regulations achieve neither of those goals,’ Murkowski said. ‘EPA regulation must be taken off the table so that we can focus on more responsible approaches to dealing with global climate change.’”
Romanian Cioloş Named as New EU Farm Commissioner-Designate
By Roger Waite – Roger is editor of AGRA FACTS, the Brussels-based newsletter on EU agriculture policy, and is a Journalism Fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. “Analysis from Brussels” is posted exclusively at FarmPolicy.com.
Well, we now have a name for the next EU Commissioner for Agriculture & Rural Development. Or at least the Commissioner-designate. It’s the 40-year-old former Romanian Minister for Agriculture, Dacian Cioloş. I thought I’d share a few thoughts on his nomination – and what it might mean for future policy, although it is far too soon for any firm conclusions.
Surprise or not?
Perhaps I should say something first about the process for his nomination. Each of the Member States of the EU was asked to nominate a politician to be their Commissioner for the next 5 years. Commission President José Barroso (a Portuguese) tried to influence governments on whom they named in order to get a good balance of political expertise – but also a good political and gender balance. In the end, however, Barroso got a list of 25 names – and it was up to him to allocate the portfolios as he felt best. [N.B. There are only 25 names because Barroso is the Portuguese Commissioner, and the UK’s Catherine Ashton – currently the Trade Commissioner – was appointed EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs & Commission Vice-President by EU leaders earlier in the month.] It was up to Barroso then to decide who should get what – with some flexibility too for re-jigging the relevant portfolios.
Although Dacian Cioloş is the only trained agronomist among the group, and was named by Bucharest with a view to becoming the next Agriculture Commissioner, there seems to have been near consensus among Member States ever since his name was put forward that a Romanian could not possibly get the agriculture dossier. After all, Romania is a country more dependent on agriculture than any other in the EU – with 29.5% of the workforce employed in the sector, as opposed to the EU average of 5.6%. (The average in the 15 “old” Member States is just 3.5%.) Despite the strong, widespread opinion that any Romanian was apparently not suitable, none of the other interested parties put forward a suitable candidate. Austria, Ireland, the Netherlands and Denmark all considered present or former Agriculture Ministers, but chose to nominate someone else instead. Before the November announcement, the favourites for the agriculture portfolio were the Irish former Minister of Justice (Maire Geoghegan Quinn) and the current EU Energy Commissioner & former Latvian Minister of Finance (Andris Piebalgs) – neither of whom has any agriculture experience, and neither of whom want to start getting agricultural experience, by all accounts. Although a number of commentators have suggested that Cioloş’ nomination for Agriculture is surprising, I tend to feel that Barroso was left with no other option, as no one was willing to put forward a good candidate – and that he was the only suitable candidate from among the nominees. (I should perhaps add that former French Farm Minister Michel Barnier has also been named as the new French Commissioner – but, on this one, even Paris admits that France will not be given the Agriculture Commissioner.)
Before going on, I should mention that the nomination by President Barroso is not the end of the process of appointment. All new Commissioners must now go through a formal Hearing with the relevant Committee in the European Parliament. Although MEPs have no legal powers to reject individual Commissioners – they only have a straight yes-no vote on the whole College of Commissioners – they have managed to obtain de facto power over the individual Commissioners. Five years ago, after a number of Commissioners performed poorly in their EP Hearings and MEPs started to threaten to veto the whole Commission, President Barroso agreed to replace 3 of them. (In fact, he replaced 2 of them, and shifted a third one to a different portfolio.) And so the precedent was set. New hearings were set for the new names a few weeks later – and a happy House of MEPs voted through the new College.
The EP Hearings for the new Commission College have been set for the period January 11-19, with a full Plenary vote scheduled for January 26 – so that the new College could take office from February 1. Knowing the EP enthusiasm for muscle-flexing, I’d be astonished if MEPs didn’t seek to block at least one of the new Commission nominees – but preferably 2 or 3, to get the right party political, gender and old-new member State balance. In short, Cioloş is only half way to becoming the next EU Farm Commissioner.
Who is Dacian Cioloş?
Turning then to the man himself. Born in the city of Zalau in North-West Romania on July 25, 1969, Cioloş studied horticulture & agronomy at the Agricultural University of Cluj. He then continued his agricultural studies in France in Rennes and Montpellier – emerging with a Masters degree – which included a close look at organic farms in Brittany. From there, he started a 2-year internship in the European Commission’s DG AGRI in Brussels – where he met his (French) wife. After that, he became a programme coordinator in Romania for the National Association of Agricultural Development – but also started a part-time PhD at the Ecole Superieure Agronomique in Montpellier. Two years later, he switched to working for the European Commission’s office in Bucharest – providing advice for Agriculture & Rural Development programmes. Then in 2005, he was recruited by the Romanian Ministry of Agriculture to make frequent trips to Brussels and represent the Romanian position in the so-called Special Committee on Agriculture (SCA) – the key Committee for preparing the monthly Council meetings of EU Farm Ministers. This was of course in the build up period before Romania joined the EU in January 2007. Soon after they joined, the Minister then named him “Under-Secretary of State for Agriculture responsible for EU affairs”, i.e. Junior Minister. When, 6 months later, the Minister resigned, Cioloş was then promoted to Minister, charged in particular with sorting out the administration of the various CAP payments. With well over 1 million applications for EU support, the system was struggling, it seems. Anyway, Cioloş remained Minister for 15 months until a new government was formed after the elections at the end of 2008. Since then, he has been doing a number of ad hoc jobs within the Romanian Ministry, notably chairing a Romanian working group on the future of the CAP.
From a purely personal point of view, I’ve come across him a number of times – mainly at Informal Agriculture Council meetings, but I also had a one-to-one meeting with him not so long ago. At Informal meetings, where journalists tend to have access to all Ministers for a couple of hours, he was always a popular target because his French is so good [and there are no interpreters] and because he is good on policy details. In my contacts with him, however, he has given the clear indications of support for competitive, but sustainable farm structures, i.e. not wedded to the small structures so prevalent in Romania. He has pointed out that there is more to Romanian agriculture that just small farms – and that it is also in Romania’s interests to improve its efficiencies (maybe by increasing structures). But maybe that’s what he assumed I wanted to hear, as an Anglo-Saxon.
We spoke in French, but he did assure me (in French) that he also speaks English. It would be a shame if this were to become an issue, as one should recall that both Mariann Fischer Boel and Franz Fischler were not confident enough to speak publicly in English when they first took office. Unfortunately, the fact that Cioloş is seen by some as being “too French” means that speaking English will be an important pre-requisite for allaying such fears.
Unfortunately for him, Cioloş’ claims that he is not “too French” were not helped by the reaction in Paris to his nomination for the Agriculture portfolio. French President Nicolas Sarkozy singled out the appointment as “a second victory for France” (in addition to the fact that the French Commissioner Michel Barnier will be responsible for financial services). Indeed, Barnier has also made comments about how he will ensure that Cioloş is well aware of French agricultural positions.
In preparing for the Hearing in the European Parliament next month, Cioloş has now chosen his chief adviser – or Chef de Cabinet – an Austrian called Georg Haeusler from within DG AGRI, whose main claim to fame was being the personal adviser to DG AGRI Director-general Jean-Luc Demarty from 2006 to 2008. The fact that 41-year-old Haeusler – and Cioloş – is so relatively inexperienced suggests that these changes will considerably increase Jean-Luc Demarty’s influence over the whole CAP reform process. Although Demarty is French, he has been in the Commission for many years and has previously been criticised from Paris for certain positions. In practice, this greater influence of the DG will probably mean a stronger sense of continuation in the direct of policy reform, rather than a strong input from the new Commissioner.
Will he be blocked by the European Parliament?
My immediate response to his nomination was that MEPs will want to block Cioloş, as he is an easy target. But the more I think about it, the more I believe that he will be supported by COMAGRI – on the condition, of course, that he puts in a competent performance in the Hearing. We should perhaps recall that Fischer Boel was not particularly impressive in her EP Hearing, but has turned out to be a particularly skilful Commissioner who would have had unquestioned support from most quarters if she had decided to stay on for another 5 years.
Arguments Against Cioloş
– Wrong nationality. Romania is too dependent on agriculture, and besides which Cioloş is too French – having lived & studied there, i.e. a Romanian with a French CV.
– lacks political experience. He was only Minister for 15 months, and has spent most of his relatively short career as a civil servant; When he was Minister EU payments to Romania (for pre-accession Rural Development schemes) were frozen because of mal-administration;
- lacks political support within the EP. Although he previously insisted that he was “independent”, he has now been embraced by the right of centre European People’s Party, but it remains unclear how strong this support is.
Arguments for COMAGRI supporting Cioloş
– Lack of alternative – COMAGRI is pro-farmer, and the fear from blocking him is who might be offered as an alternative Commissioner. Certainly it would be no one as well-qualified & informed as Cioloş. Without any doubt, there is no other Romanian who would be acceptable for the post.
– Lack of political experience – With co-decision, it could be a massive advantage for the EP, and for the COMAGRI in particular, to have an inexperienced Commissioner. He is reasonably close to COMAGRI Chairman Paolo De Castro (former Italian Minister) from their time together as Ministers – and so De Castro may have a much stronger influence over him, than over a different Commissioner.
Stephen Power reported on Friday at the Washington Wire Blog (The Wall Street Journal) that, “As if the debate over climate legislation in the Senate weren’t complicated enough, here’s a new twist: Sens. Maria Cantwell (D., Wash.) and Susan Collins (R., Maine) today introduced their own bill to cut emissions – one that’s a lot simpler to explain to voters than proposals that have advanced so far in Congress. It also plays off the anti-Wall Street mood that’s popular among members of both parties these days.
“The question is whether the latest bill will be any easier to pass.”
“All of the studies said that costs of production would rise and in the short run per-acre profitability may decline, but, for the most part, the declines will be modest.
“On the plus side, the bill exempts agriculture from emission caps, has provisions to ease the transition to higher fertilizer prices and offers the chance of revenue from development of a carbon offset market.”