FarmPolicy

September 23, 2019

Climate Issues; and Crop Insurance

Categories: Climate Change

Climate Issues – Sen. Murkowski’s “Resolution of Disapproval”

An update posted yesterday at CQPolitics.com reported that, “Republican Lisa Murkowski says she has won the backing of ‘several’ Senate Democrats for a resolution that would block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions under clean air laws.

Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., a moderate who faces an uphill fight for reelection in November, has already agreed to cosponsor the measure.”

The CQ item explained that, “Murkowski’s office says two other Democrats are among the 37 cosponsors. Murkowski, of Alaska, is the ranking Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

The resolution, which is not subject to a filibuster, needs only 51 votes to pass the Senate. Democrats will control 59 votes to 41 for Republicans, once Sen.-elect Scott P. Brown, R-Mass., is seated.

But even it a resolution of disapproval passed the Senate, it would still have to get through the House. And President Obama almost surely would veto it.”

Nonetheless, yesterday’s update noted that, “[A] resolution of disapproval that garnered enough Democratic votes to pass the Senate could be a fatal blow to Obama’s efforts to enact a cap-and-trade climate bill this year.”

John M. Broder reported in today’s New York Times that, “[Sen. Murkowski’s] effort was applauded by a broad swath of industry, agriculture and energy lobbies, which fear the prospect of what they consider capricious and heavy-handed regulation by the E.P.A.

An aide to [the Senate leader, Harry Reid (D-Nevada)] said that the measure was unlikely to come to a vote before March because of a crowded legislative calendar. He also said that while Mr. Reid believes that legislation to address climate change is preferable to E.P.A. regulation, the agency must retain the authority to act if Congress does not.

“‘There is no disagreement that it would be better than E.P.A. regulation for Congress to pass bipartisan comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation that creates jobs, improves our energy security and invests in making our economy and businesses more efficient and globally competitive,’ the aide, Jim Manley, said. ‘But, thus far, very few Republicans have shown any willingness to work with us to get that done.’”

Juliet Eilperin reported in today’s Washington Post that, “A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation Thursday to block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, a move that could undercut one of the Obama administration’s top domestic priorities.

“As prospects fade that Congress will pass a comprehensive climate bill this year, the EPA has been moving forward to enact regulations that would put costly limits on power plant pollution, making the agency the target of influential industry representatives and some members of Congress.”

A news release issued yesterday by the American Farm Bureau Federation stated that, “Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) announced today that she would co-sponsor a resolution to disapprove the Environmental Protection Agency’s effort to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. Lincoln’s support builds key momentum for an issue that is of vital importance to America’s farmers and ranchers, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

AFBF President Bob Stallman said Lincoln’s support for the resolution, introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), could not have come at a better time and reflects true bipartisan concern.

“‘Sen. Lincoln recognizes the very real apprehension that Americans today harbor about the overreach of government regulations,’ Stallman said. ‘America’s farmers and ranchers believe incentives and initiatives that focus on clean energy would be much more effective than once again trotting out the heavy hand of government regulation. We fully support Sens. Lincoln and Murkowski in their efforts to oppose EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations.’”

Margaret Kriz Hobson reported yesterday at the National Journal’s Energy and Environment Blog that, “Republican efforts to block climate change controls got a major boost today when three Democratic senators — Ben Nelson of Nebraska [related news release], Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas — agreed to cosponsor a GOP bill that would overturn proposed EPA regulations.

“Lincoln, who chairs the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, said she wants Congress to write climate change legislation rather than have the Obama administration cut global warming pollution under the Clean Air Act. ‘I am very concerned about the burden that EPA regulation of carbon emissions could put on our economy and have questions about the actual benefit EPA regulations would have on the environment,’ said Lincoln, who faces a tough campaign for re-election this fall.”

DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “With a letter of support from more than 150 ag groups, the chairman and ranking member [related news release] of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee are backing a resolution in Congress to block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

“As the ‘resolution of disapproval’ authored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, was brought to Senate floor [related floor statement by Sen. Murkowski] Thursday afternoon, some moderate Democrats have given the resolution some legs for potential Senate approval, including Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., who added her name as a co-sponsor of the resolution. Sen. Mary Landrieu, R-La., and Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., also signed with Murkowski on the resolution, along with 35 other Republicans, Murkowski said as she brought the resolution the floor.

“Murkowski’s resolution would essentially block the EPA from moving ahead on regulating carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases after the EPA announced such gases endanger to the public health.”

Mr. Clayton noted that, “The ag groups noted both the Bush administration and officials in President Barack Obama’s administration have stated that the Clean Air Act is not the appropriate legislation to regulate greenhouse gases. Yet, the EPA has pushed ahead with the endangerment finding and potential rules on greenhouse gases while attempting to push Congress to pass a comprehensive climate bill.

The House passed a climate bill last June that would exempt agriculture from greenhouse-gas emission caps, yet most agricultural commodity groups oppose the bill because of potential costs. A Senate bill is stalled and likely set back further by the election Tuesday of a Republican to the Senate from Massachusetts.”

Philip Brasher reported yesterday at the Green Fields Blog (The Des Moines Register) that, “Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Ia., has signed on to legislation that would stop the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions, and strip the White House of a key tool it needs to prod Congress into enacting carbon limits.”

And a news release issued yesterday by Sen. John Thune (R-SD) indicated that, “Senator John Thune today praised the introduction of a bipartisan Senate resolution of disapproval under the terms of the Congressional Review Act offered by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). The resolution formally states the Senate’s disapproval of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) endangerment finding that would pave the way for expensive regulations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses under the Clean Air Act. Senator Thune is an original cosponsor of the resolution.

“‘The EPA is using the rulemaking process to go around Congress and the American people in instituting what amounts to a national energy tax,’ said Thune. ‘Employers in energy intensive industries like agriculture, manufacturing, and transportation would see costs rise dramatically, resulting in job losses we cannot afford. Consumers would see higher prices across the board. Congress must act to block this backdoor tax.’”

Ken Anderson reported yesterday at Brownfield that, “Nebraska [GOP] Senator Mike Johanns is one of 30 cosponsors of a disapproval resolution—a move that could stop the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.”

To listen to a related Brownfield audio clip on this development from Sen. Johanns, just click here (MP3-4:00).

In a related news release, Sen. Johanns indicated that, “EPA’s endangerment finding is bad for agriculture, bad for businesses and their employees, and bad for anyone who flips on a light switch. This Administration seems to think there is no limit to the government’s reach into the everyday lives of Americans. Congress writes the laws, and we need to act to stop EPA from imposing devastating regulations on Americans. This resolution is the first step in doing so.”

House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-Oklahoma), who was a guest on yesterday’s AgriTalk Radio Program with Mike Adams, also voiced support for Sen. Murkowski’s resolution.

In this short audio clip from yesterday’s AgriTalk program (2:25), Rep. Lucas pointed out that a similar effort on the resolution issue would be coming from the House.

Climate Issues – Sen. Boxer Expresses Resistance to “Resolution”

Ben Geman reported yesterday at The Hill’s Energy and Environment Blog that, “Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) finally introduced her ‘resolution of disapproval’ Thursday to block EPA’s planned regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.

“The 35 other Republicans signing on – joining three Democrats – include Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who is at the forefront of Senate efforts to craft a bipartisan climate change and energy bill.

Murkowski and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, gave dueling speeches on the Senate floor about Murkowski’s plan.”

Jennifer Dlouhy reported yesterday at the PoliticsBlog (The San Francisco Chronicle) that, “Calling it a ‘direct assault’ on the health of the American people, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., today blasted a Republican-led effort to curb the federal government’s power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming.”

“This ‘is an unprecedented move by a United States senator and her cosponsors to overturn a health finding made by health experts and scientific experts in order to stand with the special interests,’ Boxer said during a speech on the Senate floor.”

Yesterday’s update explained that, “Boxer, the head of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and a champion of legislation to impose carbon-cutting mandates, acknowledged today that ‘it could take us a long time to get’ a bill enacted. But the EPA-imposed regulations are necessary in the meantime, Boxer said.

“‘There are health effects of doing nothing,’ Boxer said. ‘It may take us a while to fix this problem — maybe a year, it might take five years — (but) what she wants to do is state that nobody can take action to protect their families from carbon pollution while we dither around here.’

“Boxer delivered her criticism of Murkowski’s proposal during a lengthy speech on the Senate floor and later in a news conference where she was flanked by Democratic colleagues.”

Reuters writer Richard Cowan reported yesterday that, “Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer called Murkowski’s EPA legislation an unprecedented ‘assault,’ adding, ‘We cannot and must not repeal a scientific health finding.’

“Speaking at a press conference, Boxer was referring to a scientific review, which concluded that greenhouse gas emissions endanger human health, the underpinning for EPA regulation under the Clean Air Act.”

A video replay of Sen. Boxer’s news conference from yesterday is available here, while a short audio clip by Sen. Boxer that was made at yesterday’s news conference is available here (3:03).

Mr. Cowan also noted in his Reuters article from yesterday that, “Foreign countries are closely watching Washington’s actions on climate control as they weigh how forcefully they will join international calls for aggressively tackling climate change problems that could range from widespread drought and flooding to melting polar ice and rising sea levels.”

Climate Change: Other Issues

Bloomberg writers Jim Efstathiou Jr. and Kim Chipman reported yesterday that, “Measures to spur green-energy jobs may end up in a new economic-stimulus bill after Republican Scott Brown’s Senate victory in Massachusetts dimmed prospects for legislation to curb carbon-dioxide emissions.

“Provisions to help homeowners reduce power use and make industry more energy-efficient may be shifted out of cap-and- trade legislation that’s stalled in the Senate, said Robert Stavins, director of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program in Cambridge, Massachusetts.”

The article stated that, “‘A large cap-and-trade bill isn’t going to go ahead at this time,’ Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, told reporters in Washington yesterday.

Putting energy provisions into a bill to stimulate job creation instead ‘makes sense’ because that’s the Senate’s next priority after health-care legislation, Senator Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Ohio, said before Brown’s win.”

Margaret Kriz Hobson reported yesterday at the National Journal’s Energy and Environment Blog that, “The American public would support climate change legislation if environmental advocates shifted the rhetoric they use to sell their proposals, Republican pollster Frank Luntz said today at a press conference with environmental and business leaders.

“Luntz released research showing that the public rejects the scare tactics used by environmentalists and conservative business leaders in the climate debate. To sell climate policies, Luntz said environmentalists should emphasize the need for ‘cleaner, safer, and healthier policies’ and a ‘gradually declining cap’ on the nation’s pollution emissions.”

And Reuters writers Timothy Gardner and Peter Henderson reported earlier this week that, “U.S. regions will lead efforts to contain greenhouse gas emissions over the next few years if Washington can’t pass its own legislation, but will have crack down harder if they are to force industry to take meaningful action on fighting global warming.

“The election of a Republican in Massachusetts to the U.S. Senate on Tuesday will make it even tougher for the Obama Administration to pass a climate bill containing a ‘cap and trade’ market on emissions –largely because of the already strong opposition to the effort.

That will put the focus back on the states which plan more ambitious regulations to tackle global warming that will proceed with or without Washington’s legislative efforts. This involves 10 states in the eastern U.S. that already regulate carbon dioxide in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and a western U.S. and Canadian initiative led by California.”

Crop Insurance

Arthur D. Postal reported yesterday at Property and Casualty Online that, “Proposed cuts for the U.S. Agriculture Department’s subsidy to the crop insurance program are excessive and will likely lead to more consolidation in a shrinking private crop insurance industry, an insurers’ representative told the agency.

“Robert Parkerson, president of National Crop Insurance Services, which represents the carriers in talks with the Agriculture Department, made his comments as the NCIS submitted a counterproposal to the Agriculture Department this week.

“He said the original December proposal by the USDA/Risk Management Agency ‘would substantially change the structure of the crop insurance program.’”

Yesterday’s article added that, “Specifically, [Parkerson] said, it would result in an estimated reduction in funding of approximately $800 million per year over the next five years. This $4 billion cut would be in addition to the $6.4 billion cut mandated by the 2008 farm bill.

“‘These are pretty dramatic cuts based on little or no supporting research and data,’ Mr. Parkerson said.

“‘The industry supports thinking about change, but it has to make sense for the Government, industry and producers,’ he said.

“In addition to the proposed cuts, the private industry has estimated, on a preliminary basis, additional costs of over $100 million to comply with RMA’s new program initiatives and information technology requirements, he said.”

Keith Good

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