FarmPolicy

August 17, 2019

Climate Issues; Food Safety; Biofuels; Ag Economy; Farm Bill; and Political Notes

Climate Issues: Senate Action on EPA Regulation Authority

Meredith Shiner reported yesterday at Politico that, “Senate Republicans on Tuesday pushed to rein in what they say is an overreach by the Environmental Protection Agency, but a lack of significant Democratic support and a veto threat from the White House seemed likely to thwart their efforts.

“Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, ranking Republican on the [Energy and Natural Resources Committee], wants the Senate to approve a resolution blocking the agency’s regulations on greenhouse gases. She and 11 GOP colleagues — ranging from Jim Inhofe who believes climate change is a ‘hoax’ to Lindsey Graham, the one-time cosponsor of bipartisan climate change legislation — spoke to reporters about the measure in a Capitol Hill news conference.”

Video clips from yesterday’s news conference are available here (Sen. Murkowski), here (Sen. Graham), and here (Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota).

Printed remarks regarding the Senate resolution from yesterday are available here (Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee) and here (Sen. Kit Bond, R-Missouri).

After noting that, “The EPA moved forward to regulate greenhouse gases as House-passed climate legislation stalled in the Senate,” yesterday’s article indicated that, “Though Murkowski’s resolution has 40 additional co-sponsors—including at least one Democrat: Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas — it likely will fall short of the support necessary to pass when she asks for a vote Thursday.”

However, the article added that, “Democrat, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, said he would vote for the measure. ‘I have long maintained that the Congress – not the unelected EPA – must decide major economic and energy policy. EPA regulation will have an enormous impact on the economic security of West Virginia and our energy future,’ he said.

Sean Lengell explained yesterday at The Washington Times Online that, “Conservative lawmakers and energy industry officials applaud the move to scale back the decades-old Clean Air Act, which they complain is too restrictive, bureaucratic and expensive.

“But environmentalists and other critics say Mrs. Murkowski’s measure is based more on partisan politics than solid scientific evidence. Efforts by congressional Democrats and the Obama White House to pass a major new energy bill have stalled on Capitol Hill, and many global-warming activists have looked to the EPA as an alternative way to curb U.S. carbon emissions.”

“Of the measure’s 40 co-sponsors, only three are Democrats: Sens. Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Two Republicans — Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe — so far haven’t signed on as co-sponsors,” the Washington Times article said.

Recall that Sen. Collins has co-sponsored energy related legislation with Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Washington).

Reuters writers Jeff Mason and Richard Cowan noted yesterday that, “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, asked by reporters about prospects for defeating Murkowski, said: ‘I don’t know. Counts are being made … It appears we’re going to be okay, but we’ll never know until the vote takes place.’”

Meanwhile, Philip Brasher reported yesterday at the Green Fields Blog (Des Moines Register) that, “In a statement released today, the White House said the Murkowski bill would ‘undermine the administration’s efforts to reduce the negative impacts of pollution and the risks associated with environmental catastrophes, like the ongoing BP oil spill.’ The statement doesn’t explain how the measure would have that effect but says the president’s advisers would recommend vetoing it. Murkowski said the White House is losing the argument about the costs of EPA climate regulations. ‘They’ve trotted out one red herring after another, but trying to link this bipartisan measure to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill sets a new low,’ she said.

“Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Ia., said the Senate vote could cut two ways. Even if fails to get less than a majority vote, it will be clear that there aren’t 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster of a cap-and-trade bill. On the other hand, should Murkowski fail to pass, the administration may be emboldened to move forward with EPA regulation of carbon emissions.”

Darren Goode pointed out yesterday at NationalJournal Online that, “The [White House] statement — like an op-ed penned this week by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson — tries to link the resolution to the biggest energy story of the moment, arguing that Murkowski’s move would ‘undermine the Administration’s efforts to reduce the negative impacts of pollution and the risks associated with environmental catastrophes, like the ongoing BP oil spill.’”

A press release issued yesterday by the National Cotton Council (NCC) stated that, “[NCC] is urging Senators to vote ‘yes’ on adoption of S. J. Res. 26, a resolution to disapprove the regulation of greenhouse gases by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Clean Air Act (CAA).

“In a letter to Senators, who are expected to consider the resolution on June 10, NCC President/CEO Mark Lange stated that without relief from Congress, EPA regulation of greenhouse gases under the CAA would impose a severe economic impact on the U.S. cotton industry including ‘increased costs of production, inability to generate off-sets, increased processing costs for ginning and textile production, and market disadvantages with its international competitors in India, China, and Brazil who do not incur such regulatory burdens.’”

In an opinion item regarding the climate debate, Jon A. Krosnick, a professor at Stanford, indicated in today’s New York Times that, “On Thursday, the Senate will vote on a resolution proposed by Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, that would scuttle the Environmental Protection Agency’s plans to limit emissions of greenhouse gases by American businesses.

Passing the resolution might seem to be exactly what Americans want. After all, national surveys released during the last eight months have been interpreted as showing that fewer and fewer Americans believe that climate change is real, human-caused and threatening to people.

But a closer look at these polls and a new survey by my Political Psychology Research Group show just the opposite: huge majorities of Americans still believe the earth has been gradually warming as the result of human activity and want the government to institute regulations to stop it.”

Climate Issues: Senate Legislative Alternatives

Darren Samuelsohn of Greenwire reported on Tuesday at The New York Times Online that, “A Senate proposal setting up a cap-and-trade program to curtail greenhouse gas emissions likely will be offered on the floor later this summer as an amendment to a smaller, energy-only approach, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said today.

“Appearing on MSNBC, Schumer said he expects Senate Democratic leaders to use legislation from Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) as the base proposal to launch the floor debate. ‘It’s going to be a good strong energy bill, and I think it’s going to have new life,’ said Schumer, the third highest-ranking Senate Democrat.”

Ben Geman reported yesterday at The Hill’s Energy Blog that, “Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) on Tuesday attacked the notion that climate legislation he authored with Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) would surface as an amendment to an energy bill on the Senate floor rather than being included from the get-go.

Lieberman told reporters in the Capitol that ‘I sure would’ oppose such a strategy.”

Mr. Geman added that, “‘It is like we are not the main event, we are kind of a side show,’ [Lieberman] said. ‘We have to be at the center of the arena.’

“His comments come a day after Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) floated the amendment approach and then backed off it, saying there has been no decision.”

And Washington Post writer Juliet Eilperin reported yesterday at Post Carbon Blog that, “Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters Tuesday he will not support a climate bill authored by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), which he helped craft.

“Graham said the revised bill, which could come up for a vote this summer, would impose too many restrictions on offshore drilling.”

From an international perspective, John M. Broder reported yesterday at the Green Blog (New York Times) that, “Back in December, representatives of more than 190 nations gathered in Copenhagen under the auspices of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to debate the fate of the world. They did not agree on much, but at the end of two contentious weeks they produced a three-page document known as the Copenhagen accord [pdf]. Delegates did not formally adopt it; instead, they voted to ‘take note’ of it.

Six months later, 133 nations have decided to ‘associate’ with the pact, which sets some rather ill-defined goals for reducing greenhouse emissions and helping poorer nations adapt to anticipated changes in the global climate like rising sea levels. Signing on to the accord does not impose any legal requirements, but it does indicate that a country will work to achieve its modest goals in advance of the next United Nations climate summit, in Mexico in late November.”

And Reuters writer Alister Doyle reported yesterday that, “A planned U.N. climate deal might adapt systems for monitoring trade or human rights as models to check up on poor nations’ curbs on greenhouse gases, Mexico’s climate chief said on Tuesday.

“Luis Alfonso de Alba, whose country will host this year’s main climate talks in Cancun from Nov. 29-Dec. 10, said a review system could help the world towards a U.N. climate treaty after the 2009 Copenhagen summit fell short of a binding deal.”

Food Safety

An update posted yesterday at CQPolitics reported that, “The Food and Drug Administration needs more resources and a more focused, risk-based approach to safeguarding the nation’s food supply, according to a report released Tuesday.

“The Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council urged Congress to require food facilities to register with the FDA and to give the agency power to suspend those registrations for violations that threaten public health. Their report also recommends that FDA be authorized to issue mandatory food recalls, to identify countries with inadequate food safety systems and to ban food imports from those countries.”

Yesterday’s update added that, “Supporters of a food safety bill that would expand FDA powers were quick to use the report to press for action on the legislation. The bill has been on and off Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid ’s to-do list since it was approved last November by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

“On Monday, Reid, D-Nev., included the bipartisan bill among those he wants the Senate to tackle before the August recess.”

Biofuels

Reuters writer Charles Abbott reported yesterday that, “New Senate language for a mammoth jobs and tax bill, released on Tuesday, retains a proposed one-year revival of the $1 a gallon tax credit for biodiesel, said Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus.

For Baucus’ revision to become law, it must be passed by the Senate and the House. A Senate vote was not expected before early next week. The new language includes a large increase in assessments to pay for cleaning up oil spills.”

Mr. Abbott noted that, “Baucus proposed the new language as a substitute for a bill passed by the House on May 28, which also included the biodiesel tax credit. Both versions would renew the $1 credit for 2010, retroactive to Jan 1.”

Jay Heflin reported yesterday at The Hill that, “Senate Democratic leaders on Tuesday expressed confidence they can pass the tax extenders bill through their chamber next week.

“‘We’re going to pass this good jobs bill that is on the floor,’ said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).”

The article stated that, “[Reid] predicted the House would accept the Senate’s modifications, saying ‘we’ve made some, but not many.’”

Reuters writer Tom Doggett reported yesterday that, “The European debt crisis will reduce global oil demand this year while the U.S. moratorium on offshore drilling in response to the BP oil spill will cut world oil supplies next year, the U.S. government’s top energy forecasting agency said on Tuesday.

“The U.S. Energy Information Administration lowered its estimate for oil demand growth this year by 70,000 barrels per day from its previous estimate, saying oil use will increase by 1.5 million bpd to 85.51 million bpd.”

Ag Economy

Steve Jordan reported today at the Omaha World-Herald Online that, “Prices are high for the world’s best farmland, passing $7,000 an acre in Nebraska and Iowa recently, because of strong world food demand over the next 40 years, an agricultural economist said here [Kansas City] Tuesday.

“In fact, said J.B. Penn, chief economist for farm equipment maker Deere & Co., for the first time the world’s ability to produce is about to be overtaken by the need for more food, with the world population growing 50 percent by 2050.”

The article added that, “‘That’s not a very long period indeed,’ Penn told about 175 people attending a regional conference on agriculture sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

That means the limited amount of farmland will be strained to keep up with the growing population and the movement in developing countries of people from rural areas to urban areas, he said.”

In other developments regarding the agricultural economy, T-Storm Weather has recently announced a new product called, “YieldCast.”

A recent news release explained that, “YieldCast is a weekly crop report that utilizes proprietary models to forecast U.S. corn and soybean yields based on up-to-date weather observations, short-term weather forecasts, and crop development. It combines the well-respected weather forecasts from T-storm Weather with the modeling and crop expertise of Darrel Good and Scott Irwin.”

The weekly YieldCast report includes: U.S. corn and soybean yield point forecasts and probability distributions; U.S. corn and soybean production point forecasts and probability distributions (using recent USDA acreage projections); and, Crop, weather, and model output commentary.

Additional information regarding YieldCast can be found here.

Farm Bill

Randy Hascall reported last week at the Argus Leader Online (South Dakota) that, “Input collected during a hearing in Sioux Falls will be part of the testimony that will be used to craft the nation’s next farm bill.”

The article added that, “Gary Duffy, president of the South Dakota Corn Growers Association, said the Federal Crop Insurance Program is the most important program for all producers.

“‘Crop insurance is the greatest risk management tool producers have. No one knows what Mother Nature is going to do and the risk she brings to our industry,’ he said.

“‘Crop insurance is efficient, effective and a program that works for all crops.’”

Meanwhile, a news release from yesterday by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition stated that, “A panel of farmers told a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing room full of Congressional staffers today that mid-sized farms connected to local and regional marketing chains offer a tremendous engine for economic growth in rural communities.

“‘Mid-sized farms can produce at a scale and with an agility that is attractive to institutional and wholesale markets particularly when those markets are differentiating their products as local, organic, grass fed or family farm raised,’ said Ferd Hoefner Policy Director at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) one of the sponsors of the briefing. ‘These value based supply chains provide much better income opportunities for mid-sized farmers than the raw commodity market.’”

A news release issued on Monday by Idaho GOP Sen. Mike Crapo stated that, “A popular federal nutrition program does not offer white potatoes to women, infants and children, and Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch want that changed. The Idahoans are part of a bipartisan group of 19 Senators who have written U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, asking him to include potatoes with other fruits and vegetables offered as part of the federal government’s Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program. The WIC Program makes qualifying foods available for low-income and nutritionally at-risk pregnant women and their infants and children through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrition program.”

And a news release from yesterday by Rep. Earl Pomeroy stated that, “Congressman Earl Pomeroy and a bipartisan coalition of his House colleagues are calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to re-think a proposal that would shortchange rural communities on broadband internet services.

“The FCC is in the process of developing a National Broadband Plan that would set goals for expanding access to the internet around the United States. But the proposed plan calls for internet connections of 100 megabits per second, or Mbps, in urban areas while settling for only 4 Mbps in rural areas. In most North Dakota counties, Internet service is already widely available at those speeds, according to FCC data.”

Political Notes

Dan Balz reported in today’s Washington Post that, “Sen. Blanche Lincoln survived a bitter Democratic runoff Tuesday in Arkansas, fending off a strong challenge from labor-backed Lt. Gov. Bill Halter to avoid becoming the third senator this year to lose a bid for reelection.”

Keith Good

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