The “Washington Insider” section of DTN indicated on Friday (link requires subscription) that, “Throughout much of last year, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack unequivocally stated and restated that cap and trade programs, such as those in the House climate change bill, would mean significant positive net benefits for agriculture. USDA staff worked under pressure to use its massive economic models, together with those from universities and elsewhere, to measure the effects of such a program — and, frankly, to build support for the legislation.
“However, when the details of these studies began to emerge and be examined critically by congressional staff and others, questions began to emerge. It appeared that the models used were based on a number of critical assumptions and focused narrowly. They appeared to say that cap and trade programs were indeed capable of raising agricultural prices and returns — but that in the cases examined, many of those benefits took place in a much reduced sector, with millions of acres diverted into ‘sequestration’ projects and planted to grasses or trees.”
Lisa Lerer and Manu Raju reported on Friday at Politico that, “Democrats are racing to hash out the details of a jobs bill by a self-imposed Monday deadline — and working overtime to gain the Republican votes they’ll need to pass it.
“Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer and Max Baucus spent Thursday in a flurry of delicate negotiations with Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Orrin Hatch , with aides going back and forth on the details of a tax-focused jobs bill.
“The bill has shifted from a sweeping piece of legislation to a smaller, bipartisan bill — loaded up with tax cuts to gain Republican support,” the Politico article said.
Budget: Reactions to Executive Branch Agricultural Proposals
Bloomberg writer Alan Bjerga reported earlier this week that, “U.S. Department of Agriculture spending would rise 2.3 percent to $132.3 billion in fiscal 2011 as the number of people receiving aid to buy groceries, the USDA’s biggest expense, reaches records, the government said.
“The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called food stamps, will cost $75.3 billion in the year starting Oct. 1, up 3.9 percent from this year, accounting for most of the overall increase, according to the budget President Barack Obama sent to Congress today. Agricultural subsidies would fall 11 percent as the administration tries to limit payments to wealthy farmers.
“A record 37.9 million people, or about one of every eight Americans, received food stamps in October, as the jobless rate reached a 26-year high, the USDA said on Jan. 12. Participation in the program that month was up 22 percent from a year earlier, setting a record for the 11th straight month.”
DTN Political Correspondent Jerry Hagstrom reported yesterday (link requires subscription) that, “House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said he plans to begin hearings on the 2012 farm bill in March or April of this year and that he is determined to write a bipartisan bill that is within the funding baseline that exists in 2012.
“The funding baseline is the amount of money that the Congressional Budget Office determines would be spent on all programs in the farm bill if the same programs were to continue after 2012. CBO projects the funding levels based on spending in programs in past years.
“Peterson said at least initially he expects each major farm bill section — the farm program, conservation and nutrition — to stay within its 2012 baseline.”
DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported yesterday that, “Agriculture policy should focus on job creation in 2010, the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee explained to DTN in a December interview.
“Much of the policy focus for Congress will be to attempt to finish work started in 2009 while gauging just what is practical before November’s mid-term elections.
“Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., said her committee will work on green energy with the goal to ‘create jobs and put our economy back on the right track … We’re going to be looking towards focusing on creating jobs in rural communities. That will probably be a big issue for us.’”
Jim Snyder reported yesterday at The Hill Online that, “The Environmental Protection Agency’s finding that carbon dioxide represents a threat to human health starts a process that regulatory experts say will take years to resolve.
“Whether it becomes the ‘glorious mess’ that Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) predicted depends on factors like how much flexibility utilities and other emitters are given to meet the new standards and whether Congress eventually passes a cap-and-trade bill that would clear up some of the uncertainty surrounding the regulation.”
Juliet Eilperin reported in yesterday’s Washington Post that, “By offering concrete emission targets last week, the United States and Chinahave resuscitated global climate talks that were headed toward an impasse. But the details that have yet to be resolved — including the money that industrialized countries would offer poorer ones as part of an agreement — suggest a political deal remains a heavy lift for the 192 countries set to convene in Copenhagen in little more than a week.
“Although the proposals from the world’s two biggest greenhouse-gas emitters have boosted the prospects for a deal, they demonstrate something else as well: No one wants to shoulder the blame for failure at Copenhagen, even if it means the final outcome falls short of what many had envisioned a year or two ago. The U.S. pledge to cut its emissions by 2020 and China’s offer to lower its carbon dioxide output relative to the size of its economy by the same date are more modest than what their negotiating partners had demanded.”
ERS stated that, “Net farm income is forecast to be $57 billion in 2009, down $30 billion (34.5 percent) from 2008. The 2009 forecast is $6.5 billion below the average of $63.6 billion in net farm income earned in the previous 10 years. Still, the $57 billion forecast for 2009 remains the eighth largest amount of income earned in U.S. farming. The top five earnings years have been tightly grouped between 2003 and 2008, attesting to the profitability of farming this decade” [see related graph-net farm income 1998-2009f].
Ben Geman reported yesterday at The Hill Online that, “White House climate czar Carol Browner downplayed the idea that the absence of a domestic emissions law would hinder U.S. leverage in Copenhagen and said the U.S. could tout major accomplishments heading into next month’s international climate talks.
“ In wide-ranging remarks at a climate conference in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, she also said President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao made substantial progress in their Beijing discussions this week.”
“About 40 environment ministers meeting in Copenhagen made progress toward a scaled-down U.N. deal next month, while African leaders accepted for the first time that the December meeting would not agree a full treaty.
“Obama was speaking after talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao in which he said the world’s top two greenhouse gas emitters had agreed to take ‘significant’ action to mitigate their output of carbon dioxide.”
Lisa Lerer reported yesterday at Politico.com that, “Shortly after Democrats took office last January, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) vowed the Senate would pass climate change legislation before the start of the international climate talks in Copenhagen.
“But less than a month before the eyes of the world turn to Denmark, it’s clear that there’s no chance a bill will get through the Senate by then — a domestic policy failure that leaves the U.S. with a weakened hand as it seeks to negotiate a global warming treaty with the rest of the world.”
“Speaking in Tokyo, Obama said nations that are the biggest emitters must set clear targets for reducing those emissions. And he said developing countries will need to take substantial actions of their own.”
Dan Morgan, a former Washington Post reporter and editor, who is now an independent writer specializing in agriculture and energy, published an article yesterday titled, “Mining Carbon Down on the Farm.”
Datelined from Wheatland, Wyoming, the article stated that, “This region of the country was built from selling coal, gold, lead and other minerals buried in the ground. Now some farmers and ranchers are betting there is treasure in yet another element below the surface: carbon.
Darren Samuelsohn of ClimateWire reported yesterday at The New York Times Online that, “The Senate climate debate shifts into a higher gear this week as advocates look beyond the partisan gridlock that engulfed the Environment and Public Works Committee and onto the broader quest of finding 60 votes for floor passage.
“Tomorrow, the Finance and Energy and Natural Resources committees dive into the issue with a pair of simultaneous hearings on climate policy. [Note: As of this morning, an update posted at the Energy and Natural Resources homepage indicates that today’s hearing has been postponed].
“On Finance, Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) will study the job implications of global warming legislation with testimony from a major labor union, economists, and the nuclear power and electric utility industry. Baucus has said he may hold a markup this year on the trade provisions of a climate bill and address how to distribute greenhouse gas emission allowances among regulated industries.”
Lisa Lerer reported on Friday at Poltico.com that, “While Sen. Barbara Boxer was celebrating her committee’s passage of a sweeping climate change bill Thursday, other Democrats and Republicans were already looking for a Plan B.
“Rank-and-file members from both parties dismissed the Boxer bill, coal-state senators were unhappy and many said Boxer’s move to approve the bill without any Republicans even in the committee room had poisoned the process.
“‘It dooms that particular legislation. The question is what comes next,’ said Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski. ‘We will see what Plan B is.’”
An update posted yesterday at CQPolitics reported that, “Partisan politics threaten to derail progress on a Senate climate change bill, even before the first committee markup.
“Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee say they will carry through on threats to boycott markups on the bill, which panel Chairwoman Barbara Boxer had wanted to begin Tuesday.
“The Republicans — led by Oklahoma’s James M. Inhofe, the Environment panel’s ranking GOP member and the Senate’s most vocal climate change skeptic — say they will not be present at the Tuesday session.”