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Who's afraid of the big, bad farm lobby?

A couple weeks ago I attended a U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing entitled, "Economic Opportunities for Agriculture, Forestry Communities, and Others in Reducing Global Warming Pollution" that addressed the role of agriculture and forest carbon offsets in the U.S. climate bill. Below is a quick and dirty summary of positions taken by panelists and key senators in the hearing.

- You can access an archived webcast of the hearing here

Opening Remarks

Panel 1

Jeffrey W. Hopkins
Principal Adviser, Energy and Climate Policy
Rio Tinto (largest mining company in the US and Internationally) -

Key points: Offsets are a cost containment strategy for meeting emission reduction mandates

Bill Hohenstein
Director, Global Climate Change Program
United States Department of Agriculture -

Key points: Economic opportunities from offsets will outweigh the costs for farmers and foresters; the bill will transform and make agriculture and land management more sustainable; Hohenstein stated the bill adequately addresses issues with offsets such as permanence, leakage, additionality and verifiability
Fred Krupp
Environmental Defense Fund -

Key points: Creditable emission reductions represent a new income stream for farmers and foresters, cost savings and environmental benefits; EPA analysis of allowing offsets in the bill demonstrates they lower allowance prices seven percent each year

Bob Stallman
American Farm Bureau Federation

Key points: The legislation that passed the House of Representatives will have virtually no impact on the earth's temperature in the year 2050 but will have enormous economic consequences for the US and the agricultural sector. The agricultural sector will suffer a second blow unless other countries, such as China and India, adopt similar emissions restrictions.

Majority Statements

Barbara Boxer- Supports the bill

Key points: Let the market decide the winning low carbon technologies (not a command and control system where we build 100 nuclear plants by a certain date as suggested by one republican senator). In fact she pointed out an EPA analysis that showed that with the cap and trade system, over 200 nuclear power plants would be built by the private sector without having to use tax payers' money. She emphasized that "offsets, by providing regulated industries with a low-cost way to meet some of their pollution reduction requirements, can be an important part of cutting emissions. And lower costs for industry mean lower costs for families. Groups working in the farm sector have voiced their support for Waxman Markey legislation, including the National Association of Wheat Growers, American Farmland Trust, and the National Farmers Union."

Minority Statements

James M. Inhofe - (Oklahoma) Against the bill- Major gripe: cost concerns (20% of input costs for agricultural sector are energy related he says)

John Barrasso (Wyoming) Against the bill- Major gripe: net job loss from the bill (wants all jobs not just 'green' jobs in exchange for fossil fuel, mining jobs)

Christopher S. Bond (Missouri) Against the bill (calls it a utility and gas tax); Major gripe: concerned about the rise in energy costs to farmers

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