Administration officials are out in force putting on the big sell regarding cap and trade. More formally known as the American Clean Energy and Security Act (HR 2454), the Waxman-Markey bill is aimed at reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The measure passed the House in June by a 219-212 vote mostly down partisan lines. In actuality, more state delegations voted against it than for it, but the vote-rich New York and California delegations provided the heavy lifting to get it passed.
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack recently told the Senate Agriculture Committee that his agency's analysis shows the economic benefits from proposed climate change legislation will be a boom to agriculture in the long term, citing the higher commodity prices that are sure to follow (great news for livestock producers).
Cattlemen's organizations have voiced their displeasure, pointing out that economists estimate the legislation would cause farm income to drop between $8 billion in the short term to $50 billion long term.
In fact, the Texas Cattle Feeders Association and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association sent letters to the House Ag Committee (HAC) and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. They highlighted members' concern that “the bill would require the EPA to develop performance standards to reduce greenhouse gases such as methane, which would likely include animal agriculture. In addition, it is widely believed that the bill would significantly increase farm and ranch input costs (like fuel and fertilizer) without providing agricultural producers with an effective carbon credit trading program to offset those increased costs.”
There do seem to be a few adult voices in the government, one being Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), HAC chairman. In a call to attendees of the recent “Texas Ag Forum on Climate Change, Carbon Credits and Agriculture” in Austin, Peterson said he believes the push for cap and trade is an attempt to put environmentalists in control of agriculture so they “can tell us what to do. I will not agree to that.”
And Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) are taking aim at the measure they see as crippling to agriculture. The pair wants more than just White House rhetoric about the benefits to agriculture. Johanns has asked USDA to provide state-by-state and crop-specific analyses of the proposal's effect on livestock producers.
The bill is now in the Senate, where it is expected to face more scrutiny and skepticism. Short of an early and justifiable death, it is likely livestock producers will come out the worse should it pass.