Farming Groups Welcome Clean Energy Bill29 June 2009
US - The House of Representatives has approved legislation that will allow farmers, ranchers and forest owners to fully participate in a market-based carbon offset programme, earning income for activities they undertake to address global climate change.
A press release from the US House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture says that the bill's agriculture provisions negotiated by Chairman Peterson had the support of many agriculture, conservation and forestry organizations, including the American Farmland Trust, National Farmers Union, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Corn Growers Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Milk Producers Federation, American Corn Growers Association, American Forest Foundation, American Soybean Association, Dairy Farmers of America, Growth Energy, Minnesota Corn Growers Association, Minnesota Farmers Union, Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation, National Association of Conservation Districts, National Biodiesel Board, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, National Cotton Council, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Farmers Union, National Pork Producers Council, Renewable Fuels Association, United Egg Producers, Western Peanut Growers Association, and Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman, Collin C. Peterson, (MN) worked with the authors of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2454) to include several important programs that recognise and reward the agriculture and forestry sector for conservation activities and clean energy production.
Under the legislation passed by the House, the agriculture and forestry sectors are clearly exempt from the bill's greenhouse gas emission reduction requirements, which means that farmers, ranchers and forestland owners will not be subject to the greenhouse gas emissions cap.
The bill establishes an agricultural and forestry offset program at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) that will work with farmers, ranchers and forestland owners to design and implement plans that reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions and sequester carbon on their operations. Farmers, ranchers and forestland owners will earn offsets for these actions, and they can sell the credits to utilities, refiners or other firms subject to limitations on greenhouse gas emissions.
"The offset programme run by USDA creates a new market opportunity for farmers, ranchers and forestland owners who can play an important role in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States," Chairman Peterson said. "Farmers, ranchers and forestland owners have been participating in conservation and carbon sequestration programs for many years, working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy efficiency, and support a thriving renewable energy industry. This legislation recognizes those efforts and encourages these important activities."
The bill also boosts the renewable fuels industry by eliminating regulatory requirements that unfairly restrict US renewable energy production. It prevents the Environmental Protection Agency from holding US biofuels producers responsible for deforestation or other land use changes in other countries, and it expands the availability of biomass for energy production by improving the definition of what qualifies as renewable biomass. It also includes a programme that will help fund the installation of blender pumps, making clean-burning renewable fuels available to more Americans.
"This bill promotes home-grown, clean burning renewable fuels, which is one of the best things we can do for the economy and the environment," Mr Peterson said.
NFU commends the bill
National Farmers Union President, Roger Johnson, commended the US House of Representatives for passing the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 by a vote of 219-212.
"This legislation recognises the unique role America's family farmers and ranchers can play when it comes to combating global climate change. The agricultural offset programme, overseen by USDA, will help mitigate the increased input costs of a cap and trade programme, while the early actors provision recognizes those producers who have already adopted environmentally friendly practices.
"Failing to pass climate change legislation is not an option. The EPA is poised to act, with the agency's proposed endangerment finding paving the way for a regulatory approach to addressing greenhouse gases. If this were to occur, the positive provisions within climate change legislation would be lost.
"I commend the House leadership for their tireless efforts to include agriculture as part of the climate change solution. Agriculture Committee Chairman Peterson, Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Hoyer and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman were instrumental to the passage of the bill.
"While not perfect, the House-passed bill is a step in the right direction. I look forward to working with the Senate as they begin considering climate change legislation," concluded Mr Johnson.
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