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Climate change: new study for ag

With the debate over climate change seeming to heat up daily, the 25x’25 Alliance and a team of University of Tennessee economists have announced they will conduct an in-depth analysis of the impacts of global warming on U.S. agriculture and forestry.

The announcement was made by Nathan Rudgers, the chairman of the 25x’25 Alliance Carbon Work Group during a presentation on carbon sequestration at the annual Ag Media Summit in Ft. Worth, Texas. The Alliance will partner with the University of Tennessee’s Bio-Based Energy Analysis Group on the project.

Conceding some farmers question the validity of global warming claims, Rudgers said those growers need to consider the consequences of allowing EPA to write the rules for dealing with the issue rather than the Congress.

“The potential for an increase in input costs from the Waxman-Markey bill (the American Clean Energy Security Act of 2009) — that’s the big topic now,” says Rudgers. “If the EPA is allowed to regulate the climate change issues rather than Congress, costs are going up, and there won’t be anything in place to offset these.”

“A growing consensus among scientists is that global warming is occurring and can at least be partially attributed to increased emissions of greenhouse gases,” said Burton English, a professor of agricultural economics and a member of the University of Tennessee’s Bio-Based Energy Analysis Group.

“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions should be a global environmental priority, so we will address how a reduction in GHG emissions can be achieved, and the economic and environmental impact a given climate policy will have on the agriculture and forestry sectors.”

25x’25, a national coalition of nearly 90 agricultural, business, environmental, energy and conservation organizations, will manage the study and coordinate the dissemination of its results.

“The primary target audience for this analysis is national agricultural and forest leaders who are attempting to understand and quantify how climate change legislation will impact their sectors,” said Rudgers.

“This analysis will also be presented to federal and state policy makers; executive branch agency officials, renewable energy advocates; and national security, environmental and rural development leaders.”

The study will build on “Solutions from the Land: The role of Agriculture and Forestry in a Reduced Carbon Economy,” a discussion guide and recommendations compiled by the 25x’25 Carbon Work Group, on how the two sectors can deliver substantial emissions reductions, including sequestration, under national climate change policy.

The analysis will be released in three phases, starting with an agriculture component Sept. 15, followed by a livestock component Oct. 15 and a forestry component Nov. 15. BEAG researchers will look at the interplay between the sometimes opposing forces of carbon incentives provided by climate change policy and higher input costs in determining potential supply, price, and geographic impacts of biomass feedstocks.

Estimates of the net impact of the 25 x ‘25 goals upon biomass’s contribution to total emissions, energy use and net carbon flux will be reported as well as the potential impacts of the proposed carbon cap and trade policy.

“We expect this analysis will provide critical information this fall for national policy makers as they debate major climate change legislation,” said Rudgers. “The analysis will provide clear and objective data that can guide those who will determine the role of agriculture and forestry in a new climate change regulatory system.”


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