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For agriculture it may be a good thing that House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., has major concerns with the climate change bill currently under consideration in the House.
The House Energy & Commerce Committee approved the American Clean Energy & Security Act (H.R. 2454) introduced by chairman Henry Waxman, D-Cal., and Edward Markey, D- Mass., by a vote of 33 to 25. The bill would create the first national limit on greenhouse-gas emissions.
Although Peterson said he would not support any climate change legislation in a hearing in May, National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson warned Peterson that failure to pass climate change legislation could lead to Environmental Protection Agency regulation of farm greenhouse gas emissions.
The 948-page bill only mentions agriculture six times. Peterson is highly displeased with the bill's lack of attention to the agriculture industry and is demanding that the bill be allowed to be considered by his committee. He says that jurisdictional issues and the lack of attention to agriculture in the current bill necessitate the opportunity for the Agriculture Committee to have some say in the legislation.
Rep. Zack Space, D-Ohio, offered a very detailed amendment during the markup that sought to add language outlining specific types of agricultural activities and practices associated with carbon sequestration- or as the amendment stated: "With respect to domestic offset project types.bCrLf However, the amendment was later withdrawn from consideration.
In Energy and Commerce, an amendment by Congressman Lee Terry, R-Neb., to remove the impacts of international indirect land use changes from life cycle analysis of energy crops was defeated 36 to 20. Peterson says he will not support any bill that bases analysis on international indirect land use.
Peterson holds the keys to the votes of most members of the Ag Committee — 11 of whom are freshman members with districts that are considered vulnerable to defeat in the next election cycle. These members from rural districts will be listening to their constituencies as they voice concerns about the effects of this legislation on agriculture. A total of 28 Democrats on the Ag Committee have said they'll stand behind Peterson unless agricultural changes are made.
And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has called climate change her "flagship issue,bCrLf will need those rural votes to pass the bill on the House floor later this summer.
The House Parliamentarian will have to determine which committees will need to also consider the bill before it would go to the House floor for a full debate. Peterson said he is awaiting that instruction before he decides how his committee will handle the legislation.
To make a bill work for farmers, farm groups want to make sure growers benefit from a cap-and-trade system and that it is overseen by USDA, not EPA. In addition, allies of the ethanol industry want to secure changes in the way biofuels are treated when it comes to accounting for indirect land use.