The Kerry-Boxer measure, (S. 1733) will need serious modification before it can maximize the role of farms, ranches and forestlands in reducing the nation's carbon footprint and combating global climate change, says the 25X’25 Alliance.

Among the current shortcomings in Kerry-Boxer is the measure's failure to explicitly exclude the U.S. agriculture and forestry sectors from rules that cap emissions, and to allow the sectors to deliver quick, low-cost, greenhouse gas emission reductions in a volume significant enough to help meet the national goal established in the bill, which starts at 20-percent below 2005 emission levels by 2020.

“The offsets title of S. 1733 falls far short of ensuring an operationally viable program that is at the heart of the opportunity for the agriculture and forestry sectors to contribute and benefit," says 25x'25 Policy Committee Chairman Bart Ruth. "It is critical that lawmakers address the entire set of biological sequestration offset issues inherent to a cap-and-trade regulatory system. Biological offsets will only be deliverable in the quantity expected and at the prices desired if the program is designed to be operationally efficient."

The 25x'25 recommendations contend that any cap-and-trade system must address operationally and environmentally acceptable duration (the so-called "permanence" issue); leakage; the potential for reversal and program risk management mechanisms; liability immunization for both offset buyers and sellers; and offset-to-allowance (one-for-one exchange equivalence, also known as fungibility).

A positive development that came out of the American Clean Energy Security Act of 2009, climate change legislation approved by the House earlier this year, was a provision that delays for five years the implementation of Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) penalties on biofuels producers, which were established by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA). "Kerry-Boxer must also recognize the ILUC provision was enacted without the benefit of mature and defensible scientific study, and should include a similar waiting period to let good science do its job," Ruth said.

The Kerry-Boxer bill should also pick up an ACES act provision that designates USDA as the lead agency to assume responsibility for the majority of farm and forestry offset functions. And S. 1733 should follow the lead of the ACES act and grandfather the soy biodiesel sector, the pioneering first generation source of biodiesel, under the Renewable Fuels Standard.

Read the full text of the Kerry-Boxer measure online.

For more on this issue and the 25X’25 Alliance, go to the 25X’25 Web site.