The House's American Clean Energy and Security Act squeaked by on a 219-to-212 vote late last Friday. While it included some provisions to lighten the load on agriculture, crop producers are again more likely to be the beneficiaries as livestock producers could end up paying a bigger price.
A glance at the Environmental Protection Agency's analysis of the bill gives some clues as to why, reports the Des Moines Register.
According to an EPA analysis, as landowners attempt to earn carbon credits, cropland will shrink as pastures and crop acreage are converted to trees. Crop yields could slip lower as farmers cut back on fertilizer. Combine the prospect of shrinking cropland and lower crop yields, and it could spell higher feed prices for livestock and poultry producers.
"If I was a livestock producer I would be very concerned," Allison Specht, an American Farm Bureau Federation economist, told the Register. "
The National Pork Producers Council commented: "Many pork producers now are at risk of being put out of business, and passage of this climate change bill would only make that risk greater and put more producers in jeopardy."
NPPC did thank the bill's sponsor, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), and House Ag Committee Chairman Colin Peterson (D-Minn.) for reaching a compromise on language related to the agricultural greenhouse-gas offset credites. The language allows USDA rather then EPA to design and implement the offset credits program and to develop any climate change regulations affecting livestock producers, a provision that NPPC supprts. But the council doesn't belive that revenues from the sale of offset credits for most pork producers would counterbalance the energy and input cost increases associated wih the bill.
The bill also could discourage cropland expansion overseas through allocation of carbon credits for protection of forests.
Other agribusiness interests, including the North American Millers Association and the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, are worried about the bill, saying in a letter to the House that the bill will lead to increases in food prices.
Of course, the Senate will now take up the climate bill debate and it will face even more challenges than in the House.
“They don’t have my vote yet,” said Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). “In the Senate this bill will not pass unless Midwestern Democratic senators support it in large numbers.”
In the Senate there are numerous climate measures are being crafted, and the regional and philosophical differences are more severe in the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has essentially said the House bill is a starting point. He has told the 20 Senate committee chairmen, who's committees are working on pieces of the Senate's climate legislation, to complete their work by Sept.18.
President Obama has been a clear and ardent supporter of climate-change legislation. But even with Obama’s backing, “it’s going to be very tough,” said Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa).
Harkin, Brown and their Midwestern and industrial-state colleagues are concerned that a cap-and-trade system would raise energy costs on consumers, including farmers, while forcing U.S. companies to comply with stricter environmental standards than their overseas competitors.