The U.S. House of Representatives has approved legislation that will allow farmers, ranchers and forestland owners to participate in a market-based carbon offset program, earning income for activities they apply address global climate change.

The bill's agriculture provisions negotiated by House Ag Committe Chairman Colin Peterson (D-Minn.) 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. 

Peterson worked with the authors of the American Clean Energy and Security Act
of 2009 (H.R. 2454) to include several important programs that recognize and reward the agriculture and forestry sectors for conservation activities and clean energy production.

Under the House-passed legislation, 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 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 program 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," 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 U.S. renewable-energy production. It prevents the Environmental Protection Agency from holding U.S. 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 program that will help fund the installation of
blender pumps, making clean-burning renewable fuels available to more Americans.

"This bill promotes homegrown, clean burning renewable fuels, which is one of the best things we can do for the economy and the environment," Peterson said.

Source: The U.S. House Committee on Agriculture