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Mixed reaction of US agriculture to ACES climate legislation.

- Wednesday, July 01, 2009

It is becoming apparent that the US agriculture sector has mixed feelings about the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act of 2009, which proposes the establishment of a greenhouse emissions trading scheme in the USA from 2012. The legislation is yet to be voted on by the US Senate.


Some agricultural analysts are pointing to the very favourable provisions in the legislation for agriculture (exempt from emission costs, broad recognition of offsets, the US Department of Agriculture to administer offsets, favourable treatment of emissions from biofuels) and saying that this is the best deal agriculture will get.


Bob Stallman, President of the American Farm Bureau is critical of the legislation. He says “The bill forces agriculture and other productive sectors of our nation’s economy into a position of severe competitive disadvantage with trading partners like China and other nations who will not burden their economies to control carbon emissions. Despite inclusion of Chairman Peterson’s (Collin Peterson, Chairman of the House of Representatives Agriculture Committee) hard-fought provisions to reward farmers for carbon offsets and to remove the phony indirect-land-use calculation, this bill should be amended further or defeated


The National Cattlemans Beef Association has not commented as yet on the legislation, but was highly critical of the decision by the US EPA to declare in April 2009 that carbon-dioxide emissions are a pollutant that endangered human health and welfare. This declaration is seen by many to be pivotal to the progression of US climate change legislation, because it gives the US EPA power to regulate greenhouse emissions under the US Clean Air Act. It potentially means that if the Climate change legislation fails, the US EPA can implement regulations over greenhouse emissions. For many, the ACES legislation is the lesser of two evils.


This reality is reflected in comments by National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson. In a statement he said “This legislation recognizes the unique role America’s family farmers and ranchers can play when it comes to combating global climate change. The agricultural offset program, overseen by USDA, will help mitigate the increased input costs of a cap and trade program, while the early actors provision recognizes those producers who have already adopted environmentally-friendly practices.

“Failing to pass climate change legislation is not an option. The EPA is poised to act, with the agency’s proposed endangerment finding paving the way for a regulatory approach to addressing greenhouse gases. If this were to occur, the positive provisions within climate change legislation would be lost.”


The National Corngrowers Association is supportive of the agriculture amendments included in the legislation, but is concerned that farmers who have already adopted conservation farming practices prior to 2001 may be disadvantaged in offset markets. The Association stated it “will continue to advocate for producers who have been engaged in no-till and conservation tillage practices since earlier than 2001 to ensure they will not be unfairly penalized by being disqualified from an offsets market when continued carbon sequestration is achievable on their land.


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