“The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 could be the most sweeping conservation legislation enacted in the 21st century," says Jon Scholl, president of American Farmland Trust. "If done properly, this legislation could create incentives to improve stewardship on hundreds of millions of acres of American farm and ranch land and produce low carbon renewable fuels on farms. This would bring new sources of income to producers. We support this bill moving forward to a successful vote on the House floor."
With the recent compromises, and the breakthrough deal for agriculture reached between Chairmen Waxman (D-CA) and Peterson (D-MN), many of the concerns of agriculture appear to have been addressed. "We believe that by maximizing agriculture's opportunities to adopt new conservation practices and technologies and produce low-carbon renewable energy, you maximize the bill's environmental benefits," Scholl adds. He also notes that agricultural lands provide the most available and cost-efficient means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
American Farmland Trust worked with other agriculture groups and members of Congress to eliminate several barriers to agriculture's participation in climate change solutions. Some of the key provisions now include:
* Stronger language making clear that agriculture will not be regulated under this bill.
* A robust offset trading market that would be widely available to producers. To ensure this type of market, the USDA will now implement this program with farm and forestry projects to offset carbon emissions from the capped sectors instead of the EPA. This will result in greater producer participation.
* As written, producers will have good opportunities to generate wind and solar energy, and to utilize digester technologies to producer biogas or electricity. Further, additional changes make biomass power generation more accessible to producers.
* Several provisions in the bill now recognize pioneering producers who have already begun to institute conservation and stewardship practice that sequester carbon.
"Keep in mind the potential costs of not supporting climate change legislation. Climate change is a very real environmental challenge affecting our global ability to produce food and fiber in the years ahead," Scholl says. "The Supreme Court has already ruled that in the absence of comprehensive legislation, the EPA must regulate greenhouse gasses through the Clean Air Act. A purely regulatory approach to addressing greenhouse gas emissions will result in all the downside of increased energy costs but none of the upside of carbon offsets."
"American Farmland Trust supports the Peterson agriculture amendment to the climate change bill and, with its inclusion, supports passage of the bill." says Scholl. "There will be opportunities over the coming months to work with the Senate to refine the bill and remove any remaining barriers to agriculture's participation as a solution to climate change. We look forward to supporting a bill going to President Obama that will affect positive change on American farms and ranches, indeed our American landscape."