Word on Wheat: Climate Change Policy We Need

May 1, 2009 Bookmark and Share

Paul Penner, Environment and Renewable Resources Chairman

Odds are good that a bill addressing climate change and mandating the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions will become the law of the land when legislators on Capitol Hill get down to business and send the President a bill.

Within our industry, discussion about this topic – call it climate change, global warming, glacial melt or increasing greenhouse gas emissions – reflects a wide range of opinions over the validity of scientific research conclusions. This wide range of opinions may never go away, considering the controversial nature of the topic.

However, the purpose of NAWG’s resolutions that addresses climate change legislation is to position wheat producers so they can not only participate in the discussion about climate change, but also to influence the outcome, should legislation be passed and implemented.

In short, properly written and administrated climate change legislation can potentially be economically beneficial to wheat producers and, though an allowance pool, could mitigate against any possible increases in input costs caused by greenhouse gas legislation.

Perhaps a brief review of NAWG’s positions on this issue is in order:

• NAWG supports a cap-and-trade program that allows unlimited agriculture sequestration.

• We believe a cap-and-trade program is the most effective approach to addressing climate change issues because such a program would be market-based and able to provide the least costly means of delivering the greatest possible amount of greenhouse gas reductions.

• We don’t think agriculture and forestry should be considered a capped sector because emissions from this sector are too small and diffuse to regulate in a cost-effective manner.

• We believe offset projects should be assessed for quality based on criteria developed pursuant to the environmental services markets provisions in the 2008 Farm Bill.

• And, while the Environmental Protection Agency should have authority to administer the larger cap-and-trade program, USDA already has authority from the 2008 Farm Bill to develop and implement of agriculture and forestry offset policies.

Working with Congress to craft legislation on this issue is far preferable to simply allowing the regulatory approach to happen. Regardless of what Congress does, the Environmental Protection Agency is already planning to respond to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling determining some greenhouse gases can be regulated under the Clean Air Act.

NAWG was one of the first groups to advocate a strong role for agriculture in a cap and trade system, and NAWG staff continues to follow this issue and assert the importance of agriculture’s role.

It is imperative that NAWG continues to push for a cap-and-trade program that allows for agriculture to fully participate in the economic benefits of the system, and that our industry supports the legislative branch’s ability to oversee the regulation of greenhouse gases.

– Penner is a wheat producer in Hillsboro, Kan.