The House Agriculture Committee held a marathon session Thursday to examine the pending Waxman-Markey climate change bill, though it did little to clarify how agriculture would be worked into the final legislation or what role USDA expects to play in any cap-and-trade program.
The seven-hour hearing included more than three hours of testimony from and question-answer time with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Members pressed Vilsack about the benefits and costs farmers could expect from the legislation – which USDA has evidently not fully analyzed – and impressed upon him their opinions that USDA, not the Environmental Protection Agency, should have jurisdiction over agricultural offsets. Two additional panels made up of agricultural group representatives also spoke to the Committee, expressing their priorities and concerns about the pending bill.
The process going forward is somewhat unclear. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) has reportedly met with House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman and bill author Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on creating a path forward.
It is widely acknowledged that Pelosi would like the bill to be finished in the House by the July 4 recess, and a number of news agencies reported this week that Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) wants to mark up the bill before the August recess.
NAWG continues to work with staff and Members from the House Agriculture Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee, as well as other agricultural groups, toward inclusion of a robust agricultural piece in the final climate change bill.
To read full opening statements from all witnesses at Thursday’s hearing, please visit http://agriculture.house.gov/hearings/statements.html