House Agriculture to Examine Climate Change Legislation

June 5, 2009 Bookmark and Share

The House Agriculture Committee announced late in the day Friday that it will consider climate change legislation at a hearing on June 11.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) has been vocally skeptical of taking up the bill in part because of concerns about indirect land use issues in the revised renewable fuels standard. However, in recent days, he has made comments indicating he is open to efforts to ensure an appropriate agricultural piece is included in the final bill, and on Thursday, the Committee published responses to a climate change survey it issued in late March (responses are available in full at http://agriculture.house.gov/inside/publications.html).

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has reportedly told committee chairmen that they must complete mark-ups of the Waxman-Markey bill that passed the Energy and Commerce Committee last month by June 19.

The bill has been referred to a total of eight committees, but the timeline makes it unlikely most will formally consider the legislation. The Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, which would have jurisdiction over any monies raised from the bill’s provisions, has said Members on his panel prefer to spend their limited time on health care reform.

Staff from NAWG and other producer representatives met this week with staff from House Agriculture Committee to discuss the process going forward and emphasize priorities in the legislation.

On Tuesday, the groups wrote Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and other House leaders to “outline our outstanding priorities and concerns within the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 relative to the cap and trade section of the legislation.” Signatories of that letter included NAWG, National Farmers Union, American Farmland Trust, National Corn Growers Association, National Milk Producers Federation and the International Biochar Initiative.

In another interesting twist, DTN, CongressDaily and other news outlets have recently reported that Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack believes USDA should have jurisdiction over any cap-and-trade program included in the final bill – a key priority outlined in the group letter.

Though Vilsack’s comments to this effect were made at a late-May event in Kentucky, they were not included in USDA’s news release on the event and came to light through a blog report from the head of the Institute for Rural Journalism at the University of Kentucky. It is still unclear if the White House agrees with Vilsack.

House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), who has been vocally opposed to the Waxman-Markey bill, responded to these reports Wednesday in a letter to Vilsack asking for details on how agricultural producers will benefit from a cap-and-trade program.