The Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee passed the Boxer-Kerry climate change legislation out of Committee Thursday despite a Republican boycott of the meeting.
The procedural move used to advance the bill did not allow for amendments and drew criticism not just from panel Republicans, who wanted more analysis before considering the measure, but also moderate Democrats, including EPW Member and Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who was the sole “nay” vote Thursday.
It is unclear what will happen to the bill now that it is out of Committee, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the Boxer-Kerry draft will be the basis of climate change legislation considered by the full Senate in coming weeks and months.
On Wednesday, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and five co-sponsors introduced long-awaited legislation that seeks to add an agriculture piece, including an ag offsets program, to the Boxer-Kerry draft.
Stabenow said in a statement that her bill “creates a partnership between our manufacturing and agricultural industries.” Specifically, the bill would put USDA in charge of agriculture and forestry offset programs, provide incentives to early actors, support other ag and forestry actions that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and support climate-related research in agriculture, including research on adaptation to changing weather patterns.
After the Stabenow bill’s introduction, NAWG and five other ag groups wrote the coalition of Senators who have been working on the language to express appreciation for their focus and work on a market based cap-and-trade system.
The letter was addressed to Stabenow and the co-sponsors of the bill, including Baucus, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska).
The organizations strongly emphasized the need for positive economic value from agriculture’s involvement in any climate change regulation.
“An important goal for our industry has been to craft legislation which makes economic sense for the agricultural community, including participation for early actors, an appropriate definition of permanence and contract duration, and a primary role for USDA as the oversight agency,” they said. “It is imperative that legislation be structured in such a way that the value for farmers and ranchers exceeds potential costs. The bill you introduced today is a positive step toward developing a workable and beneficial agricultural offsets program in the U.S.”
Signatories of the letter included NAWG, National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union, National Milk Producers Federation, National Alfalfa & Forage Association and American Farmland Trust.
NAWG and other agricultural groups have been working for months with Stabenow’s staff and others to craft offsets language that could result in a net economic benefit for farmers, the top priority for the NAWG Board in the climate change legislative debate.
The full legislative text of the Stabenow bill introduced this week is available at http://harkin.senate.gov/documents/pdf/4af1b6c4e464d.pdf.
The commodity group letter is available in full at www.wheatworld.org/climatechange.