Farmland Trust President Says: Senate’s Failure to Act Misses Opportunity to Help Environment and Farmers

Jul 29th, 2010 | By | Category: Farm, Legislation

Washington, D.C.—“In dropping the negotiations on clean energy and climate change, the Senate has missed an opportunity to take proactive steps to benefit the environment and U.S. farmers,” President of American Farmland Trust (AFT) Jon Scholl said in a news release. “The House worked hard to negotiate a viable approach to clean energy and climate legislation that included a Renewable Energy Standard, and opportunities for farmers to be paid for eco-friendly practices.”

“Our nation faces a difficult energy future if we continue to rely on foreign oil. The Senate’s failure to act to significantly lessen our reliance on foreign oil now means we also face an uncertain environmental future.  Since the Supreme Court’s 2007 ruling mandating EPA to enact regulations because greenhouse gasses (GHG) are a danger to human health, farmers now face the prospect of regulatory restrictions rather than opportunities to provide offset credits and other benefits,” added Scholl.

Scientific evidence shows that farmers now face a more volatile growing environment, which results in greater risk—and the situation is only growing worse.

“Regulations and climate variability both mean greater costs and risk without the chance to add to farm income streams. Numerous studies have shown that a regulatory-only scheme in which EPA regulates greenhouse gasses will be worse for farmers and ranchers than the proposed clean energy and climate legislation in which farmers gain billions of dollars of income from offsets, allowances and the RES,” Scholl added.

During the last two years, AFT worked with numerous agricultural organizations in an effort to craft legislation that dealt with these pressing environmental concerns while also minimizing costs to producers.

In the House passed bill for example, agriculture is exempt from regulation and a system developed to minimize indirect costs. The majority of studies of comprehensive GHG legislation view those proposals positively, since only single digit production cost increases are projected as a result of a comprehensive system.

Our efforts have also focused on creating a viable, useable, “real” offset system that thousands of producers could take advantage of—with the potential benefit to improve stewardship on hundreds of millions of acres of American farm and ranch land. The efforts of the agricultural community in the House-passed bill and within the Stabenow-Baucus bill in the Senate again seem to have paid off as most studies show significant benefits accruing to producers.   

Finally, studies document the benefits for agriculture of a larger Renewable Energy Standard.

“As AFT President, I want to thank all of our supporters who helped us to victory in the House debate as well as more recently in the Senate. Our work is not done. With a Supreme Court decision as a driving force, the EPA is now taking steps to regulate the danger of GHG. Our next job is to do the same type of work with the EPA, as well as prepare for the inevitable return to the Congress of legislation to address this issue in the future. The Obama Administration has made clear that they believe a legislative solution is to be preferred over the messier regulatory process now unfolding within the EPA—I couldn’t agree more, and I believe we will be debating this issue again sooner rather than later in the halls of Congress,” concluded Scholl.

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