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Planet Ark World Environment News Climate Bill Impact On U.S. Farms Bearable: Lawmaker

Date: 22-Jul-09
Country: US
Author: Charles Abbott

WASHINGTON - The impact on U.S. farms and ranches from climate-change legislation will be bearable, partly because of the chance to earn money for controlling greenhouse gases, said the House Agriculture Committee chairman on Tuesday.

Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson, during a speech to American Soybean Association members, pointed to think-tank estimates the climate bill passed by the House would drive up crop production costs by 1.8 percent-4.6 percent in the near term.

"We don't want to increase your costs but it's not the end of the world," said Peterson. The bill was amended to put the Agriculture Department in charge of farm-sector activities to lock carbon into the soil.

"With USDA running it, I believe you're going to see more than 4.6 percent payback" he said, since practices like no-till farming would be eligible for carbon sequestration contracts. "We got EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) out of your business."

Peterson and a band of farm-state lawmakers persuaded House Democratic leaders to amend the climate bill so USDA rather than EPA would monitor carbon-control activities and practices dating from 2001 that are eligible for carbon contracts.

Amendments to the bill cushion Midwestern utilities from greenhouse gas limits and preclude for at least five years an EPA rule that would hold U.S. biofuels responsible for forest-clearing or greenhouse gas emissions from cropland expansion overseas.

"This will be the bottom. The Senate will add onto it," said Peterson. But he said it was debatable whether the Senate would agree on a climate bill this year.

Earlier in the day, Frank Lucas, the Republican leader on the House Agriculture Committee, said the House-passed bill would sharply increase the cost of fuel and synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Lucas said proponent have provided little evidence that farmers will earn money for carbon control.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and EPA chief Lisa Jackson were scheduled to testify on the matter on Wednesday before the Senate Agriculture Committee.

(Editing by Christian Wiessner)

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