The Senate Agriculture Committee's hearing on climate change legislation Wednesday held many points of view, and a surprise announcement of results from a USDA study by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. An analysis of the House-passed version of climate legislation by USDA shows that the economic benefits to agriculture from the cap and trade legislation will likely outweigh the costs in the short term, and that the economic benefits from offsets markets will easily outpace increased input costs over the long term.
Panel member Bob Stallman, President of the American Farm Bureau Federation asked the Senate Agriculture Committee to take an active and aggressive role in the climate change debate, but cautioned committee members that rushing to pass such sweeping legislation would be a fundamental mistake. Stallman encouraged members to analyze the issue closely, carefully and thoroughly. He also recommended that the committee improve climate change legislation so that it is as beneficial as possible for the agriculture industry.
Senator Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., Ranking Republican Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, seemed to agree with Stallman and asked committee chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, to consider holding more hearings to better understand the climate change issue and its effects on agriculture, forestry and rural America. He also recommended careful review of the role of the Commodity futures Trading Commission under a cap and trade program.
Roger Johnson, President of the National Farmers Union, says America's farmers and ranchers can, and want to be, part of the solution to global climate change. In his testimony Johnson said, "To state it simply, the cost of no action must become a central part of the ongoing climate change debate. Models of climate change scenarios demonstrate increased frequency of heat stress, droughts and flooding events that will reduce crop yield and livestock productivity."
Johnson said if Congress fails to pass climate change legislation, the Environmental Protection Agency will move to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. This approach would only bring increased energy inputs without the opportunities of carbon offsets.