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Farm groups see opportunities in climate bill


Farm Bureau sees expanded EPA role as greatest threat



By WES SANDER



Capital Press



Positions vary among farm interests on current climate legislation.



National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson said a bill proposed by Sens. John Kerry and Joe Lieberman helps to "ensure the best possible outcome for American agriculture."



NFU praises the bill's ag exemption from emission caps, along with the fact that it puts USDA in charge of the offset program. That provision is taken from the climate bill passed a year ago by the House, where agriculture committee chairman Collin Peterson succeeded in transferring authority from EPA.



The National Association of Wheat Growers supports the bill for keeping many of the provisions that it, among other farm groups, helped craft in an earlier bill by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.



The system limits the pollutants an operation can emit, but allows them to purchase carbon offsets to help meet those targets. An offset is a unit of carbon savings produced through emissions-reduction practices, including reduced tillage and other carbon-sequestering projects on farmland.



Growers could boost profits by selling those offsets, helping to mitigate the operating-cost hikes expected from the cap. Producers of farm inputs, like fertilizers and fuel, are expected to pass the costs of emission reductions on through higher product prices.



Techniques for producing the offsets by Western growers of fruits, nuts and vegetables have yet to be developed. But the Senate legislation, like the House version, mandates that USDA help develop practices that would qualify.



The American Farm Bureau Federation first wants to eliminate the authority of the EPA to regulate greenhouse emissions, then work on improving legislation.



It wants greater means of softening the blows to agriculture from legislation advanced so far.



"It's possible to have an energy-only bill, instead of (addressing) emissions too," said Rick Krause, senior director of Congressional relations with the American Farm Bureau Federation. "We just think there's a better way to do this that we haven't found yet."



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