Wednesday, June 17, 2009

big ag fights climate change mitigation

I don't typically reprint stuff but this is really important so I'm going to post most of an article by Tom Philpott from Grist. Tom gives a great explanation of how Big Ag is willing to burn our children to save their profits. Those are my words not his but they are true. Hat tip to Larry for sending me this.

As the Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill moves forward in the House, Big Ag interest groups are circling their plows and sharpening their pitchforks. Some of the largest corporations in the agribusiness sector—including the GMO-and-herbicide giant Monsanto—are pushing to control how agriculture would fit into the bill’s cap-and-trade scheme.

The main agent for their will is House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), who has launched a veritable jihad to make sure the historic climate legislation hews to the interests of “production” (i.e., industrial) agriculture. Via Farm Policy blog, here’s an MP3 clip of Peterson’s latest harumphing on Waxman-Markey, in an interview with a radio program called Agritalk, which is sponsored by Monsanto, Syngenta, and Archer Daniels Midland.

Peterson has vowed to line up 35 to 40 Democratic representatives from ag-heavy states to vote against the bill on the House floor if his agenda isn’t accepted—giving him something close to de facto veto power. In the AgriTalk segment, Peterson says, “I don’t think it [Waxman-Markey] has the votes” to prevail on the House floor. Translation: If I don’t get what I want, I’m squashing it.

The current version of Waxman-Markey contains almost no language on agriculture. (As I’ve written before, agriculture is exempt from any cap on greenhouse-gas emissions.) But farming projects would still be eligible for offsets through an offsets-review board that the legislation would set up within the EPA. Big Ag isn’t content with that arrangement. In the coming days, the game will be to insert specific language around ag offsets into the legislation—and promote a certification process developed by Big Ag itself.

And while the Ag Committee has little formal jurisdiction over the final form of Waxman-Markey, Peterson’s influence will be felt. As she did during negotiations around last year’s Farm Bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has alighted on the Midwest to assure the ag industry of her fealty. “Agriculture is very important,” Pelosi declared in an Iowa speech on Monday. Pelosi was scheduled to meet with Peterson in Minnesota on Tuesday—an eerie echo of a trip she made during a key point in the 2007-2008 Farm Bill debate, before signing off on a much more agribiz-friendly version of the legislation than reformers hoped for.

[On Thursday, the House Ag Committee will hold hearings on Waxman-Markey, and Grist’s Kate Sheppard will be there to report.]

If the ag giants get their way, they could seriously compromise the legislation’s ability to mitigate climate change. Few deny that changes in agriculture practice could be a major force for sequestering carbon, cutting fossil-fuel use, and stabilizing the climate. A paper by Rattan Lal, director of the School of the Environment and Natural Resources at Ohio State University, estimates that U.S. farmers could capture 288 million tons of carbon in their soil every year—enough to offset about about 17 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions.

Read the rest here......

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