There is a real possibility that farm-state lawmakers will be successful in their efforts to exclude farmers from any participation other than getting checks from the government in efforts to combat global climate change.
The two powerful House Democrats said Thursday that they had made "good progress" in their talks on the climate bill, H.R. 2454 (pdf), following an hourlong meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). But Waxman said yesterday that he has not spoken to Peterson since that session as the congressmen handed the negotiations over to their staffs.Rep. Collin Peterson has been remarkably capable in this effort, and here's how:
Waxman declined to comment on the details of the climate talks, though the farm state lawmakers have not been shy in stating their problems with provisions in the bill that give U.S. EPA the principal oversight role for the carbon offset market. Peterson also is against a draft EPA regulation that would hold the ethanol industry accountable for "indirect land use," such as crop conversion in other countries.
House Democratic leaders are working behind the scenes to shore up support among the farm state lawmakers through language that could be added to the bill in a manager's amendment package. It is unclear, though, if those changes will be enough. [More]
Meanwhile, the fact of the matter is that in recent years plenty of incumbent Republicans have been brought down by primary challenges from the right and as best I know zero Democrats have been brought down by primary challenges from the left. This has been a huge advantage for the Democrats in terms of winning elections—it’s an important part of the reason Democrats have these majorities. But it also means that when it comes to policymaking, Republicans have a lot of solidarity but Democratic leaders have little leverage over individual members. In other words, nobody thinks that Collin Peterson (D-MN) is going to lose his seat over badly watering down Waxman-Markey and that matters a lot more than airy considerations of capital. [More]In fact, Peterson bluntly points out global warming might be good for his constituents, regardless of who else it harms. In fairness, I think this accurately reflects most farmer opinions of climate change (if they buy the idea at all). But he could be securing a place in history as the poster child of parochial interest over national (and international) well-being. In short, this legislative "win" may prove to be more costly that anyone currently imagines.
But Peterson might want to read that latest government report on climate change more closely before blithely touting "benefits" for corn growers. Making long range predictions based on the weather last year also strikes me as singularly non-scientific.On Tuesday, the White House released a report based on the work of government scientists that said climate change will cause more frequent and intense heat waves in the U.S. and more severe and frequent flooding that will increasingly swallow up coastal lands.For agriculture, the report found that higher temperatures will mean a longer growing season for crops that do well in heat such as melons, okra and sweet potatoes, but a shorter growing season for crops such as lettuce and broccoli that are more suited to cooler conditions. The report said higher temperatures also will cause plants to use more water to keep cool.In an effort to highlight what they see as the stake that U.S. farmers have in combating climate change, members of the Obama administration -- including the administrator of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, Jane Lubchenco -- were expected to participate in a conference call on Wednesday to discuss the report's findings on agriculture.But Mr. Peterson, when asked by reporters Tuesday about the report's findings, said they run counter to what many in his region are experiencing."We've just had the biggest floods and coldest winters we've ever had," he said. "They're saying to us [that climate change is] going to be a big problem because it's going to be warmer than it usually is; my farmers are going to say that's a good thing since they'll be able to grow more corn."He added that the measure proposed by Messrs. Waxman and Markey would penalize farmers in the Midwest who rely on coal-burning electric cooperatives. [More]
The report is here. It is a whopping PDF download and to tempt you to wade through it (it is very readable), I excerpt these charming graphs. [Click each to enlarge]
And the one that definitely caught my eye:
To be sure, MN does seem to be a "winner" as annual precip and temps improve. But MN agriculture will also cope with new pests, diseases, and even larger rain events as well. But don't listen to me, the report has separate sections for parts of the country.
The immediate cries of unprovable nonsense will greet this report, I am sure, including many voices from farm country. Reading the report, noting the quantity and quality of the research and researchers, and the care with which the results are communicated certainly goes a long way to addressing the challenges of scoffers.
This is one issue I would prefer to have been seen by future generations as too easily alarmed than callously self-interested. However, I am not all that optimistic meaningful mitigation will be begun until the effects are more clear to more people. So I'm working on the adaptation strategy, while hoping for emissions reduction sooner than later.
It's also why we are investing more in drainage tile than machinery.