My hat's off to Rep. Peterson who bullied the House leadership into what looks like capitulation on the Waxman-Markey Climate Change Bill.
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) on Tuesday surrendered to agriculture interests on a key provision in the massive climate and energy bill he introduced with Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). Facing a defection from farm-state Democrats, Politico.com reports that Waxman agreed to change the bill so that “the U.S. Department of Agriculture will oversee the [carbon] offset program for farmers, and the House will seek further guidance from the Obama administration about the appropriate role for the EPA.”I don't anticipate significant changes in the Senate, since ag interests are even more heavily weighted there. While I think this is bad for agriculture - not to mention the environment and economy - I'm not one to deny when I've been blown out of the water.
Politico further reported that Waxman “agreed to ask the EPA to roll back its new requirements that farmers offset rural land developed in other countries.” [More]
Now there are a few questions as farmers anticipate more checks.
The first is, "What will I have to do to get a check?" Hmmm. Given that the list of stuff corn farmers (the biggest political force IMHO) are actually willing to do is remarkably short, I'll guess, "Have a body temperature of close to 98 degrees F".
For example, the most often suggested offsets are no-till and tree-planting. Only no-till poses some issues for all-corn operations, so we'll have to get no-till redefined to "no more than 6 passes". With the USDA (read: our former lobbyists) in the role as our "regulator" (wink, wink), that should be no problem. Besides, a real NO-till requirement would certainly not set well with Deere and CNH, I'll wager.
The other problem with no-till is: we don't wanna. Driving big machines is more fun. If no-till were the optimal way to farm everywhere, we'd all be doing it by now. Instead, many farmers are buying tillage equipment to rip up no-till acres around here.
As for planting trees, that's a pasture problem for cow-calf operators, and the corn lobby has evidently decided they are going to throw livestock farmers under the ethanol bus. Besides, they get $$ for methane digesters. Only it takes a sizable dairy to take advantage of one.
But let's try to get ahead of the competition in our thinking. Since this bill is now officially a boondoggle for the ag lobbies with the most clout, let's assume the big crop guys end up with the thrown money. Not only am I in the center of that herd, now I have beginning farmer on board to complete the idyllic picture. I think it's safe to say I should be ground zero for money from heaven without really having to do much.
Since we know from DCPs such money goes straight to land prices/rents, we can make some calculations. Risky? Of course, but this is the kind of risk our profession has become expert at - gaming government subsidies. Not only that, but as livestock operators go down in flames, there will probably be wall-to-wall coverage of weeping families selling out, and we're pretty sure the public and Congresshumans can't differentiate between ag's various (and now, conflicting) segments, so some of the help for "farmers" will likely wind up in my bank account as well.
Above all remember, like all subsidies, these offset stipends will attach to acres - not operators.
"A viable carbon offsets market -- one that rewards farmers, ranchers and forest landowners for stewardship activities -- has the potential to play a very important role in helping America address climate change while also providing a possible new source of revenue for landowners," said Vilsack before the House Agriculture Committee. [More] [Emphasis added]I'm saying now is the time to get your hands on as as many of them as possible. Once the checks arrive, anybody can figure it out.
That's the thing about narrow self-interest. It is terrifically contagious.