“Farm groups prevail,” the New York Times announced this morning in a report detailing negotiations on the huge climate bill pending in Congress. As a result of some deal-making between House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (a California Democrat) and Rep. Colin Peterson (Minnesota Democrat), the “Agriculture Department will have the lead role in overseeing agriculture offsets under the House climate bill, a major victory for farm groups that pushed lawmakers to take the lead away from the U.S. EPA and a defeat for environmental groups that fear the agriculture agency may be too lax in oversight.”
Peterson had threatened to put together as many as 50 farm state House members to oppose the Obama administration’s huge climate change bill. Peterson was worried that biofuels would be judged to cause the release of more greenhouse gasses than they prevent. And Peterson “wanted to alter the rules for agricultural offsets, which are credits farmers would receive for tilling and conservation practices that keep carbon dioxide stored in the soil,” according to the Washington Post. Also, rural legislators feared that rural electric coops, which depend largely on coal-fired power production, would fare poorly under the bill.
Under the compromise, USDA will judge the worth of the offsets, a new study will be conducted on biofuels (that must obtain the okay of the agriculture department) and rural co-ops will receive extra emission allowances. Michael Steel, spokesman for House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio, said “the back-room deal struck tonight by Chairman Peterson will not protect rural America…Though he eked out a few trivial concessions, the core of this legislation remains the same.”