Climate and Food Justice Forum: Building Connections between New York and Puerto Rico

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 23 Sep 2014 23:00:00 GMT

The National Young Farmers Coalition, La Sombrilla, the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law and NRDC Present

Climate and Food Justice Forum: Building Connections between New York and Puerto Rico

New York and Puerto Rico are home to some of the most climate vulnerable communities in the United States. Advocates and residents in both regions increasingly see food justice as critical to bolstering their communities’ resiliency in the face of climate change. The forum will explore that connection, highlighting how farmers and activists in both regions are developing climate smart alternatives to conventional agriculture.

Speakers include:

Cindy Madeleiny Camacho Bernard Estudiantes Dispuestos a la Restauración Ambiental

Annie Courtens Roxbury Farm

Keisha Morale Rodríguez Estudiantes Dispuestos a la Restauración Ambiental

Ana Elisa Pérez Quintero Proyecto Enlace

Colibrí Sanfiorenzo-Barnhard La Sombrilla

Columbia Law School 435 W 116th St Jerome Greene Hall, Room 107 New York, NY 10027

Tickets

Climate Change and Agriculture: Food and Farming in a Changing Climate (House briefing)

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 16 Jun 2010 18:00:00 GMT

Agriculture will be one of the industries most affected by climate change. Changing rainfall patterns and intensities, air temperatures, and cropping seasons will require the development of new, adapted agricultural systems. On June 16th, experts on climate modeling, cropping systems, crop breeding, and agriculture and natural resource economics will present information about how agriculture can adapt to a changing climate.

RSVP

Speakers
  • Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig, Senior Research Scientist; NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
  • Dr. Cesar Izaurralde, Laboratory Fellow; Joint Global Change Research Institute
  • Dr. Paul Gepts, Professor of Agronomy and Geneticist; U.C. Davis
  • Dr. Gerald Nelson, Senior Research Fellow; International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Society of Agronomy, Council on Food, Agricultural, and Resource Economics, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America.

For questions or to RSVP please contact Phillip Chalker at pchalker@aaas.org or 202-326-6789.

Speaker Biographies

Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig is a Senior Research Scientist at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies where she heads the Climate Impacts Group. She has organized and led large-scale interdisciplinary regional, national, and international studies of climate change impacts and adaptation. She is a co-chair of the New York City Panel on Climate Change and co-led the Metropolitan East Coast Regional Assessment of the U.S. National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change. She was a Coordinating Lead Author of the IPCC Working Group II Fourth Assessment Report observed changes chapter, and served on the IPCC Task Group on Data and Scenarios for Impact and Climate Assessment. A recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, she joins impact models with climate models to predict future outcomes of both land-based and urban systems under altered climate conditions. She is a Professor at Barnard College and a Senior Research Scientist at the Columbia Earth Institute.

Dr. Cesar Izaurralde is a laboratory fellow at the Joint Global Change Research Institute (JGCRI), a collaboration of the University of Maryland with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). He is also an adjunct professor in the departments of Geography and the Natural Resource Sciences and Landscape Architecture. Dr. Izaurralde is a soil scientist with more than 30 years of research experience in agronomy, soil science, and ecosystem modeling. His current research focuses in the areas of modeling the impacts of climate change and variability on terrestrial ecosystems and water resources and carbon sequestration in and greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural soils. Before joining PNNL in 1997, Dr. Izaurralde served as Chair of Resource Conservation in the Department of Renewable Resources at the University of Alberta, Canada. In his native Argentina, he studied at and later joined the Facultad de Ciencias Agropecuarias at Universidad Nacional de Cardoba. Dr. Izaurralde is Fulbright Fellow and a Fellow of the American Society of Agronomy.

Dr. Paul Gepts is professor of agronomy in the Department of Agronomy and Range Science at the University of California, Davis. His research and teaching program focuses on the evolution of plants under domestication and relies on a combination of genetic and genomic analyses, coupled with field work in centers of crop domestication, principally Latin America and Africa. Recent research conducted in Mexico has emphasized gene flow between wild and domesticated Phaseolus beans. He has taught courses on crop germplasm in Argentina and Italy, is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Society of Agronomy, has published some 70 research papers and 40 review papers or book chapters, and has edited one book. Dr. Gepts was a member of an Ecological Society of America (ESA) task force that wrote an ESA position paper, Genetically Engineered Organisms and the Environment: Current Status and Recommendations. He co-authored a background chapter assessing the effects of transgenic maize on maize diversity in Mexico for the NAFTA Commission on Environmental Cooperation.

Dr. Gerald (Jerry) Nelson is a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). He is an agricultural economist with over 30 years of professional and research experience in the areas of agriculture, policy analysis, land use and climate change. As co-leader of IFPRI’s global change program, he is responsible for developing IFPRI’s research in climate change modeling and spatially explicit assessments of potential adaptation and mitigation programs and policies. His previous professional activities includes leading the drivers of ecosystem services efforts of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, undertaking research that combines biophysical and socioeconomic data in quantitative, spatially-explicit modeling of the determinants of land use change, and understanding the effects of agricultural, trade and macroeconomic policies on agriculture and land use. Before joining IFPRI, Dr. Nelson was a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (1985-2008) and an Agricultural Development Council specialist at the University of the Philippines, Los Baños. He received his PhD from Stanford University in 1982.

Climate Change and Agriculture: Food and Farming in a Changing Climate (Senate briefing)

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 16 Jun 2010 14:30:00 GMT

Agriculture will be one of the industries most affected by climate change. Changing rainfall patterns and intensities, air temperatures, and cropping seasons will require the development of new, adapted agricultural systems. On June 16th, experts on climate modeling, cropping systems, crop breeding, and agriculture and natural resource economics will present information about how agriculture can adapt to a changing climate.

Speakers
  • Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig, Senior Research Scientist; NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
  • Dr. Cesar Izaurralde, Laboratory Fellow; Joint Global Change Research Institute
  • Dr. Paul Gepts, Professor of Agronomy and Geneticist; U.C. Davis
  • Dr. Gerald Nelson, Senior Research Fellow; International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Society of Agronomy, Council on Food, Agricultural, and Resource Economics, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America.

For questions or to RSVP please contact Phillip Chalker at pchalker@aaas.org or 202-326-6789.

Speaker Biographies

Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig is a Senior Research Scientist at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies where she heads the Climate Impacts Group. She has organized and led large-scale interdisciplinary regional, national, and international studies of climate change impacts and adaptation. She is a co-chair of the New York City Panel on Climate Change and co-led the Metropolitan East Coast Regional Assessment of the U.S. National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change. She was a Coordinating Lead Author of the IPCC Working Group II Fourth Assessment Report observed changes chapter, and served on the IPCC Task Group on Data and Scenarios for Impact and Climate Assessment. A recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, she joins impact models with climate models to predict future outcomes of both land-based and urban systems under altered climate conditions. She is a Professor at Barnard College and a Senior Research Scientist at the Columbia Earth Institute.

Dr. Cesar Izaurralde is a laboratory fellow at the Joint Global Change Research Institute (JGCRI), a collaboration of the University of Maryland with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). He is also an adjunct professor in the departments of Geography and the Natural Resource Sciences and Landscape Architecture. Dr. Izaurralde is a soil scientist with more than 30 years of research experience in agronomy, soil science, and ecosystem modeling. His current research focuses in the areas of modeling the impacts of climate change and variability on terrestrial ecosystems and water resources and carbon sequestration in and greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural soils. Before joining PNNL in 1997, Dr. Izaurralde served as Chair of Resource Conservation in the Department of Renewable Resources at the University of Alberta, Canada. In his native Argentina, he studied at and later joined the Facultad de Ciencias Agropecuarias at Universidad Nacional de Cardoba. Dr. Izaurralde is Fulbright Fellow and a Fellow of the American Society of Agronomy.

Dr. Paul Gepts is professor of agronomy in the Department of Agronomy and Range Science at the University of California, Davis. His research and teaching program focuses on the evolution of plants under domestication and relies on a combination of genetic and genomic analyses, coupled with field work in centers of crop domestication, principally Latin America and Africa. Recent research conducted in Mexico has emphasized gene flow between wild and domesticated Phaseolus beans. He has taught courses on crop germplasm in Argentina and Italy, is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Society of Agronomy, has published some 70 research papers and 40 review papers or book chapters, and has edited one book. Dr. Gepts was a member of an Ecological Society of America (ESA) task force that wrote an ESA position paper, Genetically Engineered Organisms and the Environment: Current Status and Recommendations. He co-authored a background chapter assessing the effects of transgenic maize on maize diversity in Mexico for the NAFTA Commission on Environmental Cooperation.

Dr. Gerald (Jerry) Nelson is a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). He is an agricultural economist with over 30 years of professional and research experience in the areas of agriculture, policy analysis, land use and climate change. As co-leader of IFPRI’s global change program, he is responsible for developing IFPRI’s research in climate change modeling and spatially explicit assessments of potential adaptation and mitigation programs and policies. His previous professional activities includes leading the drivers of ecosystem services efforts of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, undertaking research that combines biophysical and socioeconomic data in quantitative, spatially-explicit modeling of the determinants of land use change, and understanding the effects of agricultural, trade and macroeconomic policies on agriculture and land use. Before joining IFPRI, Dr. Nelson was a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (1985-2008) and an Agricultural Development Council specialist at the University of the Philippines, Los Baños. He received his PhD from Stanford University in 1982.

State Energy and Climate Actions: Agriculture, Forestry and Waste Management

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 08 Jul 2009 18:00:00 GMT

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), Center for Climate Strategies (CCS) and the Office of Senator Roland Burris (D-IL) invite you to a briefing to learn about state climate actions related to agriculture, forestry and waste management, and how they can inform the current Congressional debate on energy and climate policy. States have developed a range of approaches for promoting bioenergy and biobased products as well as managing agriculture, forestry and other land use to enhance carbon sequestration and minimize greenhouse gas emissions. Many of these approaches are “win-win” solutions that simultaneously address employment/economic stimulus, energy security, climate mitigation and other environmental objectives while garnering broad consensus among diverse stakeholders. At this briefing, agriculture and forestry experts from the South and Midwest will share experiences about policy development and implementation in their states, and offer perspectives on how the federal government and states can best partner to implement effective policies. Speakers for this event include:

  • Joe James, Chief Executive Officer, Corporation for Economic Opportunity; Member, South Carolina Climate, Energy and Commerce Advisory Committee
  • Richard Leopold, Director, Iowa Department of Natural Resources
  • Dennis Hazel, PhD, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist, Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, College of Natural Resources, North Carolina State University
  • Tom Peterson, President and Chief Executive Officer, Center for Climate Strategies (CCS)

Over the past six years, more than 30 states have addressed climate change through comprehensive development of mitigation measures aimed at reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while also creating jobs and addressing energy needs within their states. This includes a full suite of policies in the agriculture, forestry and waste sectors and specific actions that support land protection, conservation practices, renewable energy and products, and waste recovery. Some states have developed adaptation plans as well to respond to climate change impacts on natural resources and other systems.

The Center for Climate Strategies is a nonprofit that supplies technical and analytic services to states. This briefing is the second in a series co-sponsored by EESI and CCS. Information from the first briefing, which provided an overview of state energy and climate actions across all sectors, is available here. Future briefings will address topics including the economics of climate change, transportation, land use, and adaptation, and residential, commercial, and industrial energy use.

This briefing is free and open to the public. No RSVP required. For more information, contact Amy Sauer at (202) 662-1892 or asauer@eesi.org.

Tom Kenworthy: Climate Change Will Bring More Billion-Dollar Droughts for U.S. Farmers

Posted by Wonk Room Wed, 08 Jul 2009 14:39:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room’s Tom Kenworthy, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

Pray for RainFarmers and those in the agriculture economy have a lot to lose if the trends in billion-dollar weather disasters continue – particularly when it comes to drought and water shortages, as recent news indicates. “Central and South Texas are in the midst of an epic drought that has sapped soils of their moisture, dried up stock ponds and turned cornfields from green to beige.” California’s “Central Valley farmers will receive an additional 100,000 acre-feet as part of a water loan to deal with the three-year drought plaguing the state.” As the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee begins hearing testimony this week on climate change legislation, “Billion Dollar U.S. Weather Disasters” – a catalog of 90 costly weather-related disasters dating back to 1980 assembled by the National Climatic Data Center – is a good place to start when considering the costs of inaction on global warming:

  • In 2007, a severe drought with extreme heat across the Great Plains and the East brought some $5 billion in damages and costs. Wildfires in the West that same year cost more than $1 billion.
  • In 2006, widespread drought affected the Great Plains, the south, and the far west, costing about $6 billion.
  • In 2002, a broad drought cost $10 billion, affecting large parts of 30 states from the West to the Great Plains and much of the East. Western wildfires associated with the drought cost $2 billion.
  • In 2000, a drought and heat wave centered on the south central and southeastern United States caused 140 deaths and cost $4 billion.
  • In 1999, An eastern drought and heat wave brought “extensive agricultural losses” of more than $1 billion and cost 502 lives. *In 1998, “Very severe losses to agriculture and related industries” accompanied a drought affecting the central and eastern U.S. with estimated costs of $40 billion and 5,000 to 10,000 deaths.

The House’s narrow approval of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 on June 26 came only after House leaders satisfied some of the concerns of farm state lawmakers. Senators, too, will be sensitive to those interests, so it is critical they understand some of the stakes for agriculture if Congress fails to pass comprehensive clean-energy jobs and climate legislation.

Drought and changes in water supply will be one of the main challenges. Over the last half century, the recently released government report “Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States” says, droughts associated with rising temperatures have become more frequent in much of the Southeast and Western regions of the country. That trend is expected to continue. “In the future, droughts are likely to become more frequent and severe,” particularly in the Southwest, according to the report.

Water shortages will likely affect a whole range of critical economic sectors, from limiting electricity production by nuclear and coal-fired power plants that have high water demands to increasing shipping costs on the Great Lakes and Mississippi River – as happened in 1988 when a drought stranded 4,000 barges on America’s most important commercial waterway. Drier conditions in the West will also increase the extent and cost of wildfires, which have already soared in the last decade.

These events and their impacts are not abstractions. They are costly, disruptive, and affect millions of Americans, including many who make their living raising food and livestock. Few lobbyists for these interests will mention these costly impacts to our already challenged rural economies.

Senators have a responsibility to protect farmers from more and worse droughts even if the farmers’ hired guns won’t.

Read more at the Center for American Progress, and view a map of past and projected droughts at Science Progress.

Collin Peterson: 'Mixing Climate Change Together with Energy Independence' Isn't Smart

Posted by Wonk Room Sun, 14 Jun 2009 10:29:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

Collin PetersonIn an agricultural hearing Thursday, committee chair Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) offered a withering critique of the comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation under consideration by the House of Representatives. Peterson, a conservative Blue Dog Democrat, attacked the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454) for including both clean energy and global warming pollution standards:

My big problem is that they are mixing climate change together with energy independence. I don’t think that is smart.

Peterson, like other skeptics of action on climate change, does not want Congress to consider the entire lifecycle of energy use. Others, including Vice President Al Gore, have argued our energy and climate crises are “linked by a common thread – our dangerous over-reliance on carbon-based fuels.”

Strongly supported by corporate agriculture contributors, Peterson is attempting to alter Waxman-Markey to limit regulations of agriculture subsidies.

By replacing petroleum, biofuels have the potential to dramatically reduce global warming pollution. But scientists have found biofuels can also worsen global warming by encouraging farmers to cut down the diversity-rich tropical forests that soak up carbon dioxide. Similarly, farmers may be able to trap more carbon in soil and plants through changes in agricultural practices, allowing them to sell billions of dollars of “offsets” in a carbon cap-and-trade market. But experts such as Joseph Romm of the Center for American Progress have explained that poorly regulated offsets are little more than worthless subsidies.

The Environmental Protection Agency is considering the global warming consequences of biofuel production as it develops new renewable fuels standards. Similarly, Waxman-Markey would put the EPA Administrator and an independent scientific board in charge of devising the rules for agricultural offsets to maintain their integrity. Peterson’s response:
A lot of us on the Committee do not want the EPA near our farms. And, I don’t think you are going to get any type of a bill through Congress, whatever the administration wants, that is going to have that system, for whatever it is worth.
At Grist, Tom Philpott responds to Peterson:
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 legislationand promote a certification process developed by Big Ag itself.

For weeks, Peterson has threatened to block Waxman-Markey if his demands are not met. It appears that he’s in the driver’s seat.

WonkLine: June 4, 2009

Posted by Wonk Room Thu, 04 Jun 2009 13:12:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

Putting the Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill “on a fast-track” for passage, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “issued an ultimatum to her committee chairmen: move climate change legislation by June 19 or risk losing jurisdiction over the bill.”

“Stephen Ward, chief of staff for Senate Energy Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M, said Wednesday that lawmakers fear a ratepayer backlash” if carbon pollution is capped, telling “a room full of alternative-energy financiers at the Lazard Capital Markets Alternative Energy Investor Summit” that he foresees “a more modest bill” than Waxman-Markey coming from the Senate.

Researchers have discovered that the Phragmites “super weed” emits toxic chemicals to kill competitors, and “the poison becomes even more toxic” because of global warming’s effect on ultraviolet radiation.

Prospects For Waxman-Markey In House Committees

Posted by Gristmill Tue, 02 Jun 2009 13:21:00 GMT

By Grist's Kate Sheppard.

The Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill cleared a major hurdle on May 21 when it was approved by the Energy and Commerce Committee. But the American Clean Energy Security Act of 2009 still has a long road to travel before it can be voted on by the full House.

The House parliamentarian has referred the bill to nine committees, though only four have signaled that they intend to review it in the next weeks. Some estimates of how many committees may want a chance to modify the legislation go as high as 11, and it’s certain that the Ways and Means, Agriculture, Science, and Natural Resources committees will all play some role in the development of the bill.

All of this will take place before the bill goes up for a vote in the full House, which could come by the end of June. Here’s a rundown of the committees likely to take a stab at the bill (or a hatchet, perhaps), and any indication we have so far of these panels’ intentions:

Ways and Means: This committee is responsible for taxes and any other revenue that comes into federal coffers. Under the proposed cap-and-trade plan, the government will auction emissions credits to industries and other buyers, generating significant revenue for Uncle Sam.

There are plenty of alternative plans floating around Ways and Means that may influence how the committee members approach Waxman-Markey. John Larson (D-Conn.) has offered a carbon-tax bill, Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) has proposed a cap-and-dividend bill, and Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) coauthored climate legislation with Van Hollen last year and has been active in discussions of climate policy.

Meanwhile, Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) has said he wants to work on health care before taking up the climate bill.

Agriculture: Committee chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) has threatened to derail Waxman-Markey unless the EPA backs off from proposed rules on the greenhouse-gas footprint of ethanol production. He’s demanded veto power over the related provisions of the bill, and says if he doesn’t get it, his committee’s 26 Democrats will vote against the bill on the floor. He also wants a chance to review provisions he has deemed to be inadequate, like fuel standards, the definition of renewable energy sources, and regulations governing trading in the carbon market. He has also said he wants to see more domestic offsets made available for farmers and thinks the Department of Agriculture should play a larger role in implementation of the legislation.

Science and Technology: This committee may decide to review provisions in the bill related to adaptation and climate science monitoring. Chairman Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) is holding markup of the committee’s own bill to create a National Climate Service at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in early June, which the committee could choose to add to the Waxman-Markey bill. This committee has also been active on some of the policy issues surrounding the development of carbon-capture-and-sequestration technology in the past, and advocated for increased government funding of energy technology development.

Natural Resources: This committee oversees public lands, wildlife, water resources, mining laws, and the development of natural resources, including oil and natural gas. Chairman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) has said he intends to get more programs to expand the development of oil and gas in the outer continental shelf and on federal lands. More domestic development, he said, “should be part of a responsible, comprehensive, pro-energy bill.”

Rahall’s committee has been holding hearings on this subject this year, revisiting what became a highly contentious issue in 2008 as Congress allowed the ban on offshore drilling to expire. Adding expanded domestic drilling to this bill would displease many Democrats, including sponsors Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), but there has been talk that the Obama administration has been discussing this as one option to sweeten a climate deal for moderates on both sides of the aisle in order to get the bill through Congress.

Education & Labor: This committee could decide to examine and amend some of the green jobs provisions of the bill, as well as the provisions that provide grants to educational institutions for green jobs training. For now, though, it looks like the panel will take a pass on reviewing the bill.

Foreign Affairs: This panel may want to take up some of the provisions in the bill to fund international adaptation and technology development. Currently, the bill would allocate a tiny sum of revenue generated from selling emissions credits to adaptation programs—just 2 percent of the total revenue generated in the initial years of the cap-and-trade system. But what the United States is willing to offer to other countries is probably going to be key in bringing major developing countries like China, India, Brazil, and Indonesia on board at the international climate talks late this year in Copenhagen.

Financial Services: This committee could take up several portions of the bill, including the elements that deal with grants and loans for green buildings and energy-efficiency projects. Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) has said he would probably want to take a look at the provisions on regulating the new carbon market that the bill would create.

Transportation and Infrastructure: This panel could claim jurisdiction on anything in the bill dealing with transportation, and there’s quite a bit that fits the bill. But the committee is already at work on a major surface transportation bill that will likely occupy much of its time this summer.

Farm Bill conference meeting

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 29 Apr 2008 18:30:00 GMT

View the webcast.

E&E News:
With an agreement among key farm bill negotiators finally in hand, the conference committee is expected to make swift work this week on the reauthorization of the five-year bill overseeing agriculture, conservation, energy and nutrition programs.

The committee will hold a formal conference meeting this evening, where they are expected to approve a new framework for funding and offsets for the bill that key House-Senate negotiators from the tax and agriculture panels agreed to late Friday.

Energy Harvest: Power From the Farm—An E&E Special Report

The new framework for the bill includes a $4 billion boost above the current baseline for conservation programs and $10.3 billion in new spending on nutrition.

Crop subsidies and reductions to a proposed disaster relief program took the brunt of the spending cuts to offset the new spending, lawmakers said.

The framework also includes a pared-down version of the Senate’s tax package that would roll back tax cuts for corn-based ethanol and give new tax breaks for the cellulosic ethanol and timber industries.

The leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture committees reached the agreement Friday after several days of intense closed-door negotiations in the Capitol. Lawmakers still have to work out some details of the $300 billion, five-year measure, but they said they expect a swift resolution of the conference this week.

“There were some tough spots, but we were able to get by all of that,” House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) said after meetings Friday. “Any member can offer any amendment [in the conference committee], but I don’t see a need for any votes—I think we’ve got this so it won’t require any of that.”

The agreement still must reach approval of the conference committee and the full House and Senate, as well as the White House. President Bush has held a hard line with the farm bill, threatening to veto it unless it reforms crop subsidies and avoid tax increases.

Bush administration officials were not present for the negotiations last week. A White House spokesman said they are reserving judgment until they can review the entire package.

“As we’ve said in the past, the president believes that a new farm bill should include important reforms, not raise taxes and be fiscally responsible,” said White House spokesman Scott Stanzel.

The leaders of the House and Senate tax panel agreed to rely on customs-users fees to offset much of the $10 billion in new spending for the bill. The fees, most of which would come from importers, do not classify as a tax and have not raised a red flag with the White House.

But other advocates for overhauling the farm bill are hopeful the White House will continue to press for more changes to the measure. Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) said he hopes Bush “will stand firm in his commitment to a better bill.” Kind is one of the leaders of a group of House members pushing to throw out much of the current subsidy program.

“Negotiators managed to avoid every opportunity to reform wasteful, outdated subsidies while piling on additional layers of unnecessary spending,” said Kind. “It looks as though nothing has been done to address the waste and abuse that has been well documented over the last year.” No limits for farmers

One of the outstanding issues for the bill is limitations on crop subsidies—a controversial area where reformers like Kind would like to see more change.

Lawmakers said they are still working out a deal on income limits for crop subsidy recipients. Peterson said it would likely lower the cap for people who make most of their income off the farm, but have no limitation for on-farm income.

“The people who are going to take a big hit in the bill are non-farmers,” said Peterson.

Advocates for farm bill reform want to place more stringent limits on how much money landowners can receive in federal subsidies—regardless of where their income comes from.

The Bush administration proposed barring anyone who makes more than $200,000 per year from farm supports.

The Senate’s version of the farm bill, approved in December, would stop payments to non-farmers who make more than $750,000 a year. It had no income caps for farmers. The House bill would cut off farm payments for millionaire farmers or non-farmers who make more than $500,000. Both prompted veto threats from Bush. Corn gives way to cellulosic subsidies

The agreement also includes a package of tax incentives that totals close to $1.5 billion, according to members of the Finance Committee.

The package includes extensions and reductions of the ethanol tax credits and tariffs, said Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa). The move is a step toward gradually transitioning the corn-ethanol industry to standing on its own. The package instead favors supports for cellulosic ethanol.

“It is a signal we are ready to shift to other less disruptive forms of ethanol production,” Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said of the package.

Corn-ethanol subsidies would see an almost 12 percent hit. The current 51-cent-a-gallon tax credit for corn-based ethanol would drop to 45 cents. In conjunction with that, it would also reduce the tariff on imported ethanol, Grassley said.

The winner in the tax package is cellulosic ethanol—made from corn stalks, woody plants or grasses. It would get a $1-per-gallon subsidy.

The move marks a significant shift for the farm-state lawmakers, who have been some of the biggest advocates for ethanol supports, and the booming grain and refinery industries that have come with them.

“This is a signal to the country that we’re starting to move away from corn to cellulose,” Peterson said. Sodsaver exemptions

The agreement includes protections for virgin prairie, long-sought from environmental groups, but has loopholes to allow some states to ignore them.

Conservation advocates have been pushing for years for a sodsaver program to bar federal subsidies for farmers who plow up native prairie.

The Senate sodsaver language, favored by conservation groups, would block crop insurance and disaster payments for farmers who plant on native prairie. The House bill limits the crop insurance ineligibility to four years.

The conference agreement has an “amalgam” of the House and Senate sodsaver provisions, Senate Agriculture Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said Friday. All of the prairie pothole states would have to comply, but Montana and North Dakota would only opt in at their governors’ discretion.

Sodsaver is intended to address what conservation groups say is a backward system in current farm policy. The 2002 farm bill offers landowners conservation payments to conserve grasslands, but also gives crop insurance and crop subsidies that encourage plowing them up.

The Government Accountability Office issued a report this fall calling federal subsidies an “important factor” in encouraging the conversion of millions of acres of grasslands to row crops. The United States lost almost 25 million acres of privately owned grasslands between 1982 and 2003, GAO said. Conservation

The $4 billion increase for conservation trails the numbers negotiators had previously discussed, but still would give a significant boost to most farmland conservation programs.

Much of the conservation money would go to restore funding for programs that would otherwise expire under current law. The expiring Wetlands Reserve Program would get $1.3 billion above the 10-year baseline and the Grasslands Reserve Program would get $300 million.

The framework shifts almost $2.5 billion from the Conservation Reserve Program to other conservation programs—cutting down the Agriculture Department’s largest conservation program but infusing other working-lands programs with some of the money in its budget.

Lawmakers said it lowers the acreage cap for CRP to more closely reflect the reality of the program, which pays farmers to idle land.

The framework allots for 32 million acres in CRP. That total is less than the current limit of 39 million acres but still more land than most USDA officials expect to see in the program in the next several years. Enticed by high commodity prices, farmers have been taking some land out of the program, and USDA has held off on new open enrollments.

Other conservation programs would see a boost under the framework. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program would see a $2.4 billion increase over baseline levels, the Conservation Stewardship Program gets $1.1 billion, and the Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program gets $560 million. A new program for the Chesapeake Bay comes in at $372 million.

Given Another Week, Farm Bill Negotiators Close in on a Deal

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 25 Apr 2008 20:23:00 GMT

The Senate-House conference committee tasked with hammering out the five-year farm bill (H.R. 2419) had an original deadline of April 18 that was extended until today. After marathon sessions all week, negotiators have come close enough to a final package to give leadership confidence to grant a further one-week extension to next Friday, May 2.

Yesterday, Agriculture Secretary Ed Shafer said Bush would veto the farm bill if funding for the farm bill came from a requirement that stock brokers and mutual funds report the cost basis of securities sold by their clients, a tax loophole closure that was estimated to value $6.2 billion and was favored by House Ways and Means Chairman Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.). Negotiators decided not to test the veto and will instead raise funding through customs user fees.

Allison Winter for E&E News describes the deal:
The new framework for the bill includes a $4 billion boost above the current baseline for conservation programs, $10.3 billion in new spending on nutrition and new tax incentives for the timber and cellulosic ethanol industries. Crop subsidies and a proposed disaster relief program took the brunt of the spending cuts to offset the new spending, lawmakers said.
Catharine Richert reports for CQ Today:
House and Senate conferees have struck a long-awaited deal on the new farm bill.

The measure (HR 2419) will be worth about $570 billion over 10 years, with new funding for farm-related tax credits, a disaster aid program, and new funding for food stamps.

Those programs will in part be paid for by a $400 million cut to direct payments — a subsidy farmers get based on their acreage and the type of crop they grow — and a $250 million cut to a $4 billion disaster-aid fund.

But most of the offsets for the extra spending will come from extending customs user fees, a revenue-raiser favored by the Bush administration.

Nutrition programs would get a significant boost. Food stamps and food aid would top out at about $10.2 billion, up from an initial proposal of $9.5 billion.

Over the weekend, lawmakers will continue their discussions about preventing very wealthy farmers from collecting government subsidies. The conferees say they will have a conference report ready for House and Senate floor action by Monday.

More from CQ:
Lawmakers worked on the measure most of Friday, particularly on the $10 billion in new spending.

The struggle to offset extra funding had stalled negotiators for months, as lawmakers sought to satisfy not only competing interests within Congress but also the White House.

With the conferees finally closing in on a deal, President Bush on Friday signed the latest short-term extension of current farm law (S 2903), which Congress cleared Thursday. It continues the 2002 farm law (PL 107-171) for another week.

Thursday, lawmakers had to abandon a plan to offset some of the bill’s costs with a change in tax law that would require stock brokers and mutual funds to report the cost basis of securities sold by their clients after the White House warned that Bush would veto the measure if it included the provision.

The administration has not objected to customs user fees to subsidize new farm spending.

House Ways and Means Chairman Charles B. Rangel, D-N.Y., for weeks opposed tapping the user fees, which he planned to use as offsets for other priorities, such as the renewal and expansion of Trade Adjustment Assistance programs for workers displaced by trade and globalization.

With a final deal in place, it’s possible that Rangel agreed to allow the farm bill to boost user fees in return for a promise that lawmakers would include a $150 million, two-year extension of the Caribbean Basin Initiative, a program that provides trade preferences for countries there.

The CBI is a priority that Rangel had reportedly envisioned paying for with user fees anyway; attaching it to the farm bill would be an easy way to fast-track the extension.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa., who is ranking member on the Finance Committee, confirmed that a CBI extension would be included in the final farm bill.

Negotiators indicated that the Senate Finance Committee has promised to help Rangel find other offsets for the TAA renewal, which Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., has prominently placed on his to-do list for this year.

Allison Winter goes into further detail for E&E News:

With another lifeline, lawmakers hone in on farm bill funding deal

Congress gave farm bill negotiators another week to work on a new farm bill yesterday, as key lawmakers from the House and Senate struggled to complete a funding deal for the bill.

The House and Senate approved the weeklong extension of current farm programs, despite objections that work on the new bill has been dragging out for too long. A White House spokesman said President Bush, who has also balked at further short-term extensions, would sign it.

The extension gives lawmakers until May 2, when they must either pass another stopgap measure or resort to the permanent 1949 agriculture law, if a new bill is not completed.

Key lawmakers from the House and Senate tax and agriculture committees held marathon closed-door negotiation sessions yesterday in an effort to reach a deal on financing and offsets for the bill. A final deal remained elusive, but lawmakers said they were getting closer, despite a wrench thrown in from the White House—which rejected one of their major proposed offset measures.

“We always have more requests than money, but we are very close, very close,” said Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who chairs the Finance Committee and sits on the Agriculture Committee, after meetings last night.

Negotiators said parts – but not all – of the Senate’s tax package are still on the table. Lawmakers went through the package “item by item,” said Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.). Provisions that are still in the mix include new incentives for cellulosic ethanol and endangered species conservation and cuts to the ethanol blenders tax credit. House members had previously rejected all of the tax incentives.

In addition to reaching agreement on the tax package, the panels are trying to find offsets for increased spending in nutrition, conservation, energy and a new permanent disaster title. Lawmakers said their job was made more difficult yesterday by the White House’s refusal to accept some of their proposed revenue-raisers.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) said the “overriding issue” remained how to find acceptable offsets for the new spending.

Grassley said the Bush administration was refusing their proposed offset for the bulk of the $10 billion in revenue they wanted to add to the bill. The offset was to come from a new requirement for brokers to report the values of customers’ stock sale, estimated to raise $6.2 billion.

In remarks in Kansas City yesterday, Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer said Bush would veto the bill if it included the reporting requirement, according to news reports.

“They keep moving the goalpost and when we start getting to a final deal, they change the terms they will accept,” said Pomeroy. “I think they don’t want a bill in the White House – if they sign it, they offend people, if they veto it, they offend people.

“They are doing everything they can to make this more difficult,” Pomeroy added.

Lawmakers are now eyeing use of customs-users fees for their offsets, Senate Agriculture Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said after their meeting last night.

House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) has objected to use of the customs-users fees for the farm bill in the past but would not comment on them yesterday. He said it was “very difficult to find money” but that he was “very comfortable” he would have offsets for the bill.

Rangel, who left last night to spend the weekend in New York, said it is now up to the Agriculture committees to decide on what they want to use the money for.

“I can make enough adjustments and have enough flexibility to fulfill whatever they come up with,” Rangel said.

As the leaders of the House and Senate tax panels held one meeting on the spending issues, members of the Agriculture Committee held another closed-door meeting downstairs in the Capitol to try to find more cuts to farm programs that would help fit the bill within its bottom line. Lawmakers are looking for $700 million they can squeeze from the farm commodity subsidies.

“We are still trying to shoehorn this into a smaller space,” Harkin said of the whole bill. “We are looking for new ways of arranging and moving this around.”

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