Farm Bill Moving Forward, Short Extension Likely 2

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 16 Apr 2008 11:18:00 GMT

Three of eleven titles were cleared by the farm bill (H.R. 2419) conference committee yesterday. The research, trade and credit titles are less controversial than ones remaining, as conferees come upon the Friday deadline for renewing the farm bill or filing for an extension. Allison Winter reports for E&E News that the conferees expect to ask for a short extension:
“A long-term extension is totally not acceptable to me,” said House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.).

Senate Agriculture Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said he plans to plow forward with marathon conference sessions this week, in the hope of reaching enough agreement to justify a short-term extension of current farm programs.

“The best outcome is if by Friday we have this done, but I don’t think that is going to happen,” Harkin told members of the conference committee today. He said he plans to ask for an extension of a “few days.”

A significant matter of dispute is the title that deals with tax incentives:
The tax package includes incentives for endangered species habitat, cellulosic ethanol, biodiesel and residential wind credits, among a host of other provisions. Farm bill conferees on the House side asked members today to strip it, while senators pleaded to keep at least some of the incentives, even if they are pared down.

“We feel like we are being held hostage by the Senate Finance Committee,” said House Agriculture ranking member Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). “We’re concerned about jurisdictional issues and the total amount of money.”

In remarks to reporters after the meeting, Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) suggested lawmakers may cut about $1 billion from the tax title.

Food for Thought: Sustainability from Counter to Compost 5

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 26 Feb 2008 19:00:00 GMT

Today, Chairman Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and the Select Committee will start a process to look into the choices our nation makes on food and agriculture and how those choices affect our environment, specifically the “carbon footprint” of how we grow, raise, transport, package, dispose of and otherwise provide sustenance to Americans and people around the world. And while changing the way the world creates and consumes energy is the most effective way to combat global warming, so-called “lifestyle” choices like the food we eat will play an increasing role in how to make immediate cuts in the pollution that causes global warming.

In today’s hearing—entitled “Food for Thought”—this hunger for knowledge on food and the environment starts by looking at the food service industry, and specifically at the food choices and serving options Congress makes available right here in the House of Representatives. For millions of Americans, the cafeterias that serve food in hospitals, universities, major employment centers and schools deliver the meals to get them through the day, but the environment is often an afterthought in the face of swarms of hungry patrons looking for calories instead of low-carbon food.

Witnesses
  • Dan Beard, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), House of Representatives
  • Carina Wong, Executive Director, Chez Panisse Foundation
  • Patricia D. Millner, Ph.D, Research Microbiologist in the Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory and Environmental Microbial Systems Laboratory, USDA
  • Tom Kelly, Ph.D., Chief Sustainability Officer, University of New Hampshire Office of Sustainability

FY 2009 Department of Agriculture Budget 8

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 13 Feb 2008 15:00:00 GMT

From E&E News:
Overall, the fiscal 2009 USDA budget would cut discretionary spending by 4.8 percent. The major increases in the budget would go to food assistance programs to cover the growing number of people who qualify for food stamps and other aid programs. Two of the hardest hit areas of the budget would be research and conservation, which would each see budget cuts of almost 15 percent.

The administration’s proposal would cut more than 10 percent from USDA’s research budget, which includes a wide range of programs, from livestock safety to farm-based energy, biotechnology and food safety. USDA Deputy Secretary Chuck Conner said last week that the cuts came from wiping out congressional earmarks for different research projects.

The White House also made what has become an annual effort to zero out funding for a number of discretionary programs it says are redundant, including local watershed surveys and flood prevention programs. The Bush administration has tried to eliminate the programs in previous years, but congressional appropriators have restored them each year. DeLauro noted she plans to restore the funds again this year.

This year the administration also targeted a popular renewable energy program in its spending cuts for the first time. The budget includes no funding for grants or loans for the “Section 9006” renewable energy program, which gives money to help farmers improve energy efficiency on their farms and develop small on-farm business ventures in wind, solar, biomass or geothermal energy.

The House and Senate both proposed large increases for the renewable energy program in last year’s farm bill and appropriations measures, and the administration had proposed expanding it in the farm bill. USDA included it this year in a list of programs that “serve limited purposes for which financing and other assistance is available.”

Witness
  • Edward Schafer, Secretary of Agriculture

The nomination of Ed Schafer, of North Dakota, to be Secretary of Agriculture 3

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 24 Jan 2008 19:00:00 GMT

The enemy is conventional thinking 4

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 16 Aug 2007 18:02:00 GMT

Thomas Casten addresses the potential gains in carbon reduction by focusing on the energy distribution systems:

I’ve done a study of what would happen if the United States went all the way with power recycling. We could cut our electric fuel in half. We could drop CO2 by between 20 and 30 percent. And we could make money on the first 25 percent drop with today’s technology. In the process, the technology would improve and we would be able to go farther.
And the consequences of ignoring this sector:
In 1900, about 3.5 percent of the potential energy put into electric generation actually became delivered electricity, and about 1.5 percent of it ended up as useful work. The curve rises for the next 60 years, as these things get more efficient. By 1960, about 32.5 percent of the potential was arriving as electricity. In 2005, we’re at 33 percent. The electrical generation industry stopped improving its efficiency.

Natasha Chart addresses the question of agricultural practices and soil carbon content:

The Carbon Farmers of America assert that, “[i]f the American people were to restore the soil fertility of the Great Plains that we have destroyed in the last 150 years, atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide would be reduced to near pre-industrial levels.”

Both approaches offer massive opportunity for everyone from corporations to families.

They conclude, respectively, “The enemy is conventional thinking,” and “Answers could be right under our feet.”

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