Agriculture's Role in Federal Climate Legislation

The following post was written by staff member Natasha Farmer.

On June 26, 2009 the House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act, H.R. 2454, also known as the Waxman-Markey Bill. Pew Center on Global Climate Change, (last visited Nov. 3, 2009). If passed by the Senate, the bill would cut emissions by putting a cap on planet-warming greenhouse gases. Id. Emission cuts would start in 2012 and this comprehensive legislation would regulate 85 percent of the overall economy, however because of vulnerability to climate change agriculture would not be directly regulated. Kentucky Resource Council, (last visited Nov. 3, 2009).

Kentucky Resources Council Director, Tom Fitzgerald, believes the Act offers agriculture a role in helping reduce greenhouse gas loading into the atmosphere. Id. Director Fitzgerald relied on a report issued by the U.S. Global Change Research Program to explain that many crops show positive responses to elevated carbon dioxide and low levels of warming. Id. In addition, weeds, diseases, and insects benefit from warming, and increased heat and weather extremes are likely to reduce livestock production. Id. With the implementation of this law, agriculture would thrive because of the reduced amount of heat caused by greenhouse gases.

Agriculture has much to gain from this widespread policy. The bill makes agriculture part of the solution by offering incentives, greenhouse gas offsets, and opportunities to supply bio-energy. Pew Center Global Climate Change, (last visited Nov. 9, 2009). Title III of the Act will provide gas emission allowances for agriculture projects that reduce pollution to prevent the conversion of land that would increase greenhouse emissions. Id. The Act will also increase the demand for bio-based forms of energy and provide incentives to stimulate this industry. Id. The Act requires that 20% of electricity come from renewable power by 2020. Id. This could incentivize wind power on agriculture farms. Id.

Even though this Act has benefits for agriculture, there are also cost increases associated. The cost for transitioning away from fossil fuels will most likely cause fossil-based energy and products such as nitrogen fertilizer to rise. Id. However, the overall benefits of this legislation to the agriculture sector outweigh the increased costs. Therefore, implementation should be the path taken.