Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Vilsack calls for carbon credits for agriculture and forestry, with USDA oversight, and disagrees with EPA on measuring ethanol's carbon footprint

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said today he would push Congress to add carbon credits for agriculture and forestry to the climate bill now moving through the House, and to give his department, not the Environmental Protection Agency, authority to oversee those segments of the proposed "cap and trade" system.

"We will be advocating forcefully" for both provisions, Vilsack said at a community forum in Central Kentucky. He also said he agreed with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) that calculations of the carbon footprint of ethanol should not include "indirect land use," such as the conversion of forest land to agriculture when expansion of corn acreage for ethanol pushes production of other crops elsewhere, including other countries.

That position seems at odds with a recent finding by EPA, but Vilsack told reporters that EPA's proposal is still "subject to peer review," and he is confident that a final rule on the topic will find him and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in agreement. Peterson said he and at least 26 other rural Democrats will oppose the Waxman-Markey climate bill unless EPA's position on indirect land use is not reversed.

Vilsack said agriculture emits 7 to 10 percent of U.S. greenhouse gases but could be as much as "25 percent of the solution" via farming practices that prevent carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. He said USDA is better suited than EPA to monitor those practices, since it has more than 2,000 offices, and employees "in virtually every county in the country."

During the forum, which lasted about an hour and a half, Vilsack touched on many issues facing his department. For the rest of the story, click here.

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