Monday, June 08, 2009

Vilsack trims his sails a bit on which agency should oversee carbon-credits system for farmers

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has toned down his comment of several days ago that the Department of Agriculture should oversee the carbon-credits system that would be created by the climate-change bill moving through the House -- another source of disagreement with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson.

In Kentucky on May 27, Vilsack said he would push Congress to give his department authority to monitor farming practices that earn carbon credits, since USDA has more than 2,000 offices, and employees "in virtually every county in the country." But on Friday, his department's Daily Radio Newsline paraphrased him as saying "that it's too early, probably not even productive to talk about what agency runs a cap-and-trade system."

USDA narrator Gary Crawford said in the report, "Some farm groups are insisting that the Agriculture Department," not EPA, "run that system" of carbon credits for farmers. "It's not either-or," Vilsack said. "There's a lot of work that's going to have to be done if this thing's structured right, so we just want to make sure that ... the important role agriculture can play in climate change is recognized."

Vilsack said, "I think Congress is going to have to figure it all out. We're not the ones who make policy, we're the ones who implement it." But he also indicated that USDA and EPA, which wants to run the whole program, have roles in that discussion as the bill moves through Congress and will keep talking with each other. "Both agencies need to work together," he said. "This is very complicated legislation, and . . . I'm absolutely committed to working with EPA."

At the same Kentucky meeting, Vilsack sided with members of Congress against EPA's stand that indirect changes in land use, even overseas, should be part of the calculation of the environmental impact of corn-based ethanol. 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. (Read more)

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