Thursday, December 10, 2009

USDA pushing climate bill but hasn't explained how to keep up production as cropland goes to forest

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack "ventured gingerly" into the climate change debate at a news conference called for that purpose Wednesday, DTN reports. Vilsack again explained agricultural benefits from climate change legislation will far outweigh any additional costs, while USDA economists also briefed Congress on the likely effects of the House-passed climate bill on Wednesday and Thursday.

The USDA's work brings to light two questions about the secretary's assertions, DTN writes. First, "how USDA plans to link the program’s benefits to ‘normal’ crop and livestock production since perhaps 85 percent of the expected benefit is seen as coming from planting trees on crop and pastureland." The second question revolves around how USDA will identify winners and losers in the program and keep U.S. agriculture production efficient in the future.

By 2013, USDA estimates the price of carbon allowances will reach about $27 per ton of CO2 equivalent and 27 million acres will have been planted with trees, DTN reports. By 2050, USDA says carbon allowance values could increase to $70 per ton of C02 equivalent and push an additional 60 million acres of forestation; 35 million would come from cropland, a 15 percent decrease from the amount now in crops, and 24 million acres would come from pasture, about a 9 percent decrease from the baseline. (Read more, subscription required)

Not all farmers are convinced the carbon-sequestration practices advocated by USDA and the House bill will be profitable, Mark Steil of Minnesota Public Radio reports. Among their concerns are the uncertainty of sequestration research, limits in the legislation, and the increased cost of doing business as electric rates rise. (Read more)

No comments: