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March 10, 2009

Fun with the House Ag Committee

It's easy to focus only on House Ag Chairman Rep. Collin "organic is dumb" Peterson's awesomely dismissive quotage regarding Obama's proposed agriculture subsidy cuts (via FarmPolicy.com). "It's more than dead on arrival." "They're going to have to go back to the drawing board." "This is a really stupid idea." Collin. Dude. C'mon and tell us what you really think!

Anyway none of that's surprising. What is surprising is this:
The House Agriculture Committee will canvass 400 groups for ways that American farmers can make money from efforts to control greenhouse gases, Chairman Collin Peterson said on Monday.

Peterson said the committee probably would hold hearings in three or four weeks on the issue. A bill could follow the hearings, Peterson said on the sidelines of the National Farmers Union convention.

"We need to get out ahead of this and figure out how agriculture can be a beneficiary of this," Peterson said.

That's the spirit, Collin! As I surmised, the proper carrot (preferably green two ways) might get Rep. Peterson on board the good ship Reform. Meanwhile Sen. Tom Harkin - chair of the Senate Ag Committee - voiced similar sentiments regarding carbon offsets recently. Any hope of cutting subsidies is thus tied to this emerging "ecological services" market. But Harkin and Peterson are mistaken about one thing - that agribusiness as it functions now would actually benefit from carbon credits. Big Ag gets it, though:

[T]he president of the American Farm Bureau Federation told reporters last week that climate-change legislation may hurt, rather than help, the farm sector.

AFBF President Bob Stallman said emissions legislation could drive up the cost of fuel, fertilizer and pesticides while the payment per-acre for carbon control is low.

Exactly, Bob! That's the whole point - we're trying to change the way you do business, my friend. I wonder what happens when the AFBF mentions this little fact to Collin. Will that be the end of that? Or will Big Ag finally be forced to green up their act? Stay tuned.

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