Highlight of the Week – USDA: House bill should yield long-term benefits for agriculture

According to an analysis by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the American Clean Energy and Security Act would cost the farming sector little in the short-term and yield great long-term benefits.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, discussing the analysis and the role of rural America in fighting global warming in testimony before the Senate Agriculture Committee, said economic opportunities for farmers and ranchers resulting from the bill may "significantly" outpace costs:

"In the short term, the economic benefits to agriculture from cap and trade legislation will likely outweigh the costs. In the long term, the economic benefits from offsets markets easily trump increased input costs from cap and trade legislation."

Secretary Vilsack also noted that the USDA analysis is "conservative," not taking into account technological advances that would help farmers or the higher service costs farmers would command "as a result of enhanced renewable energy markets and retirement of environmentally sensitive lands domestically and abroad."

Provisions in the bill would reduce impacts on the cost of fertilizer, part of the reason it would only lightly impact agriculture in the near future. The analysis also found that income from biofuels would be worth a net return of at least $600 million a year.

Following the USDA analysis, agricultural groups reiterated their support for clean energy legislation. National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson testified before the Senate Agriculture Committee, saying farmers "do not agree with those who claim climate change legislation will be void of economic opportunities and incentives."

“Since passage of ACES, regional and national press has focused its efforts on negative scenarios for agriculture under a cap and trade system,” Johnson said. “I believe as the leader of a national organization, it is my responsibility to help change the conversation about this legislation.”

Published: July 28, 2009