Climate Change Debate Continues

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is expected to pass the climate change bill before it recesses this week for Memorial Day. The bill is to cut greenhouse gas emissions 17% by 2020 (from 2005 levels), implement a renewable electricity standard for states, and mandate various improvements in efficiency. The Republican members on the committee have stated their strong objections to the bill and have been offering numerous amendments. The bill will now be referred to eight other House committees, including the House Agriculture Committee, for consideration. The American Farm Bureau Federation, in a letter to members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, stated its opposition to the bill, noting it “ignores the complex needs of a very diverse U.S. agricultural industry.” We are a long way from the finish line on this legislation in the House, let along the Senate.

Indirect Land Use — A bipartisan group of 44 congressmen introduced legislation, “The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Improvement Act,” to eliminate the requirement that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) consider indirect land use when calculating the greenhouse gas emissions associated with advanced biofuels. There is great concern of the negative effect indirect land use would have on the domestic biofuels industry. Congressman Collin Peterson (D-MN), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, said, “The unreasonable restrictions placed on the biofuels industry in the 2007 Energy Bill were never debated by Congress, and I’ve spent the past two years trying to undo the damage that we’re seeing now that EPA has published the proposed regulations that will make it impossible to meet the RFS. In order to ensure that a clean, homegrown biofuels industry will succeed in the United States, we need to have federal energy policies that are flexible, practical, and innovative.”

E15 Comment Deadline Extended — The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is extending the comment period by 60 days on a waiver application requesting an increase in the amount of ethanol blended into a gallon of gasoline to up to 15%. The new deadline for comments is July 20, 2009.

Antibiotics — The House Energy and Commerce Committee is expected to consider food safety legislation this summer. Even though the legislation will focus on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), indications are that efforts will be made to include limitations on the use of antibiotics for livestock production during consideration of the bill. Earlier this year, legislation, the “Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA),” was introduced, which would phase out the non-therapeutic use of medically important antibiotics in livestock.

Another Canadian BSE Case — The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) announced it has confirmed bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in an 80-month-old dairy cow from Alberta. CFIA stated that no part of the carcass entered the human food or animal feed systems.

Memorial Day Recess — Congress will be out next week for its Memorial Day recess. When Congress returns, appropriation bills will be a priority. The House Appropriations subcommittee on agriculture is expected to address USDA’s fiscal year 2010 appropriations during the third week of June.

P. Scott Shearer
Vice President
Bockorny Group
Washington, D.C.