U.S. farm group: Stop EPA on greenhouse gases

SEATTLE (Reuters) - The largest U.S. farm group called on Congress on Tuesday to prevent the government from regulating greenhouse gases if lawmakers kill climate change legislation.

Large fields of corn growing in fields in Otisco, Indiana, August 25, 2009. REUTERS/John Sommers II

The 6-million-member American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) also underlined its firm opposition to legislation to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases blamed for boosting global temperatures.

In their first item of policy work, delegates at the AFBF annual meeting voted to support “any legislative action” to suspend authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gases under air pollution laws.

The EPA cleared the way for such regulation a month ago by ruling that greenhouse gases endanger human health.

It offered a route to control greenhouse gases, if Congress does not pass a climate law. AFBF staff say the Senate is unlikely to pass a “cap and trade” climate bill this year.

At least one bill is pending in the House to prohibit EPA regulation of greenhouse gases. Senators say they may offer amendments to do the same thing.

Delegates applauded after Phil Nelson, president of the Illinois Farm Bureau, read a 1-1/2-page critique of climate legislation, which included a warning that EPA regulation “would significantly burden all sectors of the economy” as well as drive up food prices.

Nelson’s resolution was adopted on a unanimous voice vote.

“I think the delegates wanted to send a strong message by passing it,” he said afterward.

“They don’t have enough lipstick to put on that pig (climate legislation) to make it look good,” said Missouri Farm Bureau president Charles Kruse.

While opposing a mandatory cap-and-trade system and EPA regulation of greenhouse gases, the AFBF backs voluntary carbon credit trading, development of alternative energy sources and incentives to industries trying to reduce emissions.

Four dozen climate scientists asked the AFBF in a letter last week to divorce itself from “climate change deniers.”

Farmers are dubious of Obama administration analyses that say higher fuel and fertilizer costs resulting from climate legislation would be outweighed by revenue from contracts to offset greenhouse gases by planting trees and crops that capture carbon.

Higher production costs are certain, but many farmers will not see any income from carbon sequestration, Nelson said.

An Agriculture Department study says that up to 8 percent of crop and pasture land, or 59 million acres, would be converted to woodlands by 2050 because carbon-capturing trees would be more profitable than crops.

The USDA is taking a second look at its analysis because of complaints about the economic models that were used.

In other activity, the delegates:

-- elected Bob Stallman, a Texas beef and rice grower, to his sixth two-year term as AFBF president.

-- voted that the government should “properly compensate farmers when the government issues an inaccurate food safety warning or recall that causes losses.”

Reporting by Charles Abbott; Editing by Ted Kerr