March 9, 2009 / 7:53 PM / 10 years ago

U.S. House panel seeks farm payoff in climate change

A farmer sprays his cornfield in Hills, Iowa in this file photo from June 16, 2008. REUTERS/Frank Polich

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - 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.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and a handful of other lawmakers told NFU members there was the chance to make money by adapting agricultural practices that lock carbon into the soil and reduce global warming.

Representative Stephanie Herseth Sandlin pointed to estimates that businesses could pay from $4 to $30 per ton of reduced carbon emissions from farms and ranches.

Peterson said his committee would send letters soon to 400 groups to ask their ideas of how farmers could benefit from so-called cap-and-trade carbon controls.

While the lawmakers were upbeat, the 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.

During a news conference, Peterson also said the Agriculture Committee would gather information for a potential bill that would try to strengthen the existing network of agencies that oversee food safety.

Editing by Walter Bagley

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