Last week the USDA released a new report on climate change and agriculture in the United States.

USDA report

Combining professional input and scientific research from the government, universities, non-governmental organizations, industry, and private sectors, this peer-reviewed study provides an extensive overview of the climate change effects on U.S. agricultural production, suggesting that while farmers and ranchers have a long history of successful adaptation to climate variability, the accelerating pace and intensity of projected climate change effects over the next century requires major adjustments—simply put, we need to take action to moderate those effects in the United States, and worldwide.

This report is interesting as it addresses the need for adaptation and includes a healthy dose of sustainable agriculture practices as recommendations. What will conventional ag producers in the Heartland states think of such recommendations?

We would love to hear your thoughts on this new report from the USDA.

Advertisements

Happy Earth Day week to everyone!

The Farm Bill markups are beginning to circulate and we have a request from 25×25 coordinator Brent Bailey – particularly for folks in Kansas. Please take a second to read this note from Brent about the Energy Title programs in their future in the Farm Bill.

Senate Ag Committee Releases FarmBill for Markup; No Funding for Energy Title Programs

Last Friday, the Senate Ag Committee leaders released their version the next Farm Bill.  According to the Chairwoman’s Summary of the 2012 Farm Bill Committee Print, the bill would reduce the deficit by $23 billion.  Markup will begin on Wednesday, April 25 with consideration of a package of managers’ amendments offered by Chairwoman Stabenow and Ranking Member Roberts.

While we are still processing the details of the bill, the Senate mark would reauthorize most of the Energy Title programs with the exception of the Repowering Assistance Program and Forest Biomass for Energy Program. However, the Senate’s draft bill provides no mandatory funding for any Energy Title programs (although it does transfer any remaining funding from the Repowering Assistance Program to REAP).

While we are pleased that the majority of the Energy Title programs were reauthorized in the 2012 Farm Bill mark, getting them funded will be a major challenge.  The Senate bill would place Energy Title programs at the mercy of discretionary spending controlled by the Appropriation Committees. Today, we need your support and help to move a bipartisan amendment that would provide some mandatory funds for the core programs of REAP, BCAP and the Biorefinery Assistance Program.

Please reach out to Senator Pat Roberts at (202) 224-4774 or email the Senator and ask him to support an amendment that will provide some mandatory funding for REAP, BCAP, and BAP.  If you, your members, or colleagues have utilized these programs, then you understand the multiple benefits and value these programs provide.  REAP and BCAP has been utilized by scores of farmers and ranchers in Kansas to implement energy efficiency measures and renewable energy projects and to supply sustainable sources of biomass for energy.  It is extremely important that these programs remain available to Kansas producers.

Thank you for your support and for your time.

Brent Bailey

25x’25 State Facilitator

601-573-4815

bbailey@25×25.org

###

Posted by Kate Van Cantfort, CEP Director of Communications & Special Projects

Water and Such

February 29, 2012

Seems an appropriate topic after our first tornado of the year (in FEB!) and the requisite rain and flooding – which in truth we need so badly.

I am headed off to the Kansas Water Office forum on Water and the Economy. I will be tweeting from that event at HART_energy. There is another chance to catch this forum in Hays tomorrow.  With water and energy issues so closely tied – particularly on the farm – it will be interesting to see what our State Water Office presents in this forum.

Fracking is on the agenda for the forum today – I look forward to hearing what is presented. Fracking has become quite the hot topic in central Kansas and information on how it can impact water issues and our local economy are timely topics, indeed.

There has been continued coverage of the KS congressional delegation’s stance(s) on the PTC. The Hutch News and KC Star have recently published editorials on the issue. Green jobs, and the wind industry in general, can be a power house for the future economy of Kansas. Please make sure your elected officials know what you think about the topic.

Have a great Leap Day!

Kate Van Cantfort, CEP Director of Communications & Special Projects

From our partners with Kansas 25x’25:

Last week, USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced $184,012 in cost-share funding for five renewable energy projects on Kansas farms and at rural businesses. The department awarded the funding through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), which provides loan guarantees and grants for an array of smaller renewable technology and energy efficiency developments. Ken Frahm, leader of the Kansas 25x’25 Alliance, said the projects will contribute to the state’s economic growth and create jobs.

In Kansas, farmers and rural businesses have been recipients of 141 Rural Energy for America Program grants and loans for a total of $4,907,091 since the program’s inception in 2003. These awards have leveraged a private sector investment of over $10 million. In addition, USDA’s first designated Biomass Crop Assistance Program project area was announced for Kansas and Missouri for the establishment of 50,000 acres of dedicated energy crops. Another project area in Kansas and Oklahoma, sponsored by Abengoa Biofuels, will grow up to 20,000 acres of switchgrass near Abengoa’s future biomass conversion plant near Hugoton. Also, eleven facilities in Kansas were recently financially rewarded ($7,690,143) for expanding their production of advanced biofuels from feedstocks other than corn starch.

USDA’s announcement cited REAP funding across the country for wind, solar, geothermal and hydroelectric power projects designed to reduce energy costs for farms and small business throughout rural America. Officials say the program is valuable to America’s energy security, spurring investments that increase efficiency or generate homegrown energy that reduces reliance on fossil fuels.

The Agriculture Department says that since 2003, funding has been awarded to more than 7,000 projects in all 50 states, assisted more than 9,500 businesses and saved or created nearly 15,000 jobs.

“Much of the growth in REAP has come in recent years as the program increasingly demonstrates the local economic revitalization that can come with public investment,” said Frahm. “However, Congress is now considering a fiscal 2012 appropriations bill that could deeply cut the program.

“We believe that it’s in the interest of a healthy economy, our energy security and a cleaner environment that Congress restore full funding for REAP and renew the program when a new, 2012 farm bill is negotiated,” Frahm said. He called on the state’s congressional delegation to support the interests of rural Kansas and recommit to a program that provides economic opportunities for all of rural America.”
###

Fellow Kansans – as you know CEP has been an avid supporter of rural energy programs, like the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) among others. REAP has helped generate farm income, created rural jobs and improved energy security.

We’ve signed on to the following letter in support of Energy Title programs. Senator Roberts is the Senate Agriculture Ranking Member.

The Honorable Pat Roberts
U.S. Senate
109 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC  20510

Dear Senator Roberts:

Over the years, Congress has continually recognized the value of rural energy programs that have helped generate farm income, create rural jobs, and improve energy security.  The unique and vital energy programs authorized in the Energy Title of the 2008 Farm Bill, such as the Rural Energy for America Program, the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, the Biorefinery Assistance Program, and the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels, have been particularly valuable to U.S. farmers, ranchers, foresters and the rural economy.  These programs, which are administered by the USDA, have fostered the development of advanced biofuels, dedicated energy crops, renewable electricity, and biobased products and have improved energy efficiency on farms and businesses across rural America.

In Kansas, farmers and rural businesses have been recipients of 141 Rural Energy for America Program grants and loans for a total of $4,907,091 since the program’s inception in 2003.  These awards have leveraged a private sector investment of over $10 million.  The Biomass Crop Assistance Program is an important tool for harvest, collection, storage and transport of existing biomass and for the establishment of dedicated bioenergy crops.   USDA’s first designated BCAP project area was announced for Kansas and Missouri for the establishment of 50,000 acres of dedicated energy crops.  Another project area in Kansas and Oklahoma, sponsored by Abengoa Biofuels, will grow up to 20,000 acres of switchgrass near Abengoa’s future biomass conversion plant near Hugoton.   Also, eleven facilities in Kansas were recently financially rewarded ($7,690,143) for expanding their production of advanced biofuels from feedstocks other than corn starch.

In order to continue rural economic growth and more rapidly drive private sector investments in clean energy projects across the United States, Energy Title programs must be extended beyond 2012 and properly funded.  The benefits of Energy Title initiatives also come at a very modest investment.  Of all the programs authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill, Energy Title programs account for less than 1% of overall spending in the bill.

While significant budgetary sacrifices from many sectors of the federal government (including USDA) will be required, we urge you to ensure that robust mandatory funding is preserved for Energy Title programs.  Continuing the core Energy Title programs in the 2008 Farm Bill encourages renewable energy and energy efficiency on Kansas working lands and rural small businesses and is a way to develop additional income opportunities for landowners and helps reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources.  We thank you for your leadership on these important agricultural energy issues.

Regards,

Climate + Energy Project

From our friends at 25’x25 today:

We are writing to ask for your immediate support in defending key farm and forestry energy programs.  The Senate and House Agriculture Committees are scrambling today to finalize a plan they intend to submit to the joint deficit reduction “super committee” as soon as tomorrow which reportedly will cut $23 billion out of the Farm Bill over the next 10 years. According to our sources, the architects of the plan are leaning towards not providing any mandatory funding for the Energy Title going forward.

While we certainly understand and embrace the need to cut spending and reduce the national deficit, how Congress goes about achieving these goals is of paramount importance. The Energy Title is about America’s future. The first generation programs it contains create new jobs and economic opportunities all across America by unlocking millions of dollars in private investment. They also reduce the outflow of dollars for foreign oil, help strengthen our national security, and improve soil, water, and air quality.

A decision on whether to maintain and fund an Energy Title in the Farm Bill is imminent. Please make a 60 second call to the offices of the leaders of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees today as well as your own elected officials urging them to:

  1. Focus on the future by maintaining an Energy Title in the Farm Bill; and
  2. Provide mandatory funding to support its implementation.

Decisions regarding the Energy Title will be made in the next few days and the outcome could shape farm energy programs for a decade. Agriculture Committee staff members have heard from many farm interests over the past few weeks, but many say they have heard little from those interested in maintaining an Energy Title. If these programs are important to you, now is the time to make your voice heard.

Please help us ensure that these first generation energy programs continue to serve as a base from which we can build a brighter future for agriculture.

We agree with 25×25 and believe these programs have long term value for Kansas – if you do too, reach out to Senator Roberts and his staff with a phone call and let them know how you feel.

The Honorable Pat Roberts (R-KS)
Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member
Phone – (202) 224-4774

Dorothy Barnett, Executive Director

Yesterday, FERC commissioners announced a new rule that will change the way transmission lines across the nation are planned and paid for. Order No. 1000 requires public utility transmission providers to improve transmission planning processes and allocate costs for new transmission facilities to beneficiaries of those facilities. It also requires public utility transmission providers to align transmission planning and cost allocation. According to FERC, these changes will remove barriers to development of transmission facilities.

What this means for the Southwest Power Pool remains to be seen.

Kansas, along with Oklahoma, Nebraska and parts of Missouri, Arkansas, New Mexico, Texas and Louisiana is served by a regional transmission organization (RTO) called the Southwest Power Pool (SPP). Long thought of as leaders in the industry, SPP’s  “Highway/Byway” cost allocation method (approved by FERC last year) already focuses on the region as a whole, as opposed to the traditional transmission planning approach that focuses on local reliability issues.

This method calls for costs to be allocated according to the voltage of the new transmission facilities. For example, the costs of facilities operating at 300 kilovolts (kV) and above are allocated 100 percent across the SPP region on a postage stamp basis. For costs of facilities operating above 100 kV and below 300 kV, allocation is one-third on a regional postage stamp basis and two-thirds to the zone in which the facilities are located. Finally, the costs of facilities operating at or under 100 kV are allocated fully to the zone in which the facilities are located.

Chairman Wellinghoff and Commissioners LaFleur, Spitzer and Norris all spoke favorably about the rule. Although he supports the rule, Commissioner Moeller stated “while today’s rule moves us forward to achieve those goals, a different approach would have been better on these issues.”

On August 15-17th in Hutchinson KS, stakeholders across the SPP will be able to discuss the implications of the FERC rule along with key issues related to transmission expansion at the Heartland Transmission Conference co-hosted by the Energy Future Coalition and CEP.

This conference is sponsored in part by the Hutchinson/Reno County Chamber of Commerce, Clean Line Energy Partners, Heartland Alliance for Regional Transmission, Hutchinson Community College, ITC Great Plains, Hutchinson/Reno County CVB, Siemens and Westar Energy and will feature Kansas Governor Sam Brownback.

The conference is free of charge, but space is limited, please register here before August 8th. For more information contact Dorothy Barnett 785-424-0444 or barnett@climateandenergy.org.

Posted by Dorothy Barnett, CEP

From Reuters, by Charles Abbott:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. farmers and foresters could earn more money from carbon contracts than they pay in higher costs from legislation to control greenhouse gases, the Agriculture Department estimated on Wednesday.

In the near term, most of the money would go to people who plant trees to lock carbon in the soil or enroll woodlands as carbon sinks. Relatively small amounts would be generated by changes in tillage or crops.

USDA’s “preliminary analysis” was one of the first attempts at a broad-spectrum examination of the House-passed climate bill. Most of its 13 pages were devoted to grains, cotton and soybeans. Limited space went to livestock and none to fruits and vegetables.

Skeptics like the American Farm Bureau Federation say climate legislation will drive up sharply the cost of farm fuel, fertilizer and pesticides. A carbon offset market will not benefit all farmers or all parts of the country, it says.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the House climate bill would increase farm expenses by $700 million, or 0.3 percent, from 2012-18. That would be offset by revenue from a carbon offset market, estimated by USDA at $1 billion a year in the near term and $15 billion in 2040. EPA administrator Lisa Jackson said offsets would be worth nearly $3 billion a year in 2020 for farms, ranches and forests.

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

Beyond that, said Vilsack, is income from biofuels, worth a net return of at least $600 million a year.

Two senators from the arid Great Plains, Republicans Mike Johanns of Nebraska and Pat Roberts of Kansas, asked Vilsack and Jackson, without success, how much pasture and crop land would shift into trees if a carbon offset market is created. Roberts suggested 40 million acres might be converted.

“There is possibly the idea many farmers will choose to do that (plant trees),” said Jackson. “We don’t have a number.” Vilsack said the tree-planting may be focused on land already idled in the Conservation Reserve or on poor-yielding land and that U.S. crop output would not suffer.

“Unless you can quantify this, you can’t sell the plan,” said Johanns. Most of the carbon-control income would go to forestry, he said, while row-crop farmers will face higher energy costs with little income to offset it.

USDA’s report said there could be a small decline in cropland as forestland expands, which would result in higher livestock feed costs, but provided no details.

Democrat Ben Nelson, of Nebraska, and Johanns described hostile reaction among voters to the House-passed climate bill. At a community parade, said Nelson, people shouted “No to cap and trade.”

Agriculture Committee chairman Tom Harkin said the Senate climate bill should include an “off ramp” to relax U.S. controls on greenhouse gases if other nations fail to act against climate change. He said he would give other nations three to five years to get on board.

“We can’t do it all by ourselves,” said Harkin.

Climate change poses the threat of more frequent droughts in the U.S. Midwest and Plains and lower livestock production in the U.S. Southeast due to heat stress, said EPA’s Jackson.

The EPA estimates U.S. cropland accounts for 6 percent of greenhouse gas emissions but growing vegetation removes 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

— posted by Maril Hazlett, www.climateandenergy.org