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National Organic Coalition Reacts to House Hearing on Waxman Bill

June 17, 2009

The EPA estimates that agriculture is responsible for one-third of all domestic methane emissions yet federal policy makers continue to underestimate the role of industrial agriculture in climate change legislation.

On Thursday, June 11, the House Agriculture Committee held a hearing on H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy & Security Act of 2009.

H.R. 2454 does not include agriculture as a sector that would be required to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions but does leave agriculture as a sector that could provide offsets for other GHG emitters by reducing GHG emissions or sequestering carbon in agricultural operations. The major issue addressed at the hearing was whether EPA or USDA would determine what agriculture practices and systems could be used for offsets.

According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, the clock is “ticking” on climate change legislation. House leaders have indicated that legislation must come to the floor before the July 4th congressional recess because health care legislation will take over the agenda after the recess.

On June 10th the NSAC signed onto a letter prepared by the National Organic Coalition. The letter was delivered on Wednesday to the Chairs and Ranking Members of the House Agriculture Committee and the House Energy and Commerce committees. It was intended to encourage the committees to recognize the benefits of organic agriculture in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating and adapting to climate change. According to the NSAC the letter:

“provides a summary of scientific studies demonstrating the benefits of conservation practices used in sustainable and organic agricultural production systems in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and sequestering carbon. Much of the debate over agricultural offsets has focused narrowly on no-till farming, despite an increasing number of research studies questioning its soil carbon benefits.”

The letter highlights six organic practices that the coalition feels should be eligible for offset credits for their ability to reduce emissions or sequester carbon:

  • Certified organic agriculture for its demonstrated ability to fundamentally reduce GHG’s.
  • Cover cropping or abstaining from fallow fields, particularly with leguminous crops which can reduce synthetic fertilizer use and sequester carbon.
  • Abstaining from synthetic pesticide use.
  • Abstaining from synthetic fertilizer use.
  • Addition of compost and/or manures into soils at an appropriate rate determined by a nutrient management plan.
  • Organically managed and rotational pasture, range, and paddock lands for meat and dairy production for their demonstrated ability to sequester carbon.

The letter also ask the committees to “acknowledge and address the significant contributions of industrial agriculture to global warming.” This claim is supported with a slew of scientific evidence from the EPA, FAO, and a host of other noteworthy researchers and institutions; all coming to the same conclusions that America’s industrial food system is a major contributor to GHG’s. The NOC letter plainly states that any meaningful approach to climate change mitigation and legislation must take into account the enormous contributions that conventional, industrial agriculture systems make to the production and accumulation of GHG’s.

Already weakened, time will only tell how lame this bill will become by the time it actually makes it to the senate floor.

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