This may be a clue as to at least one part of the trading dynamic among House Democrats: Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack recently has been suggesting that H.R. 2454 should include provisions for farming and forestry-related carbon credits, and that USDA should run that component of any cap-and-trade system.
Secretary Vilsack's suggestion, apparently first made in public at a May 27th event in Kentucky, seems to run counter to the Administration’s own plans for an EPA-controlled cap-and-trade system. Yet, if adopted, it could win some support from farm country by adding another government-created commodity to the rural economy and putting control in the hands of a friendly bureaucracy.
Secretary Vilsack's statements surfaced in an account of the event written by Al Cross, who runs the Institute for Rural Journalism at the University of Kentucky. Cross wrote on the Institute's Rural Blog that Vilsack said at a community forum in McAfee, Ky., that he would push Congress to include an agriculture and forestry carbon credits program and a cap-and-trade program under the oversight of USDA. "We will be advocating forcefully" for both provisions, Vilsack said, according to Cross' account. Vilsack said agriculture emits 7 percent to 10 percent of U.S. greenhouse gases but could be as much as "25 percent of the solution" through farming practices that prevent carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, Cross reported. Vilsack also said USDA is better suited than EPA to monitor those practices, since it has more than 2,000 offices, and employees "in virtually every county in the country," according to the report. What is interesting to note is that USDA did not include Vilsack's comments in its release on the event, which was the fourth in a series of forums at which he is highlighting USDA spending in the economic stimulus package.
The House Committee on Energy and Commerce is not standing still while the other committees organize. The Subcommittee on Energy and Environment will hold a hearing tomorrow (Tuesday) on “Allowance Allocation Policies in Climate Legislation: Assisting Consumers, Investing in a Clean Energy Future, and Adapting to Climate Change”.