The climate change debate now moves to the Senate after the House of Representatives passed its bill 219-212. Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) would like for the Senate to consider a global climate change bill this fall. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, plans to have a bill passed out of her committee before the August recess. There will be a number of other committees involved with this legislation.

House Climate Change Bill and Agriculture — Congressman Collin Peterson (D-MN), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, is given great credit for his efforts to get a number of provisions in the House passed climate change bill that benefits agriculture. The agriculture and forestry sectors are exempt from the bill’s greenhouse gas emission reduction requirements. Farmers, ranchers and forest land owners will not be subject to the greenhouse gas emissions cap. The bill establishes an agricultural and forestry offset program at USDA that will work with producers to design and implement plans that reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions and sequester carbon on their operations. Owners will earn offsets for these actions and they can sell the credits to utilities, refiners or other firms, subject to limitations on greenhouse gas emissions. The bill also addresses indirect land use. It postpones the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2) rule provision on indirect land use for five years (three-year study, two years for determination), plus another one year for implementation at the conclusion, if needed. The agreement gives the Secretary of Agriculture veto power over the determination.

Obama Administration Rural Tour — Top officials and cabinet secretaries in President Obama’s administration will hold a series of discussions around the country on how communities, states, and the federal government can work together to help strengthen rural America. President Obama said, “A healthy American economy depends on a prosperous rural America. Rural America is vast and diverse, and different communities face different challenges and opportunities. That’s why we’re going out to hear directly from the people of rural America about their needs and concerns and what my administration can do to support them.” The first of the rural tour sessions was held on July 1 in Wattsburg, PA; Others will be held on July 16 in La Crosse, WI; July 18 in Ringgold, VA; July 20 in St. John’s Parish, LA; Aug. 12 in Bethel, AK; Aug. 16 in Zanesville, OH; Aug. 17 in Hamlet, NC; Sept. 28 in Scottsbluff, NE; and, Sept. 30 in Las Cruces, NM.

More Corn and Soybean Acres — USDA released its new planted acreage estimate that showed greater corn and soybeans acres than previous estimates. Farmers planted 87 million acres of corn, up 1 million acres over last year. This is the second largest corn acreage planted since 1946. A record 77.5 million acres of soybeans were planted, which is 1.8 million acres more than last year. Wheat acreage is estimated at 59.8 million acres, 5% lower than 2008. Cotton acreage is 4% below last year at 9.05 million acres. The next major crop report is the Aug. 12 Crop Production Report that will be the first 2009 estimates for corn and soybean yield and production.

Franken Wins Minnesota Seat — The Minnesota Senate race is finally over with Al Franken declared the winner. The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Franken’s favor, making him the 60th Democrat in the Senate. Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN) conceded after the court’s decision.

Congress Returns to Busy Schedule — Congress returns from its July 4th recess to a very busy schedule. The House of Representatives will be focusing on appropriation bills with the fiscal year 2010 agriculture appropriation bill to be considered this week. The Food & Drug Administration food safety reform bill is also expected to be considered by the House this month. The Senate will focus on health care, appropriation bills and the Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor.

P. Scott Shearer
Vice President
Bockorny Group
Washington, DC