Farm lobby: Shoot the climate bill, but keep the Peterson goodies
I got mugged in Mexico City once. Guy whirled me around and pointed a gun at me. He had a crazed look in his eye–like he might be on familiar terms with a crack pipe or a glue tube. He demanded my wallet with a grunted threat to shoot. I handed it over. We went on our ways, both reasonably satisfied. He got some cash, and I got to live.
I’ve been thinking about that relatively straightforward transaction as I ponder the the farm lobby’s stance on the Waxman-Markey vote. Their man Collin Peterson (D. Minn.) essentially mugged Henry Waxman. Backed by brute force–the assurance of as many as 50 “no” votes among Democratic reps–Peterson demanded that some pretty serious goodies for Big Ag in the climate bill (see here). Waxman, wanting his bill to live, handed them over. The farm lobby’s reaction? They want to keep the goodies, but shoot the bill dead. Check out what the American Farm Bureau, the “Voice of [Industrial] Agriculture” is getting up to:
The American Farm Bureau Federation is urging all members of the House to vote “no” on a sweeping climate change bill that is scheduled for a floor vote on Friday and is asking them to vote “yes” on an amendment authored by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.).
What? Can you vote “no” on a bill but “yes” on one of its amendments? Well, yes, but it makes no sense. If the bill dies, so do the amendments. And anyway, Grist’s Kate Sheppard tells me, the goodies Peterson wrung out of negotiations are wrapped into a much larger amendment by Waxman; there’s no stand-alone Peterson amendment.
Why are they doing this? Hard to say. But here’s what I think. Big Ag (as I’ve been saying for a while) is nervous about climate legislation, and for good reason. Industrial agriculture sucks in titanic amounts of fossil fuel, and spews out breathtaking plumes of greenhouse gas. Even though ag is exempted from any GHG cap under Waxman-Markey and has been from the start, a GHG framework threatens the ag lobby’s long-term interests. So that’s why they oppose the bill. So why bother to come out in favor of the amendment? Clearly they need to acknowledge Peterson’s good work on their behalf. Getting a measure into the bill that would ice the EPA out of the business of assessing ethanol’s GHG footprint was certainly a coup–and clearly difficult for the Farm Bureau to oppose outright.
Other Big Ag groups have taken a similarly schizophrenic stance toward today’s vote. The National Pork Producers Council declared it “can’t support” the bill, but added:
NPPC is grateful to Chairmen Peterson and Waxman for reaching a compromise on language related to the agricultural greenhouse gas offset credits. Although NPPC supports the Peterson amendment–and urges lawmakers to vote for it when it comes up during floor consideration–the organization remains concerned about the overall cost to U.S. pork producers of the climate change bill.
As for the National Corn Growers Association, here’s Hoosier Ag Today:
The National Corn Growers Association commended House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson and others for their efforts, but NCGA President Bob Dickey said, while they support adoption of the Peterson amendment, they will remain neutral on the overall bill pending further analysis.
In other words, grab for for the loot, but shoot the victim. I hope Mexico City’s junkies don’t start embracing that attitude.
Get Grist in your inbox