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At issue: farm bill, climate
Buckeye Farm News
OFBF's annual Trends and Issues Conference held in March focused on the farm bill and climate policy. Here is a recap of those discussions:
Carl Zulauf, an Ohio State University agricultural economist, said the 2008 Farm Bill may represent fundamental shifts in the way the nation views farm policy.
“History is likely to look at this as one of the more influential farm bills that has passed,” he said.
Zulauf said there may be a shift in the defined purpose of farm policy.
“What is the object of farm policy?” he asked. “Is it to enhance farm income, or to help farmers manage their risk?”
He said the 2008 Farm Bill clearly emphasized risk management, and said managing risk is easier to sell and explain to the non-farming public than other traditional programs.
Zulauf became a major player in the 2008 Farm Bill, helping to develop the market-based Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) program. In 2009, farmers have the choice – stick with the traditional suite of farm payments or enroll in ACRE. For details and analysis on ACRE, visit the “Featured Links” section at www.ofbf.org.
Looking toward the 2013 Farm Bill, Zulauf said the non-farming public could play a larger role.
“Farmers are not the only beneficiaries of the farm bill. Is it accurate to call it the farm bill anymore?” he asked.
He pointed out that agriculture has many new opportunities in the 21st century. But he warned, “agriculture needs to make sure past successes do not get in the way of its exciting future. We cannot be looking back as we move forward.”
Climate Change Policy
A global climate change specialist said that climate change legislation is coming, whether farmers like it or not.
Garth Boyd, senior vice president of Camco Global, a carbon credit aggregation and project development firm, said investment has already begun in curbing greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and agriculture is a part of the plan.
“Animal agriculture is very much in the firing line right now,” he said.
Boyd outlined a potential “cap-and-trade” plan for the United States similar to what is already in place in Europe. Such a plan would include limiting GHGs allowed from the largest producers of emissions through a permitting structure. Other entities outside of caps could earn credits for voluntarily reducing emissions and selling credits to those over their cap allowance.
Boyd called cap-and-trade an “exciting time for agriculture” because it has the potential to sequester more than it emits through conservation tillage, improved fertilization, cover crops, conversion to grassland and more.
Although no climate change legislation has been introduced in 2009, Boyd said there’s the possibility of such a program being initiated as early as sometime between 2012 and 2014.
American Farm Bureau opposes mandatory restrictions on agriculture, farming practices and farm machinery. It also opposes regulation of GHGs under the Clean Air Act.
Farm Bureau believes any legislation that is approved should also recognize agriculture’s contributions to reducing GHGs through participation in voluntary carbon markets and not adversely affect farmers’ ability to produce food.