House committee debates agriculture offsets in climate bill

Congress is debating a climate change bill.
Congress is debating a climate change bill.
Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack spoke yesterday before a mostly skeptical House committee on agriculture about the proposed Waxman-Markey climate change bill that some farm state representatives have opposed.

Lawmakers on the committee, including chairman Collin Peterson of Minnesota, said the bill may not get their support without additional benefits to farmers in the form of agriculture offsets.

"A viable carbon offsets market - one that rewards farmers, ranchers and forest landowners for stewardship activities - has the potential to play a very important role in helping America address climate change while also providing a possible new source of revenue for landowners," said Vilsack, according to the New York Times.

The legislation would give incentives to farmers to start projects such as methane capture that could offset greenhouse gas emissions and be sold in a pollution trading market.

Proponents point to successful methane capture projects as evidence farms and land management can be used to reduce global warming. Methane produced by cows, for example, is responsible for more greenhouse gases than farm equipment and other vehicles produce.

However, critics of the proposal say measuring how much these methods reduce greenhouse gases could be problematic.