U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack today testified before a Senate committee on the role that agriculture can play in addressing climate change, including benefits to rural communities in a cap and trade program.
The Senate is set to debate a climate change law that passed the House by a narrow margin. Farm groups, business groups and others have criticized the bill as an energy tax.
Vilsack said climate change is one of the "great challenges facing the United States and the world," commenting that farmers, ranchers and those who make a living off the land are particularly vulnerable to its effects.
Proponents of the law say cap and trade will provide a source of revenue for farmers, whose land and crops act as a carbon "sink," allowing them to sell carbon credits to polluters.
Vilsack said a viable carbon market and increased production of renewable biofuels can provide "significant opportunities for rural landowners."
A number of renewable energy technologies such as anaerobic digesters, geothermal and wind power can reduce farmers' reliance on fossil fuels. Vilsack said USDA is helping farmers to reduce emissions from sources including farm equipment and livestock.