This week will be the most important so far when it comes to climate policy. In connection with a global leaders summit that President Joe Biden is holding online Thursday and Friday, the administration is expected to release a new pledge for reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
Meanwhile, leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee are expected to release a new version of the Growing Climate Solutions Act, which is aimed at accelerating the development of carbon credit markets. The bill would authorize and fund a new USDA program for certifying technical advisers and credit verification services.
For more on climate week and its importance, read our Washington Week Ahead.
Robert Bonnie and Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack
Bonnie gets the power, money to shape climate policy
In a major development for ag climate policy on Friday, the White House announced plans to nominate USDA climate adviser Robert Bonnie as the department’s new undersecretary for farm production and conservation programs. This position will give Bonnie broad authority – and funding – to shape USDA’s approach to ag climate policy. He’ll oversee commodity programs and federal crop insurance as well as conservation spending.
The selection of Bonnie “sends a clear signal about the importance of climate as an agenda item throughout the Department of Agriculture, and especially within these three agencies,” said Bruce Knight, a conservation and technology consultant. Knight served during the George W. Bush administration as chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service and later as USDA undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs.
Knight says Bonnie will be positioned to implement some long-term changes to the agencies, including making sure addressing climate change is part of the NRCS mission. At the same time, Bonnie is someone farm groups should feel comfortable working with, Knight says.
Take note: Bonnie’s certain to get questions during the Senate confirmation process about the administration’s plan for using the Commodity Credit Corp. spending authority to further the administration’s climate goals. Those include establishing an ag carbon bank, an idea Bonnie personally advocated before joining the administration.
Haaland order sets up climate task force
A new order issued by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland prioritizes work on climate change across the department. Among other things, the order calls for a task force to look at ways to “increase the resilience and adaptive capacity of public lands.”
Take note: The order focuses mostly on development of renewable energy on federal lands, the review of oil and gas leasing, and environmental justice, but it also could have implications for federal grazing rights. The order attempts to short-circuit a Trump administration rule that scaled back the environmental review process.
The order requires staff to apply the National Environmental Policy Act according to the regulations in place before the Trump rule went into effect last fall. "If bureaus/offices believe that the department’s NEPA regulations irreconcilably conflict with the 2020 rule, they will elevate issues to the relevant Assistant Secretary" and to the Council on Environmental Quality, the order says.
NCBA trips trigger in cattle market monitoring
The leader of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association says packer participation in its voluntary price discovery framework fell below necessary thresholds in the first quarter of 2021, setting up a possible change in policy if it happens again this year.
NCBA President Jerry Bohn said in a letter to the organization’s members a “major trigger” was tripped “due to a lack of packer participation.” Under NCBA’s voluntary framework, a region must trade 75% of its “robust” trade through negotiated means in 75% of the weeks of a given quarter.
“Simply put, feeders can offer all their cattle on a negotiated basis — but we only achieve our thresholds if there is a buyer willing to bid fairly on those cattle offered,” Bohn said.
What it means: Several bills have been introduced on Capitol Hill to try and install a mandatory price discovery system, but NCBA has argued a voluntary approach should be given a chance to fail before a mandatory program was created.
Under NCBA’s framework, if a major trigger is tripped in any two of four rolling quarters, the organization will “pursue a legislative or regulatory solution determined by the membership.”
USDA using Instagram to market U.S. food
More than 140 million people in Brazil use social media and nearly 80% of them say they have been digitally influenced on what they buy at the grocery store. So, USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service has created an Instagram account (@usfoodexperience) to do its own marketing of U.S. food.
FAS has started highlighting chocolate chip cookies, clam chowder, white wine, beer, waffles and sockeye salmon on the digital medium as well as investigating Brazilian views of imported U.S. cuisine.
Budweiser, McDonalds and Coca-Cola are widely popular in Brazil. And FAS says its research shows Brazilians like U.S. food products, but many consumers also say they are generally too expensive.
According to FAS, the high prices “are due to unfavorable exchange rates, logistics, high tariffs, transportation costs, among other factors.” There is also “intense competition from European products since Brazilian consumers also see them as high-quality and sophisticated.”
Biofuel poll finds support for EV incentives
A Morning Consult poll commissioned by the Renewable Fuels Association shows 65% of voters say the government should give cash incentives or rebates to Americans who purchase hybrid vehicles that run on E85.
Some 63% also support those same tax credit incentives for electric vehicles, something that President Biden’s $2.7 trillion infrastructure package would fund. The poll sampled 1,982 registered voters between March 30 and April 2.
She said it. “As we seek ways to address the climate crisis, an investment in biofuels infrastructure and incentives for higher blends will provide an immediate reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.” – Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, in a letter to House Democratic leaders saying she was disappointed that Biden’s infrastructure package omitted funding for biofuels, echoing a complaint raised by many Midwest Republicans.
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