Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., Wednesday introduced their version of a cap-and-trade energy bill. The "American Power Act" would require cuts in carbon emissions -- 83 percent by 2050 -- from certain sectors and set up a system for buying and selling carbon credits, a system similar to one included in the House-approved Waxman-Markey measure.
That bill was criticized by agriculture for including incentives for converting crop land to forests, which more inexpensively can sequester carbon dioxide. Studies, including one conducted by USDA, found that from 36 million to 50 million acres of crop and grazing lands would be planted to trees so landowners could collect carbon credits that could be sold to sectors, such as utilities, that exceed their carbon caps. Of course, with fewer crop acres there would be fewer crops and higher feed costs for livestock farmers.
Kerry-Lieberman does acknowledge agriculture's concerns with the Waxman-Markey bill by requiring the agriculture secretary to conduct periodic analyses of land removed from crop production to determine the impact on food, feed, commodity prices, livestock prices, food prices and the environment.
NPPC, which raised the issue of crop land conversion with Kerry's and Lieberman's staffs, says the legislation still needs a lot of work.