Ag Policy Blog
Chris Clayton DTN Ag Policy Editor

Sunday 06/01/14

Marrying EPA Climate Plan and USDA Conservation Goals

Reports from the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times and others say the Obama administration will propose coal plants reduce their emissions 30% from 2005 levels by 2030.

How will this proposal affect agriculture? That is, how will the EPA regulations play out following the political denunciation, appropriation riders, stoppage of all congressional floor activity until the end of the year and the repeated vetoes by President Obama and eventual rule going into effect sometime following a Supreme Court decision?

A primer by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions shows a region of the Plains and Midwest states are the most dependent on coal and would face the biggest challenge changing their energy mix. The eastern Corn Belt gets about 56% of its power from coal while states to from Mississippi River to the Dakotas get 68% of their power from coal plants.…

The Washington Post states the EPA "rule would give states and utilities four options of how to meet the new standard, with different emphases on energy efficiency, shifting from coal to natural gas, investing in renewable energy and discounts to encourage consumers to move to off-peak hours."

Other articles throughout the past week indicate EPA would revive the cap-and-trade proposal for states to consider as well.

Agricultural groups rejected a voluntary cap-and-trade in Congress in 2009. How will they consider cap-and-trade programs and other emission reduction efforts pushed by EPA but run by the states? Will the flight to natural gas in the power-generation industry raise new complaints about fertilizer prices?

Can landowners gain some windfalls from investments in renewable energy? Windmills across the Midwest landscape and state renewable-energy portfolios would suggest so.

Can USDA and EPA make "ecosystem services" work for a wide swath of farmers? USDA has certainly embraced tenets of soil health through no-till or minimum-tillage practices. The Natural Resources Conservation Services is doing more to promote cover crops as are a growing number of state programs that are meant to improve water quality.

The cap-and-trade program as pitched earlier would pay farmers for certain conservation practices. A few regional or specific offset programs exist, usually pegged to water-quality improvement. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., is one of the biggest critics of any federal action on climate change. Yet, Oklahoma has a carbon-offset program that includes partners such as a rural electric cooperative.

Is it possible to meld programs into USDA's eight critical conservation areas to offset carbon emissions while achieving the goals of those different regions? The eight conservation areas under the Regional Conservation Partnership Program are the California Bay Delta, Chesapeake Bay, Colorado River basin, Columbia River Basin, Great Lakes, Longleaf Pine Range in the Southeast, the Mississippi River basin and Prairie Grasslands in the plains.

Rest assured, the possibilities of marrying climate initiatives with agricultural conservation won't come quickly. It also likely will not come without a lot of political and legal fits and starts.

Chris Clayton can be reached at

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

Posted at 8:19PM CDT 06/01/14 by Chris Clayton
Comments (6)
Remember that if all the power plants and vehicles start changing to natural gas that is also going to raise the price it, and anything made of PVC in the US. PVC in the US is made from natural gas, not oil like many think.
Posted by CRAIG MOORE at 8:16AM CDT 06/02/14
Oil went from $17 a barrel in 1999 to $137 in July of 2008,, can anyone tell me who was the president during that time? Dah????
Posted by Jay Mcginnis at 9:37PM CDT 06/02/14
And $1.89 gas was Bush's fault, as stated by Obama when he was running the first time. Now who took it from $1.89 with $137 a barrel to $3.69 with $102 a barrel oil?
Posted by CRAIG MOORE at 9:11AM CDT 06/06/14
I guess Obama could bring gasoline back down to the price Bush had it when he left if he drove the economy into oblivion like Bush did with no regulation on the banks,,, yeah there is a plan, stock market went to 5000, $800 billion bailout to banks "too big to fail" ,, thats why gasoline went so low when Bush left office,,,, still can't see why you guys think thats a brag point? I am much happier now then I was then and do much better economically, especially the farm. Oh and stock market 15000.
Posted by Jay Mcginnis at 11:53AM CDT 06/06/14
The higher the apex, Jay, the farther the fall. The fall will not hurt you, but the sudden stop will.
Posted by Bonnie Dukowitz at 5:58AM CDT 06/07/14
Schwing and a God awful miss there Jay. Pull a muscle on that one? And exactly where is that "farm"?
Posted by CRAIG MOORE at 8:16AM CDT 06/10/14
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