Tag: Tom Vilsack

Circumnetting the Cabinet

Cabinet officials were on the road last week, making announcements and promoting the Obama Administration’s priorities.

Des Moines Register blog, Aug. 17,Vilsack: Estate tax won’t hurt most farmers“:

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today defended proposals to reinstate the estate tax, despite concerns raised at an Iowa State Fair roundtable about the need for more rural capital and incentives for young farmers.

Vilsack, the former Iowa governor, said he thinks the estate tax will be restored. The key is having appropriate exemptions for people who want to pass their farm down to a family member or someone else, he said. He expects to see a large enough exemption to cover the “vast majority” of farms and ranches in the country, he said.

St. Louis Post Dispatch, Aug. 20, “Salazar views Arch designs, says ‘We will get this done.’“:

Salazar called the five designs exciting and said that better use of the Arch grounds and connections to St. Louis and East St. Louis are important goals in even in a recession.

“We will make this one of our highest priorities,” he said. “I cannot find any place in the U.S. that has the frame for an urban park lilke you have here with the Arch and river.”

Tech Daily Dose, Aug. 17, “Broadband Grants Totaling $1.8 Billion Announced“:

(continue reading…)

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Agriculture Should Be Wary of EPA’s Tailoring Rule

We took note Thursday of this line from the EPA’s “Fact Sheet” on its new greenhouse gas tailoring rule:

Emissions from small farms, restaurants, and all but the very largest commercial facilities will not be covered by these programs at this time.

Boil it down: The EPA will not regulate emissions from small farms AT THIS TIME.

Soon enough, though.

So what did Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack have to say the implied promise of future regulation of small farms for greenhouse gas emissions? After all, methane is produced by all sorts of farming operations (cows, manure), and it is a potent greenhouse gas.

Secretary Vilsack did issue a statement, but it’s about biomass fuels.

I want to thank the Administrator for agreeing to seek further comment on how to address the greenhouse gas benefits of bioenergy under the Clean Air Act. Energy derived from woody biomass, switch-grass and other sources has potentially enormous benefits for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, developing clean, home-grown energy, and providing economic opportunities for rural America. Markets for woody biomass can also bolster forest restoration activities on both public and private lands that improve the ecological health of our forests

OK. Important issue, but expanding biomass energy conversion is not uppermost on the minds of most farmers. Operating costs and the impact of federal regulations rank higher.

And the EPA’s rule certainly promises a lot of both.

From pages 415-416 of the final rule:

Although the proposal for the Tailoring Rule generally addressed how the statutory requirements for major source applicability (100/250 tpy thresholds) could be phased in in ways that would offer relief to traditional and non-traditional sources, such as residences, farms, small business, and semiconductor manufacturers, it did so by establishing relatively high CO2 thresholds during the early implementation period and lowering the thresholds over time as streamlining mechanisms become available to reduce administrative burdens. We did not propose any permanent exemptions of any kind or temporary exemptions based on source category.

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No Carbon: Why Limit Reporting to Manufacturers?

Below we note Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s vision of a new American agriculture, based on a centralized system of distributing government benefits to farmers based on their not producing carbon.

Which leaves an obvious question after contemplating this latest government dictate, “E.P.A. Proposes Reporting of Greenhouse Gas Emissions“:

The Environmental Protection Agency today proposed a rule that would require a broad range of industries to tally and report their greenhouse gas emissions. [See EPA news release, here.]

The move was hailed by environmentalists as an important precursor to regulating greenhouse gas emissions, as the Obama administration is expected to do.

“This is the foundation of any serious program to cap and reduce global warming pollution,” said David Doniger, the policy director for the climate center at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “You have to have source-by-source data on how much of global warming pollution is emitted and from where.”

The rule, if enacted, would require some 13,000 facilities across the United States to report their emissions, and would cover manufacturers of chemicals, oil, cement, iron and steel, and automobiles, among other industries.

Why just manufacturers? Secretary Vilsack suggests that reduction of carbon dioxide emissions will be the central tenet of U.S. farm policy. Logically, then, we will need a system of command and control based on the C02 emissions per farm. Reporting is the first step.

And why stop at farms? “You have to have source-by-source data on how much of global warming pollution is emitted and from where…” Hospitals, schools, individuals, etc. Logically, this leads to:

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The 21st Century Version of Killing Piglets: No Carbon

From Burton Folsom, “New Deal or Raw Deal?” Page 67: “In 1933, the U.S. was plowing under 10 million acres of cotton and killing 6 million piglets; in 1935, the U.S. was importing 36 million (bales) of cotton and 2 million pounds of ham and bacon.”

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was on NPR’s Morning Edition Monday, interviewed by Steve Inskeep. The Secretary sure sounds like federal government’s new priority for farmers is that they not produce carbon. Excerpt:

VILSACK: The notion of subsidies is a complex one. We have in place support structures and safety nets that allow farmers to ride out difficult times, so the challenge is to figure out a way in which you can continue to have reasonably priced food and at the same time prosperous farms, and that’s where I think energy and climate change comes back into play. Because you can foresee a future in which farmers are paid for reducing our carbon footprint, much in the same way that we’re currently paying them for conservation.

We’re concerned about water quality, we’re concerned about preserving the soil, and so we’re willing to pay people to do things on their land that would be helpful not just to them, but to us.

INSKEEP: Are you saying you would want maybe some day to pay farmers for doing fertilizer-free farming, or putting up a windmill that generates electricity in a renewable way, that sort of thing?

VILSACK: There are a whole host of things, but I think it would be tied to the whole notion of offsets.

INSKEEP: Somewhere there’s a dirty coal-fired power plant that’s polluting too much, and under this system, you would envision, the plant might pay a farmer to be storing carbon or doing something that’s cleaner, and the farmer would be making money that way.

VILSACK: It’s that or there’s some kind of central distribution system that basically sells these offsets and contracts for the farmers for them. The structure is essentially as you’ve outlined. Eventually the farmer gets benefited for doing what is right for the country as a whole and for the globe as a whole, which is to reduce the carbon footprint.

That’s quite a vision for federal farm policy: A centralized government system that distributes taxpayers’ dollar to farmers based on their NOT producing carbon dioxide.

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