Here We Go Again

As expected the new Congress and the new Administration are pushing forward with climate based policies.  Already the House and Senate agriculture committees have held hearings with legislation expected to create a role for USDA to deal with carbon markets. Meanwhile USDA is seeking input from agriculture to help develop “climate smart” agriculture and forestry programs.  Secretary Vilsack says his agency is committed to addressing climate change through actions that are farmer, rancher and forest land owner focused.  I don’t question his intentions but I do wonder about the methods being used.  Whenever I hear that the government wants farmers’ input on upcoming decisions that will greatly impact them I can’t help but wonder how much that input will actually influence the outcome.  We see it every time a new farm bill is being written.  Members of Congress often hold “listening” sessions that usually turn into “campaign events”.  Farm groups prepare and present their positions and politicians pledge to consider those positions when they get back to Washington.  Too often the results seem to in large part be predetermined.  New climate policies and programs are coming.  Whether they will offer ag producers a reliable revenue stream and reward efforts already being made and encourage more remains to be seen.  Companies paying farmers for carbon sequestration and creating viable carbon markets sounds promising but we have heard those promises before only to see them exposed as ineffective and potentially lucrative only for a few.  Will Washington pursue a path of voluntary efforts or use a mandatory approach?  Right now there are more questions than answers.  Time will tell if the process will yield those answers or if they have already been determined.