Ag Lobby Vows Even More Aggressive Fight Against Climate Bill


The American Farm Bureau, the major agricultural lobby group, is calling on farmers to be even more aggressive in their opposition to climate legislation. And in a vehement speech to an AFB conference last weekend, the organization’s president, Bob Stallman, set the tone by comparing proposed regulation of the agriculture sector to a policy to attone for slavery following the Civil War. “A line must be drawn between our polite and respectful engagement with consumers and how we must aggressively respond to extremists who want to drag agriculture back to the day of 40 acres and a mule,” said Stallman. “The time has come to face our opponents with a new attitude. The days of their elitist power grabs are over.”

Stallman’s comments signaled that the farm lobby intends to intensify its already strenuous attacks on any government attempt to curb carbon emissions. Stallman vowed in his speech that his group would fight “aggressively” against “misguided, activist-driven regulation.” The conference also included a session disputing the existence of climate change—titled “Global Warming: A Red Hot Lie?” and featuring climate skeptic Christopher Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

And the lobby’s allies in Congress are taking notice. The Washington Independent reports that Agriculture Committee Chair Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), who voted for the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill in the House, recently told a conservative talk radio show that if a climate bill passes the Senate he wouldn’t support its final passage. “First of all, this isn’t going anyplace in the Senate,” Peterson said. “But if it did and we ended up with a bill that was similar to what came out of the House and that was going to become law, I would vote no.”

Earlier this year, AFB was instrumental in pushing for changes to Waxman-Markey that benefited industrial farmers—but then went on to oppose the final legislation. In the weeks following the bill’s passage, Stallman appeared before a Senate panel to not only demand more concessions, but to repeat climate skeptic talking points. Shortly thereafter, AFB launched a new lobbying campaign against a climate bill in the Senate. AFB spent at least $1.6 million in the second and third quarters of 2009 lobbying Congress, with climate among their chief issues. Its new campaign will be something to watch out for in the weeks ahead as agricultural interests ramp up efforts to sideline the Senate bill.

With Peterson’s new reversal on the climate bill, he’s marching in lockstep with the farm lobby. In the final days before the House was due to vote on Waxman-Markey, Peterson held the bill hostage, demanding major giveaways to Big Ag in return for the votes of Democrats on his committee. He got what he wanted—agriculture was exempted from emissions restrictions, the Department of Agriculture would oversee offsets, and a provision that would have required accounting for the lifecycle emissions of biofuels was scrapped.

At the time, Peterson cheered the deal. But now he has apparently changed his tune. This is important, because he will likely have to vote on a bill again—either the legislation that comes back from the Senate, or a new bill next year should the current House bill die off. And because the House bill passed by a margin of just one vote, there’s no room for more Democratic defectors.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.