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“One of the big goals for this administration is climate change,” he says.  “With that you also have a lot of the issues that are still out there like water regulations and air and dust regulations.  Those are things that we are going to have to be sure that agriculture’s voice is heard.”




Agriculture still has regulation concerns


By Meghan Grebner - Brownfield

January 30, 2013


It is no secret the relationship between the agriculture industry and the Environmental Protection Agency has at times been contentious, to say the least.


As a new Administrator for EPA has yet to be named, Associate Director of Legislative Affairs at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Kent Bacus says it doesn’t matter who is at the top of EPA – there are a lot of things already in motion.


“One of the big goals for this administration is climate change,” he says.  “With that you also have a lot of the issues that are still out there like water regulations and air and dust regulations.  Those are things that we are going to have to be sure that agriculture’s voice is heard.”


Otherwise, Bacus tells Brownfield, they will continue to plague the industry.


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In Energy Taxes, Tools to Help Tackle Climate Change

Economic Scene


By EDUARDO PORTER - The New York Times

Published: January 29, 2013


To understand the complicated politics of climate change in the United States, you may want to talk to Pamela Johnson, president of the National Corn Growers Association’s Corn Board.


She is concerned about the weather. The drought that parched the lower 48 states cut the harvest at her northern Iowa farm by about 40 bushels an acre. For the first time in memory, she says, she had to rely on the federally subsidized crop insurance program to stay afloat.


And yet Ms. Johnson’s main concern, and that of most other gro wers in the association, is not about how to deal with a changing climate — how to slow the pace of warming and how to adapt to a warmer world with more erratic weather.


Rather, growers worry that political support for crop insurance might flag after a year in which taxpayers paid billions in subsidies to farmers while virtually everybody else faced deep budget cuts.


“We are Americans before we are farmers,” Ms. Johnson said. “We know we have budget problems.” Still, she added: “For our farmers, crop insurance is the main concern. It helps keep us in business.”


The erratic weather across the country in the last couple of years seems to be softening Americans’ skepticism about global warming. Most New Yorkers say they believe big storms like Sandy and Irene were the result of a warming climate. Whether climate change is directly responsible or not, the odd weather patterns have underscored the risk that it poses to all of us.


What’s yet to be seen is whether this growing awareness of the risks will translate into sufficient political support to address climate change, especially after we figure out the costs we will have to bear to do so.


In his inaugural address, President Obama wove Hurricane Sandy and last year’s drought into a stirring plea to address climate change. “The failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” the president said.


But even as he put global warming at the top of his agenda, he avoided dwelling on how much it would cost to address. And nowhere in his speech did he allude to the most powerful tool to address the problem: a tax on the use of energy.


Dealing with global warming will be expensive. The price tag last year for the drought was about $35 billion, according to the reinsurer Aon Benfield. Hurricane Sandy cost a further $65 billion. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that last year ranked as the second-costliest in terms of natural disasters since 1980 — lagging only 2005 when Hurricane Katrina swamped New Orleans.


And yet this is nothing compared with what the future will bring.


“The impact to date has been pretty small,” said William Nordhaus of Yale, one of the leading economists studying the impact of climate change.


Nicholas Stern of the London School of Economics, another expert on the costs of climate change, said: “What we are seeing is on the back of warming of only 0.8 degrees centigrade” since the second half of the 19th century. “What we risk is 4, 5, 6 degrees even by the end of this century.”


For all the damage wrought by Sandy and Katrina, weather disasters in recent years have cost us probably less than a tenth of 1 percent of our economic product. Yet, according to Professor Nordhaus, “Damages will rise more sharply than the temperature curve.”


The president’s speech notwithstanding, the cost of dealing with these looming disasters is not to be found in the budgets discussed by the White House and Congressional Republicans, which would shrink much of the government to its smallest share of the economy since the early 1960s.


Neither is the cost of steering the economy away from the fossil fuels that are to blame for a warming atmosphere. A report from the World Economic Forum estimated that would cost $700 billion a year in public and private investment.


The reluctance is not because we have no idea how to finance these efforts. We do. Top economists agree a tax on fuels and the carbon they spew into the atmosphere would be the cheapest way to combat climate change. Most advanced countries rely on some variant of this tax. The question is whether the prospect of more droughts and more powerful hurricanes will push Americans to embrace it, too.


Among the 34 industrialized nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, these taxes average about $68.4 per metric ton of carbon dioxide. The United States, by contrast, has a gas tax to pay for highway improvement, and that’s about it. Total federal taxes on energy amount to $6.30 per ton.


Some states add excise taxes — California has a gas tax equivalent to about $46.50 per ton of carbon dioxide and a $2.33-per-ton tax on jet kerosene. But, according to a review by the O.E.C.D., the federal government is unique in imposing no taxes on other energy use, from residential heating to power generation.


A tax on energy could single-handedly take on climate change. For starters, it would encourage people and businesses to burn less, reducing emissions at a stroke. One study found that a carbon tax of $15 per ton would reduce greenhouse emissions by 14 percent as people sought to save energy by driving less, insulating their homes and switching to renewable fuels, among other things.


What’s more, it would raise lots of money. Estimates reviewed in a report by the Tax Policy Center ranged from 0.6 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product — for a tax of $20 per ton of carbon dioxide — to 1.6 percent of G.D.P. for a tax of $41 per ton. Consider this: 1.6 percent of G.D.P. is $240 billion a year. And $41 per ton amounts to an extra 35 cents a gallon of gas.


By way of comparison, the Swiss economy does fairly well even while shouldering an effective carbon tax rate of more than $140 per ton.


Some of the money raised through more taxes on energy could be spent steeling communities to cope with more intense hurricanes and moving others out of harm’s way. It could even help ease the fiscal squeeze that so consumes our elected officials.


There are drawbacks. A carbon tax would fall more heavily on the poor — the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the poorest fifth of Americans spend 21.4 percent of their income on gas and utilities while the richest 20 percent spend only 6.8 percent. But economists at the budget office have pointed out that there are several ways to compensate lower-income Americans.


For all the merits of an energy tax, the United States seems a long way from embracing one. It was only three years ago that the corn growers and the rest of the farm lobby allied with energy producers and other corporations to derail President Obama’s first shot at climate change legislation, which would have set a limit on carbon emissions and required businesses to buy permits to emit.


As things stand, drought is unlikely to change their minds. Farmers are still covered by crop insurance, and they have powerful allies in Congress who will fight to keep the subsidies in place. They may see little reason to support legislation that would make energy or fertilizer more expensive.


“Farmers would be deeply affected by an energy tax,” Ms. Johnson said.


As things stand for them, it is probably cheaper to deal with the occasional drought.



A version of this article appeared in print on January 30, 2013, on page B1 of the New York edition with the headline: Taxes To Tackle Climate Change.


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Study: Cattle on high-roughage diets emit more greenhouse gasses


Drovers/CattleNetwork news source 

Updated: 01/30/2013


Scientists have long known that cattle produce carbon dioxide and methane throughout their lives, but a new study pinpoints the cow-calf stage as a major contributor of greenhouse gases during beef production.


In a new paper for the Journal of Animal Science, scientists estimate greenhouse gas emissions from beef cattle during different stages of life. They show that, depending on which production system farmers used, beef production has a carbon footprint ranging from 10.7 to 22.6 kg of carbon dioxide equivalent per kg of hot carcass weight.


According to study co-author Frank Mitloehner, an associate professor in the Department of Animal Science at UC Davis, one source of greenhouse gases was surprising.


“If you look at everything that contributes to greenhouse gases through the beef supply chain, then it is the cow-calf that produces the greatest greenhouse gases,” Mitloehner said.


In the cow-calf phase, the cow gives birth and nurses the calf until the calf is six to 10 months old. During this time, the cow eats rough plants like hay and grasses. The methane-producing bacteria in the cow’s gut thrive on these plants.


“The more roughage is in the diet of the ruminant animal, the more methane is produced by the microbes in the gut of the ruminant, and methane comes out the front end,” M itloehner said.


In feedlots, by contrast, cattle eat mostly corn and grains, which the methane-producing bacteria cannot use as effectively.


Methane is one of the most important greenhouse gases. Methane has a greater capacity to trap heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.


The beef industry has been paying close attention to greenhouse gas emissions in recent years.


“We are doing a lot to measure and mitigate our impact,” said Chase Adams, director of communications for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.


In a 2011 paper for the Journal of Animal Science, researcher Jude Capper showed that the beef industry today uses significantly less water and land than 30 years ago. The industry has also reduced its carbon footprint by 16.3 percent per billion kilograms of beef produced...





Maasai herders breed fewer, stronger cattle to resist climate change

To withstand more-intense droughts herders in Tanzania cut the size of their herds and cross-breed for resilience and resistance to disease.


By Lucas Liganga, AlertNet

via The Christian Science Monitor - January 31, 2013


Londigo, Tanzania -- The loss of more than half their livestock in the 2009 drought has led Maasai pastoralists in northern Tanzania’s Arusha region to breed fewer, stronger cattle and end their traditional focus on numbers alone as symbols of wealth and status.


The impact of that devastating drought, which dealt a blow to the whole nation’s economy, is still visible in the small number of cattle in many villages of Engarenaibor in Arusha’s Longido district.


The district’s cattle breeders and owners lost at least 120,000 cattle, more than half the total herd of 200,000, as a result of the drought, which plunged the region into poverty and threatened the pastoralists’ traditional livelihood.


The good news emerging from this blow to their way of life is that breeders have realized that in a time of climate change their wealth lies not in the size of their herd but in its quality.


“The days of keeping many head of cattle for prestige are gone thanks to the 2009 drought. It has taught us a lesson. A lesson to adapt to climate change,” says cattle owner Ngaiyok Legilisho Kipainoi.


For many years, Maasai pastoralists had resisted government pressure to reduce the size of their herds, until the drought made clear the need to adapt to the changing environment.


Reducing their herds has allowed herders to use less water and reduce the degradation of grazing land.


As Kipainoi sees it, his fellow villagers are “graduating from the culture of keeping livestock for fame to increasing the productivity of their animals in a well-managed manner.”


“We have started selling our animals and we use the proceeds to build decent homes or pay school fees for our children,” says Kipainoi, a 35-year-old who has two wives and six children. All his children attend primary school.


At the onset of the drought Kipainoi boasted a herd of 480 cattle, but he emerged from the catastrophe with less than half as many.


“After the drought we realized that our local Zebu breed can withstand adverse weather conditions and are well adapted to the environment. So if we are to improve earnings from livestock, without risking another loss to drought, we must practice proper animal husbandry,” says Kipainoi, standing beside his new motorcycle at the site of his new house, bought with earnings from his cattle herd.


Other local cattle farmers have also started selective breeding to build up a productive stock that is resilient to climate change, he says.


“This involves selling cattle that are weak and cross-breeding new stock from animals that display strong characteristics of high productivity and resilience. Preferred animals are those that feed selectively on the range, can trek long distances, and are resistant to local diseases,” he says.


Ongoing experiments concentrate on cross-breeding exotic cattle varieties with local Zebu and Borana cattle and popularization of the hardy Gabra breed of goats...