In Brief: What the Waxman-Markey Bill Does for Agriculture

Agriculture, likely one of America’s most vulnerable sectors to a changing climate, has much to gain from a comprehensive climate policy.  Agriculture’s vulnerability to climate change was highlighted in a recent study by the U.S. Global Change Research Program (including USDA), which reported that a variety of climate-related factors could have significant negative impacts on U.S. agricultural productivity (see “Potential Climate Impacts on Agriculture” below).  To deal with this critical issue, farmers and ranchers are not directly regulated by the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACESA), H.R.2454. Instead, the bill makes them part of the solution to climate change by offering incentives, greenhouse gas (GHG) offsets, and opportunities to supply bioenergy. Agriculture and forestry can take carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas, out of the atmosphere and store it as carbon in plants and soils. Agriculture can also produce energy from biomass that can displace fossil fuels, the major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.