Anne Simmons, the Democratic chief of staff for the House Agriculture Committee, announced that House Agriculture Chairman David Scott, D-Ga., has decided to make the focus of the committee’s first hearing on climate and weather, although she noted that her comments were her own, not those of the chairman.

She said the hearing will include scientists and a farmer witness, and that House Agriculture subcommittees also may hold hearings on climate change.

She noted that Scott also plans a hearing on the status of Black farmers.

Simmons said the House may act on climate change this year and pointed out that the House rules allow for budget points of order to be waived for climate legislation. Scott wants the House Agriculture Committee to play a role in any discussion of climate change, she said.

Simmons also said that she is frustrated that the $40 billion in aid that the Trump administration distributed to farmers in trade and COVID-19 pandemic aid did not help build the baseline for funding the next farm bill.

“I hope whatever we do this year helps build baseline,” she said.

Simmons noted that House members and senators “have a lot of questions” about a carbon bank and what it would be used for. A major question, she said, is whether USDA should hold the carbon credits that farmers may get for sequestering carbon or whether they should be held by the private sector.

On the question of legislation versus rulemaking at USDA, Simmons noted that it is much easier for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to change a regulation than it is for Congress to change a law. The Office of Environmental Markets within the Office of the Chief Economist should be important in climate policymaking, she said.

Lynn Tjeerdsma, former senior policy adviser to Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and a South Dakota farmer, said it is important to recognize that farmers are independent and “will tell you what they need and want. Don’t try telling them.”

Tjeerdsma also noted there are climatic differences among the states and that in drier, western states, planting a cover crop to help sequester carbon would take away moisture that is needed for the major crop. He also said there are many other programmatic issues that should be addressed including questions about easements, crop insurance premiums and up to date base acres.

Asked by Deb Atwood, the AGree executive director and moderator of the panel, about other issues such as methane, greenhouse gases and livestock, Bonnie said the Biden administration wants to “think big,” and that precision agriculture and data collection in which AGree has been involved are important.

– AGree (video) — The Climate, Food and Ag Nexus: Policy Approaches for the First 100 Days https://vimeo.com/…

-White House — Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad https://www.whitehouse.gov/…

Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at jhagstrom@nationaljournal.com

Follow him on Twitter @hagstromreport

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