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Bringing Issues Together

Policy Recommendations Address Trade, Energy, Economy, and the Environment Together

CAP report details a strategy for addressing a broad range of critical issues ranging from curbing global warming to boosting agriculture worldwide.

Imagine that renewable energy extracted sustainably from crops and agricultural wastes across the planet fuel a new farm economy that simultaneously produces food and fuel amid economically robust and environmentally sound rural landscapes.

Fueling a New Farm Economy, a report released last month from the Center for American Progress, details a strategy that would use the 2007 Farm Bill and other legislation in the 110th Congress to accomplish just this: a new way of thinking about agriculture and rural communities that would free the United States and the world from its dependence on fossil fuels and create an international trading community that enriches farmers worldwide, while effectively helping to reverse the effects of global warming.

House and Senate committees will all take up these critical issues this week. The House Agriculture Committee will begin the process of reauthorizing the Farm Bill tomorrow; the Senate Environment and Public Works, Senate Energy and Natural Resources, House Science and Technology, and House Energy and Commerce Committees will all discuss climate change today; the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees will spend Thursday talking about trade policy; and the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee will hold a hearing today on challenges and opportunities for rural development.

Rural economy, alternative fuels, world trade, and global warming are clearly all issues that are at the forefront of both Congress’ and the American people’s attention. Fueling a New Farm Economy finds solutions that uniquely tie all of these issues together, beginning with an increase in the number of farmers eligible for agricultural programs that benefit the land and rural communities.

Congress can begin by reinvesting a modest portion of its current funding for agricultural programs toward the further development of new renewable energy sources. Specifically, Congress could:

  • Reward all U.S. farmers for environmental stewardship on their working lands, including growing dedicated energy crops, by implementing a targeted “green payment” program and encouraging reinvestment of current farm payment subsidies. Transition assistance must be provided to eligible recipients. Other WTO-member nations must also make similar farm tariff and subsidy reductions in their agricultural sectors.
  • Reward farmers for agricultural practices that combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gases and storing carbon while enhancing soil quality.
  • Increase funds in the new farm bill for existing renewable energy programs.
  • Encourage farmer-owned-and-operated biorefineries and local-owned biofuel plant cooperatives.

The U.S. government could then signal our nation’s commitment to renewable energy (and the new kind of agricultural trading system this will engender) by supporting the development of the next generation of biofuels. Specifically, Congress should:

  • Move beyond corn as a biofuel feedstock to provide new tax credits and loan guarantees for this next generation of sustainably produced biofuels.
  • Boost the Renewable Fuel Standard to allow demand for biofuels to keep pace with production capacity while ensuring the standard achieves measurable reductions in greenhouse gases.
  • Reduce gradually the current 54-cent-per-gallon U.S. tariff on imported biofuels to expand the global market in biofuels and take steps toward meeting the Doha Round’s overarching trade and development goals.
  • Reform current federal support for biofuels so as to ensure the renewable fuel industry is more market responsive.
  • Extend current Renewable Energy Tax Credits for wind and biofuel production.
  • Create new tax and production incentives for private sector investments in biofuels infrastructure.
  • Encourage the use of energy crops grown in a sustainable manner with incentives that reward biofuel producers for efforts to maximize greenhouse gas reduction methods and conserve water and land resources.
  • Support “development-friendly” agricultural support for the world’s poorest nations with specific capacity-building and “Aid for Trade” programs involving infrastructure, energy, and other sectors.

Finally, the U.S. Congress must ensure that new biofuels take the domestic marketplace by storm over the next several decades by passing legislation to encourage the long-term development of biofuels products, infrastructure and services. Specifically, Congress should provide incentives to:

  • Create a nationwide network of service stations selling E85 fuel, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.
  • Promote the sale of Flexible Fuel Vehicles that run on E85 fuel.
  • Encourage public awareness of biofuel alternatives in the marketplace through a federal biofuels certification and labeling program.
  • Boost research and development in advanced biofuels and biobased technologies through a variety of legislative funding avenues.

The implementation of these policy recommendations would ease our dependence on fossil fuels, boost the agricultural sector, and create a cleaner environment within 30 years. Combined with a renewed commitment to the WTO Doha negotiations, trade and energy could move forward together, strengthening the global economy even further.

These measures are well within reach. Congress must work together and with the American people to use bold solutions like these to bring prosperity to the economy and the environment worldwide.

For more information, see:

Contact Jake Caldwell for additional information and comments:

For TV, Sean Gibbons, Director of Media Strategy
202.682.1611 or sgibbons@americanprogress.org

For radio, Theo LeCompte, Media Strategy Manager
202.741.6268 or tlecompte@americanprogress.org

For print, Trevor Kincaid, Deputy Press Secretary
202.741.6273 or tkincaid@americanprogress.org

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