Economic benefits of cap and trade legislation will outweigh added energy costs, according to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. In a conference call to farm broadcasters Monday, the agriculture secretary maintained that USDA analysis is conservative to the point that some farmers will do better financially than first thought. Some of the payback, says Vilsack, will come from an expected influx of so-called green jobs to rural areas.
“This is the first time I’ve seen the opportunity created for Rural America to actually benefit from potential manufacturing opportunities and job growth because the solar panels, the windmills are most likely going to be constructed, maintained and installed in rural areas,” Vilsack told reporters Monday, citing that changes to climate are problematic for agriculture.
“We are seeing, in some parts of the country, heavier rainfalls and more flooding; in other parts we’re seeing dryer periods, more severe heat waves, increased weed growth and increased insect populations,” Vilsack said. “All of those negatives can be mitigated in part by an aggressive effort by the United States to address climate change.”
While the Obama Administration is pushing for passage, critics of climate change legislation say the cap and trade portion of the Waxman-Markey bill is environmentally ineffective as well as economically harmful because it would reduce competitiveness of the United States. The measure passed the House 219-212, however many Senate lawmakers are casting a wary eye on the legislation.
With the improving economy, Vilsack says farmers should brace for skyrocketing fuel costs. He says climate change legislation is the best way to prepare.
“This is an opportunity for us to move away from our addiction on foreign oil, to create new energy sources here in America and create new income opportunities for farmers and ranchers,” said Vilsack.
Passage of climate change legislation, said Vilsack, will frame the U.S. in a leadership role for getting other countries’ houses in order. “We should be embracing this; we should not be fearful of this.”