Will USDA Use the CCC to Pay Farmers for Climate-Friendly Practices?

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Speculation is brewing over how the new Biden administration may use the Commodity Credit Corporation. The CCC, as it’s known, was used by the Trump-era Department of Agriculture to send trade bailout checks and coronavirus relief payments to farmers, leaving Biden a blueprint, plus wide political cover, to aggressively enlist the fund for his own agenda.

The CCC is authorized to borrow $30 billion for the U.S. Treasury for the purpose of stabilizing the farm economy. As the new administration takes over there are several ideas circulating on how to use the funding, setting up a “tug of war over its limited resources,” according to Politico.

President Joe Biden could utilize the CCC to provide economic relief to struggling restaurants, deliver more covid-19 relief to the ag industry, or even pay farmers to implement climate-friendly production practices.

Incoming Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has indicated that he has the authority to implement a carbon bank for farmers through the CCC. At his confirmation hearing, Vilsack said he hoped that Congress would give him the freedom to use the CCC on climate change the way that it had allowed the previous administration to extend trade and COVID aid.

During a virtual panel discussion sponsored by Agree, a think tank specializing in agricultural policy, Robert Bonnie, USDA’s deputy chief of staff, said that “carbon is a commodity” and therefore using the CCC in developing programs to address climate change can be justified.

“Carbon is a commodity right now, and the CCC was built to help think about how we stabilize that and think about how we can work with producers to help market them and do other things with commodities,” Bonnie said. He said a carbon bank would make “flexible” policy possible.

Despite his bold statements about the new idea that carbon is a commodity, Bonnie said it would be important to work with congressional authorizers and appropriators as well as the private sector so as not to displace private investment.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, agreed that carbon is a commodity and USDA has some authority to use the CCC for climate change initiatives. Stabenow said that farmers can be leaders in the climate crisis. She says her focus will be on “voluntary, producer-led opportunities” to allow farmers to cut down emissions and create new income sources.

However, Ranking Member of the Senate Ag Committee, John Boozman, a Republican from Arkansas, said that he believes USDA would need legislation from Congress to authorize the use of CCC funds for climate projects.

 

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NAFB/DTN/Northern Ag Network


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