More Churchill, Less Chamberlain
Reliable Big Ag accomplice Collin Peterson, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, made clear last week that he plans to vote NO on the pending climate bill, after signaling as much this spring. Peterson's move comes after he extracted lucrative concessions in the bill for Big Ag -- concessions that were sold as crucial to securing agriculture's support for the legislation. It would, by the way, protect America's farmers from the ravages of climate change -- among other things. Peterson, it should be noted, has flipped the script on the usual message of climate change deniers who say there's no such thing as global warming:
They're saying to us [that climate change is] going to be a big problem because it's going to be warmer than it usually is; my farmers are going to say that's a good thing since they'll be able to grow more corn.
Can we now give up on the naive hope of buying Big Ag 's support in order to achieve progress on climate change, conservation, nutrition and commodity program reform?
In dealing with what Washington Post columnist Steve Pearlstein called the "the world's most selfish lobby," the attitude needs to be more we-shall-fight-on-the-beaches Winston Churchill and less peace-in-our-time Neville Chamberlain. We need more pressure on the way Big Ag does business, from the total dominance in federal farm subsidies for just five crops, to regulating its unchecked pollution in places like the Chesapeake Bay and the Mississippi River Basin, and fewer concessions for a Big Ag lobby that projects scorn for sustainable agriculture and licks its chops at the prospect of plowing up land that's no longer protected by the Conservation Reserve Program.
After the last farm bill debate, it was hard to imagine Big Ag would want to trumpet their in-broad-daylight mugging of Congress. But give the Ag Lobby an inch, and they'll take 300,000 acres of expired conservation land. The farm bill left the the taxpayer-funded subsidy spigot wide open for commodity crop production while Big Ag eluded even the faintest whiff of reform. Now Peterson is bragging that the concessions he extracted for agriculture in the climate bill were beyond "my wildest dreams."
What do Americans concerned about climate change get from Peterson in return? Nothing?