SELLING THE FARM — President Joe Biden’s plan to address agriculture’s emissions has the powerful, conservative Beltway farm lobby smiling ear-to-ear. Next stop: Wall Street.
This spring, a $3 billion initiative dubbed Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities started doling out funds, testing farming methods that are lighter on carbon emissions.
The projects will be scrubbed for data to find out what works best, akin to a large-scale science experiment, and the Agriculture Department estimates the results will produce emissions benefits equal to taking around 12 million cars off the road. The USDA used its internal bank to bankroll the efforts.
The Biden administration hopes the influx of cash will produce an impressive feat: turning some farmers, generally a conservative group, around on Biden.
When he assumed office, Biden had a long way to go with farmers and their backers on the Hill. Only a month into his presidency, a Farm Journal Foundation poll found 75 percent of farmers disapproved of his presidency. Another poll found 72 percent opposed his plan to slash emissions in half, fearing that new regulations — which farmers hate — would follow.
But the deluge of climate-cop regulations farmers feared hasn’t happened under Biden. Instead, in addition to the $3 billion carrot that his administration has dangled to create new climate-smart markets and revenue streams, he’s also signed into law the Inflation Reduction Act, which will grow the incentive-driven climate-ag space by nearly $20 billion.
That’s enough investment to turn the agricultural lobby around on Biden, for now. But the administration acknowledges it still has a long way to go in proving to climate advocates that its plan will reduce the effects of global warming in a meaningful way.
Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities has plans to invest in projects that will reach over 60,000 farms and span 25 million acres. Government officials estimate that this could sequester 60 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. But they have even broader hopes for the new $3 billion initiative: that Wall Street will see the financial possibilities of turning farms green and make their own investments in similar projects.
“This can’t just be government money, we have to attract private investment,” said Robert Bonnie, the USDA’s undersecretary of farm production and conservation who helped devise the plan. “Part of the real interest in the Partnerships program is a way to provide seed money to entice more folks in the private sector to come in … the government’s not going to do it alone.”
In the past, Wall Street has been nervous about investing in green supply chains — and in particular in purchasing carbon credits under government programs designed to quickly offset pollution from farms.
Last year, a Bloomberg article exposed that scores of companies claiming to be eco-friendly actually purchased carbon credits that turned out to be bogus.
“A lot of folks are still staying on the sidelines because there’s headline risk that you’re going to make a pledge, purchase credits, and then end up in a POLITICO or Bloomberg article about carbon credits that didn’t work,” said Kris Covey, a co-founder and President of USDA grant-recipient The Soil Inventory Project.
But after USDA provides significant monetary incentives to farms around the country to go green, Wall Street will have a better idea of what works and what doesn’t — and which carbon credits and sustainable farming tools are worth the money.
TSIP, which counts former Vice President Al Gore as a senior adviser, has farmers bag up soil and send it to their labs for testing on carbon content. The data it produces, USDA hopes, will help corporate titans feel comfortable to pay vast amounts of money to farmers for their emissions reductions in the form of credits. They also hope the results will encourage companies to invest private money in farms that are climate smart.
If the Biden administration can secure significant private investment in farms and programs that are going green, it might just be able to thread the needle of keeping farmers happy and hitting emission goals.
With Biden hitting the campaign trail for the 2024 election, he and his administration are now eager to draw comparisons to the leading Republican candidate — former President Donald Trump. Trump has already raised hackles within his own caucus for threatening to slap new tariffs on exports to China, with one Republican calling it “suicide” for rural communities. His last batch of tariffs in 2018 drove farm income to record lows and resulted in a record bailout.
Biden will likely highlight how in addition to his massive and potentially lucrative incentives for green agriculture, he’s also largely avoided imposing the regulations that scare farmers away and has taken a much lighter touch on trade. Biden’s message of stability will target farmers in swing states like Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan and Pennsylvania. According to Bonnie, a regulatory approach won’t happen under a second Biden administration, either.
“If we’re going to maintain agriculture and forestry support for this, it’s got to stay voluntary,” Bonnie said. “And if we can prove that this approach works, we have a high probability of doing that.”
— Special counsel obtained search warrant for Trump Twitter: Special Counsel Jack Smith obtained a search warrant for Donald Trump’s Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump, earlier this year, according to newly revealed court documents. Twitter’s initial resistance to complying with the Jan. 17 warrant resulted in a federal judge holding the company, now called X, in contempt and levying a $350,000 fine. A federal court of appeals upheld that fine last month in a sealed opinion. Today, the court unsealed a redacted version of that opinion, revealing details of the secret court battle for the first time.
— Feinstein released from hospital after fall: Sen. Dianne Feinstein fell in her San Francisco home and went to the hospital Tuesday, according to her office. “Senator Feinstein briefly went to the hospital yesterday afternoon as a precaution after a minor fall in her home,” said her spokesperson, Adam Russell. “All of her scans were clear and she returned home.” Russell described the fall as very minor and not involving any serious injuries. Feinstein went to the hospital for about two hours, he said.
— Abortion rights activists set their sights on Arizona after Ohio win: A top progressive group wants to build on the huge success Democrats are having with abortion-related ballot initiatives — this time in Arizona. Fresh off their 14-point victory in Ohio on Tuesday, progressive groups are eyeing the Southwest battleground state as the next place to ensure abortion rights after the fall of Roe v. Wade. Arizona currently bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. “National Democratic donors and stakeholders should look to Arizona as the next state with a serious, layered return on investment for putting abortion on the ballot,” says a memo from the progressive organizing group Indivisible.
OUTFOXED — The Republican National Committee has picked Fox Business to host the second GOP presidential primary debate, which is set to be held next month at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute in Simi Valley, Calif, reports POLITICO’s Alex Isenstadt.
The decision means that Fox networks will televise the first two debates. The first debate, to be held Aug. 23 in Milwaukee, will be broadcast on Fox Business’ sister station, Fox News.
The committee also announced that Univision and Rumble will be partners for the second debate. Rumble, a conservative-leaning competitor to YouTube, is also set to broadcast the first showdown.
By tapping Rupert Murdoch-run Fox for the first two debates, the committee is looking to reach a broad swath of Republican voters who regularly tune into the network’s stations. But Fox News’ specific role in the first debate has gotten pushback from former President Donald Trump, who has warred with the network over what he has called its unfair coverage of him since leaving the White House.
‘POLITICALLY MOTIVATED’ — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis today once again suspended an elected Florida prosecutor from office, this time removing a central Florida Democrat that the Republican governor contended was too lenient with criminals and was endangering the public, reports POLITICO’s Gary Fineout.
The move drew sharp criticism from the target of the suspension — State Attorney Monique Worrell — as well as Democrats, who called DeSantis a “dictator” and said his actions were designed to draw attention to his struggling presidential campaign.
The governor’s office had been telegraphing dissatisfaction with Worrell for months, including raising questions about how her office had handled past arrests of a 19-year-old man who was ultimately arrested for allegedly killing three people in Orlando, including a television reporter.
Worrell, who talked to the media just outside the Orange County courthouse today, called DeSantis a tyrant and said she remained a “duly elected” prosecutor who the governor removed for political reasons.
TRAGEDY AT SEA — Forty-one migrants, including three children, have died in a shipwreck off the Italian island of Lampedusa, after a small boat which had set off from Sfax in Tunisia capsized and sank in the Strait of Sicily, writes Elena Giordano.
Four people survived the shipwreck, three men and one woman originally from Ivory Coast and Guinea. They were rescued by a Maltese cargo ship and taken to Lampedusa by the Italian Coast Guard, according to Italian newswire ANSA.
The four survivors told the Coast Guard that 45 people had left Sfax. After about six hours of navigation, the 7-meter metal boat capsized due to a large wave and all 45 migrants ended up in the sea. Authorities have not yet recovered the bodies.
According to the International Organization for Migration, since the beginning of the year, 2,387 people have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean while trying to reach European shores.
In Brussels, Giorgia Meloni’s far-right Italian government has been pushing to review rules on how the EU welcomes and relocates migrants, asking for more authority to remove rejected asylum seekers.
Last month, the EU finalized a deal with Tunisia — a common departure point for people seeking asylum in Europe — which essentially offers the country millions of euros in exchange for help blocking the boats that have been carrying a growing number of people to Europe.
HANGING ON BY A CABLE — Over 95 percent of internet traffic runs through shockingly thin cables that line the bottom of the ocean. In the cold depths of the ocean, signals are traveling rapidly through cables about the size of garden hoses. And they’re vulnerable; it wouldn’t be hard to break these cables, a bad actor could do it fairly easily. In 2017, now UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak sounded the alarm on this issue, arguing the subsea cables are both “indispensable” and “insecure”. For CNET, Stephen Shankland explains the history and origin of these cables and what role they play in the future of the internet.
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