The House Agriculture Committee will start 2022 looking at the impact of electric vehicles on agriculture and rural America, Chairman David Scott told DTN in an interview last week.
Scott, D-Ga., said the committee will hold a hearing in early January on electric vehicles with auto manufacturers about not only cars, but potential changes that could be coming with electric tractors and other vehicles. That will include bringing in not only General Motors, but also Deere & Co. to discuss the role of electric vehicles in agricultural production.
“We have to find out its impact on agriculture,” Scott said. “Are we going to be able to handle this in a proper way? What will the impact be on our food supply?”
Electrical companies also will be part of the hearing, as Scott said Congress needs to understand the impact on the rural electric grid.
Just last week, USDA announced more than $4 billion in electric loans and $48 million in grants to rural electric providers across the country to upgrade power lines and add technology such as smart grids.
Five years ago, few people would have thought the country would be able to switch vehicles to electricity, Scott noted. “It’s an overwhelming and fantastic development,” he said.
“We have got to be able to look around the corner before it gets into our visual terrain,” he said. “Electric vehicles, quite honestly, this is one of the most impactful events in our whole history of our industrial revolution.”
Scott noted electric autos could change the dynamics in rural areas such as affecting convenience stores and service stations. He said that in some towns, those stores basically function as a lifeline.
“I come from a rural area. Where I was born, we didn’t have a grocery store. All we had was that convenience store — that service station, where they come to get gas. We have to find out how this electric charging will work,” he said. He added, “We’re going to make sure that these (charging) stations are being done in a manner that treats our rural communities with the level of respect that is needed.”
The Biden administration wants to build out as many as 500,000 charging stations nationally and expand production of electric vehicles to reduce the country’s emissions.
CLIMATE CHANGE, BROADBAND, SUPPLY CHAIN BIGGEST 2021 IMPACT
Scott, 76, took over as chairman of the House Agriculture Committee in early 2021. The committee saw some partisan debates over the year, especially related to the American Rescue Plan that became law last spring, and the agricultural provisions in the Build Back Better bill that passed the House in November. The bill’s prospects for passing the Senate suffered a blow on Sunday when Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., said he would not support the bill.
Climate change, rural broadband and the food supply chain were the areas where Scott said he thinks the committee made the biggest impact in 2021.
On climate change, Scott said food is the most basic challenge when it comes to addressing agriculture.
“There is no industry that is more dependent on weather and climate dynamics than agriculture,” Scott said. He added, “I tell people all of the time our food, water, clothing, our shelter — all the basic necessities of life — come from that weather. It is produced, transported and retailed beginning with our agricultural community.”
With that in mind, Scott said it was important for agriculture “to have the inside pole position” in developing responses to climate change. The House Agriculture Committee provided $27 billion in the Build Back Better bill for climate-smart agriculture, as well as $18 billion in Rural Development, some of which is tied to renewable energy. The committee also added $27.2 billion in forestry programs to address wildfires, and another $2 billion for agricultural research and development.
The House Agriculture Committee also held a hearing on carbon credits and the roll of USDA’s conservation programs. “Reconciliation and Climate-Smart Ag,” here.
While developing carbon programs, Scott said, it’s important to ensure farms remain focused on food production as well. “I want to make sure that we lose no effort in terms of our food security … in dealing with these carbon credits,” he said.
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The House, though, has not taken up the Senate’s Growing Climate Solutions Act, which passed 92-8 last summer. The bill sets standards at USDA for certifying carbon credit programs. Scott told DTN he is working with Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., who chairs the Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee, to bring a bill forward “as soon as we get back in January.”
Timing played a role in advancing the bill, he said, “and to make sure we have both the House and the Senate on the same page. We’ve got that now, and we feel good about it.”
Rural broadband is another area where Scott said the committee’s work helped make a difference. The bipartisan infrastructure bill includes $65 billion to expand broadband nationally with expected new investments in rural America. Scott said broadband will tie into carbon programs because of the data needed to help show farmers are sequestering carbon.
“Without them being connected to the internet with technology, and with the problems we’re having with measuring carbon, we brought all of those things together,” Scott said.
The committee also held one of the more comprehensive hearings on supply chain challenges in agriculture. The hearing spotlighted some of the issues around the trucking shortage that the Biden administration is now working to address. See “Ag and Food Supply Chain Challenges,” here.
ASSISTANCE FOR MINORITY FARMERS
As the first African American chair of the committee, Scott also highlighted that he’s proud of funding he has been able to provide to the 19 African American land-grant colleges, adding that the programs have received bi-partisan support and will help develop future generations of farmers. While the committee also sought to provide as much as $4 billion in debt relief for minority farmers, the funds got locked up on litigation.
Scott said the Department of Justice will handle the court case, though Scott said more needs to be done to help support Black farmers who faced decades of discrimination at USDA.
“We’ve got to do all that we can to make sure everybody, regardless of race, creed or color, is benefiting and also is participating in our wonderful world of agriculture,” Scott said. “But, as you know, there’s nobody — no group of people — who have earned their place in agriculture and farming as (have) our African American citizens, whose forebearers did it for free — under the lash and whip of our slave masters. That’s our history. It’s a measurement also of how far we’ve overcome, the fact of what we’re doing. But we still need to do more.”
See DTN coverage of electric vehicles in agriculture at:
- “Polaris Unveils Ranger Kinetic,” here.
- “Monarch Tractor Announces New Funding,” here.
- “CNH Invests in Monarch’s Electric, Autonomous Tractor Technology,” here.
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN