Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack has requested a review of climate change analysis models being used to calculate the impacts of climate legislation on agriculture. He is taking this action out of concern that too many farmers and ranchers would convert too much crop land into forest land and as a result take too much land out of food production. The FASOM model, developed at Texas A&M University, projects that landowners would have incentive to convert up to 59 million acres of farmland into forests over the next 40 years.
"I am aware the results of the FASOM model have caused considerable concern within the farm and ranch community as a result of the models projections on afforestation over the next several decades," Vilsack said. "If landowners plant trees to the extent the model suggests, this would be disruptive to agriculture in some regions of the country."
Other models indicate lesser quantities of farm land being taken out of production. Vilsack believes that there are opportunities to expand greenhouse gas offsets and biomass energy production without removing significant amounts of land from production and careful design of the offsets program will be important in order to avoid unintended consequences.