Former Secretary of Agriculture Senator Mike Johanns, R-Neb., has co-sponsored legislation that would protect animal agriculture from any greenhouse gas regulations put forth by the Environmental Protection Agency. Last Friday, EPA announced it had determined that greenhouse gases may endanger public health or welfare. The ruling faces a 60-day public comment period.
Johanns says this EPA proposal could have devastating consequences to the livestock sector. "This 'cow tax' could cost farmers and ranchers tens of thousands of dollars per farm per year," he said.
The proposed legislation would amend the Clean Air Act to preclude regulation of naturally occurring livestock emissions, including methane and carbon dioxide. If the EPA definition of air pollutants includes methane, USDA estimated that any agricultural operation of more than 25 dairy cows, 50 beef cattle, 200 hogs or 500 acres of corn would be subject to emission fees.
Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Committee Frank Lucas, R-Okla., says this EPA decision is just another example of how much this administration is out of touch with the realities of the current fragile U.S. economy.
"I fear this sets up the opportunity for a push to do sweeping cap and trade legislation as an alternative to the EPA regulatory action," Lucas said. "Cap and trade is not a viable alternative and will only be destructive for American farmers and the general economy. We must seek a workable solution to this problem; solutions that will not put greater burdens on our farmers and ranchers."
Also joining the growing list of critics of the EPA decision is the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. They have voiced their opposition of using the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases.
"While the Clean Air Act has done a good job of cleaning up pollutants, it is not adequately equipped to address global climate change," explains NCBA Chief Environmental Counsel Tamara Thies. "Congress never intended to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, and any attempts to use it for this purpose would be devastating for the U.S. economy."
Thies says if the EPA moves forward with this finding, the agency would have unprecedented control over every sector of the U.S. economy.
"Regulation of greenhouse gases should be thoughtfully considered and voted on by Congress," Thies said. "Allowing the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act would impose untenable burdens, expenses and restrictions on industry, families, and our Nation as a whole."