You Might Care About Mint More Than You Think

What happens to regulation of on-farm mint distilleries could have ramifications for other farm sectors.

Published on: May 19, 2011

Mint production in Indiana is limited to a few counties in northwest Indiana. While once common as far east as Allen County, it has contracted until mint distilling only happens on a few Indiana farms. However, a fervor created last year about possible environmental implications of mint distilling on farms turned into discussion in the legislature. The result is a study committee that will be looking into emissions from mint distilleries on farms later this year.

Most mint distilling happens in late August or early September. Farms in the mint business have a fleet of specialized equipment needed to harvest the mint and bring it to the distillation building. It's a high investment operation.

So why should you care? And Bob Kraft believes you should pay attention to what this study committee concludes. Kraft is a legislative specialist for Indiana Farm Bureau, Inc.

"What's at stake is if mint distilling produces emissions that the Environmental Protection Agency could regulate," he explains. "If regulation eventually comes out of this and the EPA gets deeper involved, it may be another slippery slope. Other farm operations more common on many Indiana farms could be next in line to be examined for possible emissions that should be controlled."

The issue was actually assigned by the legislature to a group known as the Environmental Quality Service Council for further study. Members include several level-headed legislators and other industry representatives, Kraft says.

One thing the decision to turn the issue over to a study committee does is buy time. The time is needed to actually determine standards for mint distillery emissions. EPA was all set to begin regulating these farms, but there are no standards to regulate by, Kraft says. Until measurements can be taken during an actual production season, it won't be possible to even begin to develop standards as to what normally happens during the distillation process.

Kraft expects this committee will conclude its work on this study by late October or November. That gives them time to study what happens during this fall's production season, and draw conclusions from their findings.

The situation is not unlike air quality in confinement operations. The EPA wanted to begin regulating air quality a couple years ago, until it was pointed out there are no standards as to what's normal in operations of these kinds. You can't separate excellent, environmentally producers from potentially bad actors that could do better if you don't have standards, outlining what's normal in the first place.