The American Farm Bureau is continuing to lie to farmers about the threat of Clean Air Act regulation of greenhouse gases. The Bureau, the largest lobbying group for American agriculture, denies the threat of global warming of farming, instead fearmongering for years about a mythical “cow tax.” Speaking to members of the Kansas Farm Bureau yesterday, AFB lobbyist Rick Krause claimed the Environmental Protection Agency “will require all farms with more than 25 dairy cows and more than 50 head of beef cattle or 200 head of hogs to get a Clean Air Permit”:
Cap and trade legislation appears to be a dead duck in this year’s Congress, but those tempted to celebrate too early need to be aware of the potential consequences of EPA regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, American Farm Bureau specialist Rick Krause said Monday. Speaking to members of the Kansas Farm Bureau attending this week’s annual County Presidents Tour in Washington, D.C., Krause said EPA regulation will require all farms with more than 25 dairy cows and more than 50 head of beef cattle or 200 head of hogs to get a Clean Air Permit. In addition, it could require permits for the construction of any new outbuildings or remodeling of existing structures, he said. “Right now, the best hope is that Congress will pass legislation to nullify this,” he said.
Krause is quite simply lying.
His “cow tax” lie is based on a figure from the Bush-era US Department of Agriculture, which noted that a 100-ton-per-year threshold of greenhouse gas pollution would cover “even very small agricultural operations” — “dairy facilities with over 25 cows, beef cattle operations of over 50 cattle, swine operations with over 200 hogs, and farms with over 500 acres of corn may need to get a Title V permit.”
The Environmental Protection Agency has no intentions of implementing a 100-ton-per-year threshold. Instead, it has proposed implementing a 25,000-ton threshold, and EPA Administration Jackson has announced that the initial threshold will instead be at least 75,000 tons, and only for power plants until 2013. So even for industrial farms with 6,250 dairy cows, 12,500 beef cattle, 50,000 hogs, or 125,000 acres of corn, the EPA has no plans for enforcement of the Clean Air Act any time soon.
Industrial agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gas pollution, primarily from fertilizers and soil use, cattle flatulence, and manure ponds, generating 6.2% percent of United States emissions in 2008. The US Department of Agriculture has found that by changing practices farmers could instead make American agriculture a net sink for global warming pollution, letting plants soak up carbon dioxide.
Congress has already passed legislation to prevent the enforcement of the Clean Air Act for any livestock production, even from mega-ranches like Smithfield’s 800,000 head feedlot in Colorado. In the 2010 budget resolution passed last year, Congress forbids the issuance of permits for emissions “resulting from biological processes associated with livestock production”:
PROHIBITION ON USE OF FUNDS
SEC. 424. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, none of the funds made available in this Act or any other Act may be used to promulgate or implement any regulation requiring the issuance of permits under title V of the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7661 et seq.) for carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, water vapor, or methane emissions resulting from biological processes associated with livestock production.
Furthermore, both the House and Senate versions of climate legislation forbid the EPA from issuing permits for agricultural emissions, instead rewarding farmers with the opportunity to make billions of dollars through voluntary reductions.
Environmental Protection Agency spokesman Brendan Gilfillan responds:
These kinds of doomsday scenarios have no basis in fact and are completely untrue.