By reconsidering its findings, EPA can help U.S. ranchers, farmers
Few people across the country have as much respect for the environment as those of us in the agricultural industry. And chances are, if you are reading this article, you're involved in farming or ranching and have a close connection with our natural resources.
On the other hand, oftentimes folks in D.C. are too distant from production agriculture. So, I guess we shouldn't be overly surprised when the Environmental Protection Agency continues to work against us rather than with us on the issue of climate change.
Recently, the EPA unilaterally twisted its regulatory authority under the Clean Air Act to issue a health endangerment finding for greenhouse gases.
In other words, defining natural emissions from farms and ranches as a detriment to people's health.
There is no statutory basis for such a finding, and the EPA's proposed standards would affect agricultural businesses and rural communities disproportionately. Even though agriculture is responsible for less than 7 percent of greenhouse emissions in the United States, and methane is a natural byproduct rather than an artificial pollutant, the EPA has determined that virtually all farmers and ranchers should be subject to their control.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture warned last year that, "even very small operations would meet the 100 tons per year emissions threshold for EPA regulation. For example, 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."
Regulating the nation's 2 million farms and ranches could be a logistical nightmare for the EPA and be very costly to taxpayers but, unfortunately, it appears that EPA officials are more than willing to head down this road.
What's worse, the EPA's health endangerment finding exposes many of you reading this article to unprecedented legal liability because any individual with a health problem could blame and sue a farmer or rancher found to be in excess of emissions limits.
Even if many of these lawsuits are found to be frivolous and thrown out, the mere threat of litigation will force agricultural businesses to incur costs to protect themselves, forcing many out of business and harming rural communities from coast to coast.
Before moving forward on this regulation, the EPA needs to deal with farmers and ranchers in good faith. They need to hear from experts in our industry--and they need to hear from you. Unfortunately, it seems the EPA wants to rush this decision instead and suppress facts supporting farmers and ranchers. While the agency normally solicits public comment for a period of 120 days, in this case they have limited the discussion to just 60 days ending June 23.
Editor's note: Leo McDonnell and his wife, Sam, operate Midland Bull Test near Columbus, Mont. He currently serves as director emeritus for the U.S. Cattlemen's Association.