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Cow/pig tax claim denied by EPA

Claims that the Environmental Protection Agency plans to use the Clean Air Act of 1990 to tax dairy, beef and swine producers for the methane and nitrous oxides produced by livestock herds are untrue, according to the EPA.

The author of the Farm Bureau document titled "Cow and Pig Tax Talking Points" says that EPA Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on July 30 sought public comment on whether it is appropriate to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles under the Clean Air Act. With support from the public comment period, the EPA could pursue a legal finding that greenhouse gases endanger public health and safety and should be classified as a pollutant, Farm Bureau says.

"The problem with this approach is that once an endangerment finding is made, other provisions of the Clean Air Act are automatically triggered, creating much broader regulation of other sectors of the economy, including agriculture. One such unintended consequence for agriculture is the imposition of the cow and pig tax," the Farm Bureau document says.

In a statement Friday, the EPA said: "EPA is not proposing a cow tax. In response to the April 2007 finding in the Supreme Court case Massachusetts v. EPA that greenhouse gases are air pollutants under the Clean Air Act (CAA), EPA issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) in July 2008 to solicit comments about a number of options and questions to be considered for possible greenhouse gas regulations under the Clean Air Act. The period to submit comments on the ANPR ended on November 28, 2008.

"The ANPR does not recommend the use of any particular CAA authority to regulate any emissions, nor does it commit to specific next steps to address greenhouse gases. The ANPR provides a comprehensive, in-depth exploration of the opportunities and challenges that the application of CAA authorities would present. It examines the interconnections among CAA provisions and the implications of applying particular CAA authorities to reduce greenhouse gases. EPA is currently reviewing the public comments and does not yet have a time frame for next steps."

Farm Bureau's position on rule changes to the Clean Air Act were unchanged Friday, said James Rhein, chairman of the Baxter County chapter of the Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation, on the way home from the annual meeting of the Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation in Hot Springs.

"It would be another slap in the face to the farmer," said Rhein. "Stopping it is a priority."

Barns and pastures in Baxter and adjoining counties are home to more than 200,000 head of beef cattle, according to the Arkansas Agricultural Statistics Service.

On Thursday, officers of R-CALF (Ranchers Cattlemen Action Legal Fund) and the United Stockgrowers of America, issued a statement opposing Farm Bureau's interpretation of the rulemaking survey and how the Clean Air Act may be used.

"Fortunately, the EPA is not proposing this tax, which could result if greenhouse gases were regulated under the Act," said R-CALF USA Vice President/Region II director Randy Stevenson. The EPA made it very clear in its notice that it opposes such regulation under the act. Rather than propose such an onerous regulation, the agency has asked for public comments in order to obtain alternatives for regulating greenhouse gases that would not have the dire consequences that could potentially result if regulated under the act, Stevenson said.

"We still stand by the information regarding the cow and pig tax," Ken Hamilton, a spokesman for Wyoming Farm Bureau told The Baxter Bulletin on Friday.

Dr. Tom Troxel, professor of Animal Science for the University of Arkansas, told The Bulletin on Friday that livestock producers should stay informed on all sides of the issue.

"R-CALF came away from the notice with a much different idea," said Troxel.

Tubby Smith, president of the Arkansas Cattlemens Association, told The Bulletin the issue was a topic at the association's annual meeting in Fort Smith in November. Smith said he has since informed members that he does not believe the Clean Air Act will be used as the Wyoming Farm Bureau claims.

"I have spoken to our congressional delegation," said Smith. "They all said it won't happen."

Rex Donley, a partner in the Gainesville Livestock Auction, said Friday the talking-points document came to auction by way of the Missouri Department of Agriculture.

"Now they're saying it's not going to fly," said Donley. "That's good because we don't make that kind of money."

The talking-points document shares content from a statement by AFBF Director of Regulatory Relations Rick Krause at Wyoming Farm Bureau annual meeting Nov. 7.

"This is no laughing matter," Krause said. "The cow tax and the pig tax are parts of a larger scheme by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act."

"Under the proposal, if a state charged the 'presumptive minimum rate' from the EPA, the cow tax would be $175 per dairy cow, $87.50 per head for beef cattle and a little more than $20 per pig," Krause explained.

Krause's statements appear in the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation Web site.

To learn more about the ANPR visit www.epa.gov/climatechange/anpr.html.

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