The American Farm Bureau Federation is urging members of the House to support a bill that would exclude from federal regulation dust that occurs naturally in the course of normal farming activities.

The Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act of 2011 will prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from changing its current standard for coarse particulate matter, commonly referred to as dust, for one year from enactment. The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power held a hearing earlier this week to discuss legislation to provide much-needed regulatory certainty to rural America.

The bill, introduced in April, also provides flexibility for state, local, or tribal regulation of “nuisance dust,” generated from natural sources, unpaved roads, agricultural activities, earth moving, and other activities typically conducted in rural areas.

This bipartisan bill is co-sponsored by over 100 Republicans and Democrats. Two of the bill’s primary sponsors, Reps. Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Robert Hurt (R-VA), testified about the need for their legislation to provide immediate relief to America’s farmers and ranchers.

“My bill is a bipartisan approach to ending the EPA’s regulation of farm dust in rural America, while still maintaining the protections of the Clean Air Act to the public’s health and welfare,” said Noem. “One of the most overwhelming concerns I hear about from farmers and ranchers back home is the overbearing regulations coming out of EPA, including the regulation of farm dust.”

 Arizona Farm Bureau Federation President Kevin Rogers testified on behalf of AFBF to the subcommittee. Rogers called for passage of the bill, noting, “It makes common sense amendments to the Clean Air Act, to prevent federal regulation of natural occurrences and naturally occurring dust from normal farming operations, unless there is a substantial evidence of adverse health impacts.”

Rogers pointed out that unlike other types of particulate matter that are regulated by the EPA, dust is naturally-occurring in rural areas.

“Further, unlike other types of particulate matter where the links to health effects are well-established, there is considerable uncertainty about whether or not dust from rural activities adversely affects human health,” Rogers said. “The bill would not prevent regulation of dust in rural areas if the scientific data on adverse impacts to human health becomes more evident,” he added.

Planting and harvesting crops, livestock moving from place to place and people driving down dirt roads are just a few of the ways dust occurs naturally in rural areas. Regulation of naturally-occurring dust is a concern for America’s farmers and ranchers because it could restrict normal farming activities like these, making it more costly to produce food.

“The last thing our struggling economy needs is new costs and regulatory burdens on farmers and small business in rural America,” said Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). “They already face indirect consequences from EPA’s costly regulatory agenda, and now they are rightfully concerned about the threat of direct regulation on their operations. This is a common-sense approach that protects the interests of our vital rural economy, and I commend our colleagues for putting their ideas on the table. If EPA is serious that it does not intend to regulate farm dust, it should embrace this legislation.”

Source: House Energy and Commerce Committee, AFBF