Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a proposed rule that greenhouse gases contribute to air pollution and may endanger public health or welfare. The ruling has raised concern among many agriculture industry observers. They are concerned that if the EPA's definition of greenhouse gases includes methane emitted by livestock, animal agriculture could be impacted in a big way.

U.S. Senators John Thune (R-S.D.) and Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), a former USDA Secretary, are co-sponsoring bipartisan legislation along with Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)  to protect livestock producers from regulations that may result.

"The EPA has opened the door by starting with automobiles, but the reality is that this is the first step in a process that could result in sweeping regulations that could result in a tax on naturally occurring emissions from livestock,” says Thune. "This is the first step in a slippery slope that could result in implementation of a tax on all CO2 emissions,"

"For a state like Nebraska, which ranks first in the nation in commercial meat production, this EPA proposal could have devastating consequences," Johanns notes. "This 'cow tax' could cost farmers and ranchers tens of thousands of dollars per farm per year."