U.S. Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) has stepped forward with legislation designed to block attempts to regulate U.S. farms and ranches raising livestock through the Clean Air Act. Specifically, Thune's legislation calls for an exemption for any emission of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide or methane resulting from agricultural production.
This is an offshoot from the release of an Environmental Protection Agency report that included some implementation ideas related to the Clean Air Act. That followed a Supreme Court decision related to the regulation of greenhouse gasses. Last week, EPA officials came out to clarify that there was no plan in place to tax livestock, dairy and poultry operations.
Still, Thune's legislation could be considered a safeguard. "Not only would these types of taxes on livestock operations impose burdensome financial penalties on producers, they would in turn substantially increase the price of food in this country," Thune says. "The Clean Air Act was designed to target smokestacks in industrial America, not farmers and ranchers. This is a clear case of a federal agency going too far."
The 570 page Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that EPA issued highlights how greenhouse gasses would be regulated. If it would be applied to agriculture producers, the result would be a tax or fee of nearly $90 per head of cattle for operations of as few as 50 head of cattle, $125 per dairy cow on operations of just 25 cows, and $20 for each hog on farms with more than 200 pigs.
Of course this session of Congress is not likely to get to Thune's legislation before it adjourns for the year. He says he plans to reintroduce the legislation in January with the next Congress and has already reached out to colleagues who plan to join him to ensure that Senate action is taken on this legislative proposal.