Manure emissions report delayed

Nov 6, 2009

Manure emissions report delayed

Farmers and ranchers won’t be required for at least a year to report livestock manure as greenhouse gas emissions to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) thanks to the efforts of Reps. Mike Simpson, R-ID, and Tom Latham, R-IA. The Senate version of the Interior & Environment Appropriations Act of FY2010 excluded a provision

 included in the House version that exempted reporting methane emitted by dairies, feedlots, hog farms and chicken operations.

Simpson, ranking member of the House Interior & Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, succeeded at the end of October to include that amendment by Latham in a joint conference report.

That provision prohibits funds in the bill from being used to implement any rule requiring mandatory reporting of greenhouse emissions from agricultural sources. EPA has exempted only manure management systems that emit less than 25,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases annually.

Simpson told the Western Livestock Journal that manure management systems can run $15,000 just for equipment, a substantial cost that hard-strapped livestock operators cannot afford. EPA estimates livestock manure accounts for less than 1 percent of all human-related greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., he noted

"They’re trying to regulate everything ... They want to measure and regulate every source of greenhouse gases," Simpson said, stressing the cost to regulate manure emissions is extremely expensive and burdensome. "The fight isn’t over yet, but we’ve certainly delayed it for a year."

Simpson noted the livestock industry is getting hammered by the national economic downturn.

"Frozen credit markets have left farmers and ranchers without the credit they need to run their day-to-day operations, and many have been forced to sell their land or declare bankruptcy. Now is not the time to pile the regulatory burden onto these operations, forcing even more of them to fail," he stated.

"Right now, farmers and ranchers are hanging on by a thread. If we doom too many American farmers to failure through overzealous regulation, we will quickly find ourselves dependent on other countries’ farmers to meet our needs."

During a House floor debate on the matter, Simpson insisted that the Latham amendment be included in the final Interior appropriations bill. He noted that mandatory reporting could cost the livestock industry more than $115 million annually.

Rep. Norman Dicks, D-WA, said the requirement would not apply to small farmers, but only the largest farmers whose annual livestock manure emissions are the equivalent of 58,000 barrels of oil. "They can afford to do it," Dicks said. "I think it makes sense. I think it’s a decent compromise."

Latham countered that millions of dollars would be spent by large and small producers trying to determine who qualifies if the livestock exemption was not included in the appropriations bill.

"And the fact of the matter is any of these costs are going to be passed down to the consumers. Maybe another 30 or 40 bucks a week out of a grocery bill isn’t much for a lot of folks around here, but, I tell you what, there are folks hurting at home that that’s a lot of money," Latham said, stressing proposed onerous regulations would affect the price of food and the cost of agriculture. — Mark Mendiola, WLJ correspondent