Ala. pro­poses fee on smelly cows, hogs

The Covington News - - Agriculture & outdoors - By Bob John­son

MONT­GOMERY, Ala. — For farm­ers, this stinks: Belch­ing and gaseous cows and hogs could start cost­ing them money if a fed­eral pro­posal to charge fees for air-pol­lut­ing an­i­mals be­comes law.

Farm­ers so far are turn­ing their noses up at the no­tion, which is one of sev­eral put for­ward by the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency af­ter the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that green­house gases emit­ted by belch­ing and flat­u­lence amounts to air pol­lu­tion.

“This is one of the most ridicu­lous things the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has tried to do,” said Alabama Agri­cul­ture Com­mis­sioner Ron Sparks, an out­spo­ken op­po­nent of the pro­posal.

It would re­quire farms or ranches with more than 25 dairy cows, 50 beef cat­tle or 200 hogs to pay an an­nual fee of about $175 for each dairy cow, $87.50 per head of beef cat­tle and $20 for each hog.

The ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of the Wy­oming Farm Bureau Fed­er­a­tion, Ken Hamil­ton, es­ti­mated the fee would cost own­ers of a mod­est-sized cat­tle ranch $30,000 to $40,000 a year. He said he has talked to a num­ber of live­stock own­ers about the pro­pos­als, and “all have said if the fees were car­ried out, it would bank­rupt them.”

Sparks said Wed­nes­day he’s wor­ried the fee could be ex­tended to chick­ens and other farm an­i­mals and cause more meat to be im­ported.

“We’ll let other coun­tries put food on our ta­bles like they are putting gas in our cars. Other coun­tries don’t have the health stan­dards we have,” Sparks said.

EPA spokesman Nick But­ter­field said the fee was pro­posed for farms with live­stock opera- tions that emit more than 100 tons of car­bon emis­sions in a year and fall un­der fed­eral Clean Air Act pro­vi­sions.

But­ter­field said the EPA has not taken a po­si­tion on any of the pro­pos­als. But farm­ers from across the coun­try have ex­pressed out­rage over the idea, both on In­ter­net sites and in opin­ions sent to EPA dur­ing a pub­lic com­ment pe­riod that ended last week.

“It’s some­thing that re­ally has a very big po­ten­tial ad­verse im­pact for the live­stock in­dus­try,” said Rick Krause, the se­nior di­rec­tor of con­gres­sional re­la­tions for the Amer­i­can Farm Bureau Fed­er­a­tion.

The fee would cover the cost of a per­mit for the live­stock op­er­a­tions. While farm­ers say it would drive them out of busi­ness, an or­ga­ni­za­tion sup­port­ing the pro­posal hopes it forces the farms and ranches to switch to health­ier crops.

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