A bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate on Tuesday would exempt agricultural operations from having to report manure emissions under laws that govern toxic Superfund sites.
The bill clarifies that farmers and ranchers are exempt from reporting animal waste emissions under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).
Introduced by Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., and Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., the Fair Agricultural Reporting Method (FARM) Act, S. 2421, has the support of 10 Democratic and 10 Republican senators.
The bill would fix a problem the federal D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals created for agriculture last April when it rejected the 2008 rule by EPA exempting farmers from reporting emissions.
That decision set a Nov. 15, 2017, compliance deadline. After petitions from EPA, the court twice delayed the deadline, which now stands at May 1.
Under the current law, an estimated 200,000 farms and ranches would have to report emissions to the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Response Center and EPA.
The senators said the emission requirements were not intended to affect animal agriculture and were instead meant to address dangerous industrial pollution, chemical plant explosions and the release of hazardous materials into the environment.
A host of agricultural groups agree, releasing statements following the bill’s introduction.
“Farming and ranching are challenging enough without having to report, under threat of law, something that is a routine part of raising animals but is nearly impossible to predict or measure,” said Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau Federation president.
National Milk Producers Federation said the bill would prevent farms from having to generate meaningless air emissions data that regulatory agencies don’t want and won’t use.
“Congress needs to stipulate that this burdensome regulatory overreach serves no legitimate health or safety purpose and needs to stop,” said Jim Mulhern, the federation’s president and CEO.
Kevin Kester, president of National Cattlemen’s Association, said there’s not a lot of truly bipartisan legislation in Washington, D.C., these days.
“But one thing that pretty much everyone can agree on is that a responsibly run cattle ranch isn’t a toxic Superfund site,” he said.
Ken Maschhoff, president of National Pork Producers Council, said “routine emissions from hog manure do not constitute a hazardous emergency that requires the Coast Guard to activate a national cleanup response.”
The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture said the reporting would not advance environmental protection and serves no useful purpose to the Coast Guard,
“The farms and ranches producing our food and fiber should not be regulated as toxic Superfund sites,” said Barbara Glen, the association’s CEO.
Scott Yager, chief environmental counsel for National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said it’s going to take some “heavy lifting” to get the bill through Congress before the May 1 compliance deadline.
NCBA will be meeting with other senators to get them on board, and producers should contact their senators to support the bill, he said.