The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has completed a final ruling that exempts farmers from reporting livestock emissions to state and local emergency authorities. Many agriculture groups appear to be pleased with the change.
Full Implementation of FARM Act
Comments in regard to the ruling from EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler were published on American Ag Network. The final rule amended the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, and was signed by Wheeler on June 4. This action allows for the full implementation of the FARM Act.
Wheeler said that the ruling,
“Allows emergency responders and farmers to focus on protecting the public and feeding the nation, not routine animal waste emissions.”
Michael Formica of the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) says the EPA’s action simply follows what was directed by Congress.
“We had 15 Democrats signed on as cosponsors of the bill, corrected the problem with the Superfund statute, and then because of that, it triggered a correction on the second statute which was the Community Right To Know Act.”
Formica says that nearly twenty years ago anti-agriculture activists were able to exploit a loophole in the Superfund law. Now, that burden is gone.
“It will relieve not just farmers of this stupid obligation, but also has relieved all of the state and local emergency response authorities who did not want this information.”
NPPC Extremely Pleased
Portia Stewart of Farm Journal shared comments on the rule from NPPC president David Herring. He said it’s the final piece in the implementation of the Fair Agricultural Reporting Method (FARM) Act, which passed through Congress with bipartisan support last year. Livestock farmers no longer need to estimate and report the emissions from the breakdown of manure. Herring said,
“That bipartisan measure was approved because it was unnecessary and impractical for farmers to waste time and resources alerting government agencies that there are livestock on farms.”
CERCLA and EPCRA
In her article, Stewart also provided background on events prior to the ruling.
In April of last year the US Court of Appeals actually rejected a 2008 rule that would exempt producers from reporting farm emissions under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). The new rule, under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), means that farmers will no longer need to report emissions from manure on their farms.
In a press release, the NPCC said that state and local first responders prefer more open lines of communication over additional reporting. NPCC says that open communication is a priority they’ve already begun to address through their Pork Quality Assurance Plus Program.
“Strong Stewards of the Environment”
Herring feels the industry is capable of self-regulating when it comes to environmental concerns.
“The pork industry wants regulations that are practical and effective, but applying CERCLA and EPCRA to livestock farms is neither. Pork producers are very strong stewards of the environment and have taken many actions over the years to protect it. We applaud President Trump for relieving America’s farmers from filing these unnecessary reports.”
No More Guessing on Emissions
Apparently, first responders across the country have repeatedly reminded the EPA that community specific protocols are determined between local responders and animal producers before they happen. The two parties are often able to resolve issues themselves, and many feel that a national policy isn’t really necessary.
The change in reporting regulations are a reflection of the relationship between EPCRA and CERCLA, and provides more consistency between the two laws. If the change had not been made, tens of thousands of livestock farmers would have had to “guesstimate” and report on emissions from manure on their farms to the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Response Center and subject them to citizen lawsuits from activist groups.
Other Ag Groups Respond
American Farm Bureau
Larry Lee of Brownfield Ag News spoke with several Ag group leaders that shared comments about the change. Scott Bennett from American Farm Bureau says that it’s good that the government is getting out of the way of producers.
“Oh, this is great news for farmers and ranchers across the United States. This is one less burden that they will have to deal with.”
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) President Jennifer Houston says that this was a “common sense decision,” that that the group is happy to see the EPA fully implementing the law.
The National Milk Producer’s Federation (NMPF) was also pleased with the ruling. President and chief executive officer Jim Mulhern added,
“We are pleased with the outcome of EPA’s painstaking efforts. This final rule codifies what’s been the right thing to do all along.”