By Bob Stallman, president, American Farm Bureau Federation
We're all familiar with the typical B-rate horror flick where you just know the young starlet will stumble on a broken tree branch while being chased by the bad guy. Although you see it coming and know her demise is inevitable, you still want to smash your knuckle into the silver screen to halt the hideous phantom.
Unlike the movies, a very real disaster could be heading toward farm and ranch families. Unless something is done to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases, agriculture could face some pretty dire consequences. But unlike the helpless girl who stumbles and falls, farmers and ranchers are fighting back.
Nightmare in the Country
Last year, EPA set out to regulate emissions from both mobile sources, such as cars and trucks, and stationary sources, such as buildings and factories. According to the timeline announced by EPA, regulations could go into effect as early as next year, and these requirements could have unfortunate consequences for farmers and ranchers.
While EPA says it does not intend to regulate small emissions sources right away, farmers and ranchers run the risk of being caught by what an individual state has set as an amount of emissions per source (Montana's is 15 tons). And even though EPA's proposed rule contends it will begin regulating sources that emit more than 25,000 tons of greenhouse gases, the plain language in the Clean Air Act states that sources of 100 tons to 250 tons are subject to regulation.
These new EPA greenhouse gas requirements could lead to widespread costs for the economy and will put a strain on federal and state budgets that are not equipped to handle issuing the number of permits that will be required.
For farmers and ranchers thinking of expanding or renovating their operations, they will have to think twice. By regulating carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, livestock and other agricultural producers will be spending their days trying to obtain costly and time-consuming permits as conditions to continue farming. For those sources now subject to the law, construction permits can run into tens of thousands of dollars.
The good news is we have a date certain and know what we are up against. Yes, we see the monster lurking behind the tree. It's now up to Congress to knuckle-up to stop it from happening.
Farm Bureau strongly backs a Senate resolution by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), to disapprove of EPA's greenhouse gas regulations. There are also two companion measures in the House: one by Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), and one by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas).
If Congress does not approve these resolutions, EPA will forge ahead and farmers will be forced to grapple with a scope of regulation we have never before faced in our history, all while trying to cope with requirements that are economically burdensome and environmentally questionable. That's fact, not fiction.
Farmers and ranchers must contact their congressional members and let them know the impact these costly regulations will have on their operations and the economy in general.
Unlike the girl in the horror flick, falling down is not an option for agriculture. We must band together to escape the scary regulator's grasp.