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Mar 13, 2008
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Wayne Stewart
East Texas Farm & Ranch News

As the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) moves closer and closer to classifying greenhouse gases as a public health risk, the risk to the livelihood for farmers and ranchers continues to grow.

Several agriculture groups have let their feelings known to the EPA about what could happen as producers are opened up to legal liabilities from lawsuits targeting greenhouse gas emissions from farms and ranches.

“Farmers and rancher would be exposed to potential legal liability under such a plan,” explained Jon Wooster, president of the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association. “In today’s economy, we’ve got enough to worry about without having to look over our shoulder for increased litigation from those that want to sue us for a range of reasons from methane gas expelled by livestock to the diesel that powers tractors.”

Last year the Farm & Ranch News reported on a possible plan to tax cattle emissions, with the EPA using the Clean Air Act as cover.

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA could impose a tax on cattle if they decide to start regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that an operation with more than 25 dairy cows or 50 beef cattle would meet the 100-ton threshold for greenhouse gas emissions. Operations with that number of cattle would have to obtain permits and fall under EPA regulation.

The proposal set forth by the EPA would tax farms meeting those numbers at a rate of $175 per dairy cow and $87.50 per beef cow.

Back in April the president of the American Farm Bureau Federation released this statement, “This announcement is a slippery slope for agriculture,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said in a statement made in April concerning the possible taxation on livestock and their methane emissions. “Traditionally, farmers are price ‘takers,’ not price ‘makers,’ and most farmers will be simply unable to pass along such costs. For those lucky enough to do so, the higher costs will be passed along in the prices for milk, hamburgers and bacon. For many others, however, the imposition of taxes of this magnitude would force them out of business.”

The president and leading Democratic legislators have said they do not want to impose such a tax on farmers and ranchers, but they have encouraged the EPA to classify greenhouse gases as a public health risk. There has been considerable Republican opposition to the proposal.

The likely outcome for all involved will be higher food prices and less profit for farmers and ranchers as they try to stay afloat.

Many of the agriculture organizations have asked the EPA to extend its comment time. To leave comments with the EPA, visit their Web site at www.epa.gov.

Concerned residents also are asked to contact their elected federal officials. Here are contact numbers for both Texas senators, John Cornyn (R-Texas) Washington DC office at (202) 224-2934; or his East Texas office at (903)593-0902.

Kay Bailey Hutchison’s offices can be reached at (202) 224-5922, or her Houston office at (713) 653-3456.Bobaroni

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