Federal Issues Update: EPA Updates to Air Quality Standards and Regulations of Greenhouse Gases Concern Farmers

The Environmental Protection Agency recently proposed updates to its national air quality standards for both coarse and fine particulate matter. EPA proposed no changes to its standards for coarse particles, which include dust commonly generated by typical farming practices and driving on unpaved rural roads.

“Although we’re pleased with EPA’s decision not to propose changes to its standards for coarse dust particles at this time, there’s much more to this story,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “We remain concerned that the final rule EPA will publish later this year could look very different from the initial proposal.”

EPA is expected to publish a final rule on its National Ambient Air Quality Standards in December. The Clean Air Act requires EPA to review ambient air quality standards every five years.

“America’s food producers – farmers and ranchers – need stability and certainty regarding government regulations, which is why Farm Bureau supports the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act,” said Stallman.

The Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act, which would exempt agriculture from EPA regulations, was passed by the House but has not been brought up for consideration in the Senate.


In other air quality news, AFBF told a House subcommittee today that many of America’s farmers and ranchers will face economic challenges due to the EPA’s plan to regulate greenhouse gases.

Carl Shaffer, president of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, testified on behalf of AFBF before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power.

“Costs incurred by utilities, refiners, manufacturers and other large emitters to comply with GHG regulatory requirements will be passed on to the consumers of those products, including farmers and ranchers,” Shaffer said. “The end result is that our nation’s farmers and ranchers will be forced to contend with higher input costs to grow food, fiber and renewable fuels.”

Shaffer said farmers will face another economic hit when regulations are fully phased in under EPA’s “tailoring” approach which will apply to farms and ranches that emit, or have the potential to emit, more than 100 tons of greenhouse gases per year. Those farms and ranches will be required to apply for and obtain a Title V operating permit. Based on EPA’s numbers, Shaffer said just the expense of obtaining permits would cost agriculture more than $866 million.

In his testimony, Shaffer expressed Farm Bureau’s support for the House-passed Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011, which prevents EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. Farm Bureau opposes the regulation of greenhouse gases by EPA under the Clean Air Act.

Latest updates on dust regulations from American Farm Bureau

Here is the latest report from American Farm Bureau on dust regulations from their Newsline podcast, which airs on Mondays and Thursdays.

Newsline 10-24-11 Latest on Dust Regulations for Agriculture

Good news from the EPA can be made better with legislation from Congress. American Farm Bureau Regulatory Specialist Rick Krause explains how in this report from AFBF’s Johnna Miller.

Miller: Farmers and ranchers recently got some welcome news…that the Environmental Protection Agency would not be expanding air quality standards that regulate agricultural dust.

Krause: That was good news for us, because that is exactly what we wanted EPA to do. Farm dust is naturally occurring, for the most part. It comes from driving on unpaved roads. It comes from tractors in farm fields. It comes from moving livestock. It’s very important for farmers and ranchers to be able to continue these and not be regulated just on the basis of the naturally occurring dust that there is.

Miller: But American Farm Bureau Regulatory Specialist Rick Krause says farmers and ranchers still have concerns about the current dust regulations, which is why Krause says Congress needs to pass the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act.

Krause: Just in the course of the last couple of months there have been four huge dust clouds that have swept over Phoenix and this is the dust that EPA regulates. There’s no way that you can control it. There’s no way you can regulate it. So these bills would exclude from regulation naturally occurring dust that occurs from farming activities and also from things like these dust storms. We think that this is the other part of the issue that needs to be solved.

Miller: Krause says this legislation acknowledges the difference between dust that is a nuisance and what’s called “fine particulate matter” which causes serious health concerns.

Krause: This bill separates that out. It would exclude from regulation farm dust, but at the same time the bill has a provision that if scientific information does come around and is developed that shows that these materials cause health effects then it would allow EPA to regulate. It does not roll back any EPA protections. It really builds on the basis that good regulation should be based on good science. This bill would allow EPA to regulate according to what the science says.

Miller: Johnna Miller, Washington.

Miller: We have two extra actualities with AFBF Regulatory Specialist Rick Krause. In the first extra actuality he talks about the unanticipated effects dust regulations can have on farmers and ranchers. The cut runs 29 seconds, in 3-2-1.

Krause: If farmers have to park their tractors because of dry or windy conditions, that means they’re not going to be able to get into the fields. That’s going to cost them lost time. That’s going to cost them lost productivity. If farmers and ranchers are limited to driving 15 to 20 miles per hour down country roads, that’s going to cost them a lot of time and it’s going to cost them lost productivity. All of these issues cumulatively cause significant economic burdens to farmers and ranchers.

Miller: In the second extra actuality Krause notes that the EPA acknowledged that further regulations on farm dust have no scientific basis. The cut runs 18 seconds, in 3-2-1.

Krause: During the course of their review, EPA also indicated that the scientific basis for finding health impacts from dust were very uncertain and so they basically admitted that they did not have the information that they necessary to further regulate farm dust.

Miller: Newsline is updated Mondays and Thursdays by 5pm eastern time. Thank you for listening.