The EPA has announced its decision not to propose to lower the standard for coarse particulate matter this year. But the National Cattlemen's Beef Association says the issue is far from resolved. Testifying before the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power Tuesday, NCBA Immediate Past President Steve Foglesong, a rancher from Illinois, noted that the EPA doesn't have a consistent track record of following through on what it says.
"Both in 1996 and again in '06 we had rules come out of EPA that they wouldn't do anything different with dust and yet they did," Foglesong said. "Trust is earned and trust has not been earned by the EPA and producers out there have a long memory and they remember exactly what that situation is. The only thing we really have the opportunity to do is talk to those folks that represent us in Congress and get a law on the books that supersedes this trust issue."
NCBA would like to see Congressional passage of the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act. Without it, Foglesong says EPA could still tighten the dust standard in the future. He says that leaves the nation's producers with regulatory uncertainty.
"They are afraid to go build anything else, they're afraid to step out and increase their operations or change them because they don't know if they will be in compliance," Foglesong said. "Who can afford to spend money on their operation when tomorrow that could all disappear on 'em."
Foglesong testified that the regulation of dust under the Clean Air Act is supposed to be based on a finding by scientists of adverse health effects. But historically, he says there has been no evidence of adverse health effects from farm dust at ambient levels. He says EPA's dust regulation isn't based on science, but on caution.
"This deal here is based on supposition, well what if," Foglesong said. "Well we can't play with what if. You know it is absolutely ridiculous we're having this conversation in the first place since it is a naturally occurring thing. Farmers and ranchers are used to fighting with Mother Nature every day; we don't need a government agency trying to help us in that fight, we'll do just fine by ourselves."
According to Foglesong, the nation's farmers and ranchers need immediate, permanent relief from federal dust regulation on farms. He says cattlemen believe the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act is the best way to achieve that.