Back in late July, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles under the Clean Air Act.
"In large part, it was sparked by the lawsuit a few years ago against acid rain issues involving the Northeast," says Julie Suarez, director of public policy for New York Farm Bureau. "Unfortunately, the way it's drafted, the permit captures the livestock industry, for the first time, in the clean air permit process."
One provision would require any entity that emits more than 100 tons per year of greenhouse gases (methane from livestock, for instance) to obtain a permit. USDA calculates that any agricultural operation with more than 25 dairy cows, 50 beef cattle or 200 hogs emits more than 100 tons of greenhouse gases.
USDA statistics indicate that the permit requirement would impact 99% of milk production, more than 90% of beef production and more than 95% of all hog production in the United States. The permit fee would vary from state to state.
But for states using EPA's "presumptive minimum rate", this could amount to $175 per dairy cow, $87.50 per beef cattle and over $20 per hog.
"It's a little sensational to call it a 'tax', since it's technically a permit fee," notes Suarez. "But it's a de facto charge per head. The impact is the same – money out of farmers' pockets." For a minimum 25-cow dairy, that would be $4,375.