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Manure Exemption Bill Introduced in Congress

Cattle producers support legislation to exlude manure from Superfund environmental laws, but the measure faces political opposition.

Bipartisan legislation was introduced in both the Senate and House of Representatives Thursday to exempt manure from regulation under the Superfund statute.

Senators Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., and Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and Representatives Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and Ralph Hall, R-Texas, are leading cosponsors of the bills, which would clarify Superfund classification so that livestock manure is not considered hazardous waste.

Eight Senators and 58 representatives are backing the legislation. Last year, House and Senate bills with the same intention of exempting manure from Superfund gained the support of 228 members of Congress, but did not pass into law before the Congressional session ended. Peterson, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, warns that passing the bill "won't be easy."

Velma Smith, and official with the National Environment Trust, says her group opposes the bill because it is "a bad idea, fueled by bad information. Farmers who use manure responsibly have no need to fear Superfund liability." An attempt last year to attach the manure exemption as an amendment to the agricultural appropriations bill failed under pressure from the National League of Cities, American Association of Water Utilities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of County & State Health Officials and several State Attorneys General.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association voiced support for the legislation, agreeing that Superfund was never meant to regulate livestock manure, which is already regulated under the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act.

"Superfund is about toxic waste sites and chemical spills, not livestock manure on farms and ranches," says NCBA Director of Legislative Affairs Stacey Katseanes. "The Superfund laws were created in the 1980s to provide for cleanup of toxic waste dumps and hazardous chemical spills, to force reporting of releases of hazardous chemicals and to enable emergency response."

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