The agency denies it is targeting livestock as a potential tax source. Senator John Thune of South Dakota introduced a bill this week exempting livestock from the Clean Air Act.
Thune, a Republican, said rules proposed by EPA could result in a tax of about $90 per head of cattle, $125 per dairy cow and $20 for each hog.
While the proposed fees are pending, EPA raised a few eyebrows in the environmental community this week when it announced farmers no longer have to report releases of potentially hazardous gases.
The new regulations exempt farmers from reporting odors and other air pollution from their farm animals if the herd or flock size is below a certain amount. However, CAFOs above a certain size are still required to report any release of gasses. This would include, but not be limited to, farms with 1,000 cattle, 2,500 hogs over 55 pounds, 55,000 turkeys, or 125,000 chickens. EPA officials are saying the new rule allows emergency response teams to concentrate on spills and releases from factories, natural disasters, and other emergencies.
Poultry and beef industry groups haled the rule as long overdue. The National Chicken Council, National Turkey Federation and U.S. Poultry and Egg Association issued a joint statement, saying the reporting requirements were never meant for naturally occurring substances.
Environmentalists, however, were angered by the 11th hour rule-making saying it will now be difficult to keep track of farmers who pollute the environment. Sierra Club officials called the measure the most egregious special interest giveaway in a series of giveaways. They went on to say the new rule would leave the neighbors of these operations at risk of serious illness.
Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat and Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, was not pleased with the decision to issue the order. Harkin hoped the EPA would delay until a 2-year odor study had been completed. The $14 million survey, started in the spring of 2007, is measuring air emissions from CAFOs in 10 states and is expected to be completed sometime next year.