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Grassley Leads Charge to Exempt Rural Dust

posted on December 8, 2006

With broader budget matters unresolved, it's not unusual for lawmakers to add amendments to other bits of legislation to secure the funding they want. The emergency drought aid was one such attempt. Another came from Iowa Republican Charles Grassley.

The senator's particular passion is dust, which in farm country is found everywhere from the road to the feedlot to trailing behind the combine during harvest. Until recently, the agriculture industry has received an exemption from the Environmental Protection Agency for what is known as fugitive dust. But that exemption is a subject of debate.

Over the next five years, the EPA will conduct a study to determine if fugitive dust should be considered air pollution. In the meantime, it's unclear if farmers and ranchers are subject to enforcement or litigation under the rules of the Clean Air Act.

Grassley Leads Charge to Exempt Rural Dust To protect farmers and ranchers, Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa is leading the fight to make the dust exemption for agriculture permanent. This week, Grassley introduced the same amendment to two different bills on the floor of the Senate. The first went into the Agriculture Appropriations bill and the second, through his influence as head of the Senate Finance Committee, went into upcoming tax legislation. The provision states that all "particulate matter deposited in the ambient air as a result of the conduct of an agricultural activity" would be exempt from the rules of the Clean Air Act.

The amendments are supported by the major agriculture industry organizations including, The American Soybean Association, The National Pork Producers, and The National Cattlemen's Beef Association. Chances are the amendment will find its way into a larger omnibus appropriations bill that will be considered next year.

But Grassley has been on the case for longer than this current political move would imply. In October of this year, Grassley invited EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson to Iowa for a demonstration of how dust is part of the rural way of life with a soybean harvest. An autumn rain prevented the demonstration but Johnson listened to Grassley, and various invited guests, as they testified about the rule.

Mark Salvador, National Policy Advisor, Iowa Farm Bureau: "We fear that that leaves an opening for those who would harm agriculture just for the sake of doing that."

Grassley, a farmer himself, brought up his concerns about exposing farmers to expensive litigation.

Senator Charles Grassley, R-IA: " why should the farmer be in the position of somebody just suing him, when he thinks the law is on his side or the law isn't even clear and he may win it but it could break him winning it."

Despite their concerns, Administrator Johnson made it clear that he would wait for the results of the five year study before pursuing any action against farmers.

Administrator Stephen Johnson, Environmental Protection Agency: "...our concerns are not with this kind of dust, our concerns are not with dirt. Our concerns are with urban, our concerns are with industrial sources." p>

Tags: agriculture Environmental Protection Agency news rural Washington D.C.