While it may a bit early to refer to recent warmer-than-normal temperatures as Indian Summer, weather conditions this week in much of the grain belt helped the harvest kick into high gear. But new EPA guidelines on dust and particulate matter announced recently could have legal ramifications for farmers. Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa is concerned the new rules could expose farmers to litigation. And he invited the head of the EPA to visit his state during the harvest to see how the new rules would affect America's farmers.
Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, made a decision to stop exempting farmers and ranchers from "dust and coarse particulate matter regulations." The EPA's original proposal in December 2005 included an exemption for sources of dust created from agricultural and mining practices. Despite an EPA statement that the health risks of exposure to particulate matter in rural areas are inconclusive, the agricultural and mining exemptions were removed from the final regulation last month.
Officials with the EPA and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources insist farmers won't be affected by the decision. But, Senator Charles Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, disagrees. He says there is no guarantee that farmers couldn't be sued for the dust they create. This week, he invited the EPA to visit his state to see first-hand what the new rules could do to American farmers. Grassley asked the EPA to make the trip before the soybean harvest ends; noting soybeans stir up more dust than corn.
While the administrator of the EPA, Stephen Johnson, accepted Grassley's invitation, no date has been set for the visit.