The day after his State of the Union speech, President Bush went on the road to tout many of his proposals. He was beset by criticism that his optimistic messages of recent years haven't squared with the worries many Americans feel over high costs of energy, health care and the lingering war in Iraq. Back in Washington, in an attempt to curb spending, the House sent the President a $39 billion dollar budget-cutting bill. It was the first attempt by Congress in eight years to slow the growth of benefit programs like Medicaid and student loans. On the farm side, small dairy herds dodged the budget-reducing bullet and won a $1 billion dollar extension of a subsidy program that pays them if milk prices drop. There is a new – if not more unusual farm payment program in the works. This week, the government announced it will pay large farm operators to participate in a pollution study.
In what is being haled as a major step forward, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency kicked-off a landmark program this week that will be used to determine air emission levels near various types of animal feeding operations or A-F-Os.
When the program is in full swing, an independent air monitoring company will check the levels of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide found in the air around 6,700 farms in 42 states. The data will be used in the formulation of agricultural air quality rules.
Participating farmers receive an amnesty of sorts where all their previous violations of the Clean Air Act are forgiven. The amnesty does not make them exempt from any future violations of federal, state, or local pollution laws.
In exchange, operators agree to abide by the rules of the Clean Air Act, pay 25 hundred dollars into a fund for air quality monitoring, and install the best available pollution control technology.
Officials with the Sierra Club stated that the program gives farmers a free ride on the backs of the public. Pro-industry groups like the National Pork Producers Council released a statement lauding the study for its use of sound science to develop practical policies for pork producers.
The project is expected to take four years with two being devoted to the study of air quality and two more spent developing new rules.