The Environmental Protection Agency issued a final decision this week regarding a controversial proposal for rural America. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson sent a pair of letters to U.S. lawmakers, declaring the agency will not regulate farm dust under federal air quality standards.
Republicans and some farm-state Democrats have publicly lampooned the EPA as a “reckless government agency” intent on penalizing farmers for everyday operations. Administrator Jackson strongly disputed that allegation in her announcement that EPA would not expand ambient air quality standards to include dust from agricultural operations. In a nod to environmental advocates, Jackson defended EPA’s record, writing:
“It is well established that particulate matter emissions are linked to premature death and numerous adverse health impacts. We have been making steady progress in reducing emissions of particulate matter… for more than two decades, improving the public health of Americans while the economy has continued to grow.”
EPA’s announcement was met with a mix of cautious optimism and jubilation in farm country. Nebraska Senator and former USDA Secretary Mike Johanns said the EPA ruling was a “victory” for agriculture and pledged to abandon a congressional amendment that would force EPA’s hand on the dust issue.
National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson acknowledged what he called the end of “considerable anxiety” in farm country of the pending dust regulation. Johnson said:
“We hope this action finally puts to rest the misinformation regarding dust regulation and eases the minds of farmers and ranchers across the country.”
In issuing its decision this week, EPA officials dubbed the long-standing discussion over farm dust regulation a myth pervasive throughout rural America.