penned beef cattle
PASSING GAS: A new federal regulation would require regularly reporting waste emissions from livestock.

Livestock waste emission reporting is in the air

Congress should head off a new EPA rule that would require farmers to report livestock manure gas emissions.

Did you know that you might have to report animal waste emissions from your farm or ranch in the future?

First, you’d have to file a report establishing the long-term continuous emission of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide from your farm based on the number of animals and the type of feeding system and manure management system you have. You’d have to count livestock in pastures, too.

Then, throughout the year, you’d have to file reports when emissions spiked above your continuous emission level.

The requirement would apply to farms and ranches with as few as a couple hundred head of cattle.

EPA had exempted most farms from having to file such reports. But some environmental groups sued, arguing that farms should be included. A federal court recently ruled in their favor. Now, the industry is waiting for the judge to issue a mandate on when the reporting should begin.

If this sounds complicated, you’re right. It is. In my opinion, EPA properly exempted farms and ranches. The original law seemed to be for factories handling dangerous chemicals — not manure. It’s too bad that the court ruled against EPA.

A group of U.S. senators — including those from the Dakotas — are trying to change the law. You might say they are trying to clear the air. They introduced a bill called the Fair Agricultural Reporting Method Act. The legislation spells out that farmers and ranchers are exempt from reporting requirements for animal waste emissions under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-know Act.

“During a time of continued low commodity prices, the last thing any farmer or rancher in this country needs is the added costs that the burdensome reporting requirements under CERCLA and EPCRA will bring,” says Chuck Conner, president and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, in a statement released by his office. “NCFC urges the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to take up the FARM Act at the earliest opportunity. Any unnecessary delay risks adding new burdens for farmers across the U.S.”

Amen to that.

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