The Montana Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) is closely watching the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) new rules for the Clean Air Act that would force small emitters of greenhouse gas to obtain permits. EPA estimates the average cost to obtain a permit would be more than $23,000. This means the expense of obtaining permits would cost agriculture more than $866 million. Even small farms would fall under this permitting process, “small” meaning 25 dairy cows, 50 beef cattle or 200 hogs. EPA estimates that more than 37,000 farms that emit between 100 and 25,000 tons of alleged greenhouse gases per year would be subject to the permitting requirements.
MFBF District 5 Director Mack Cole expressed strong dismay at this news. “I have a small cattle and horse ranch, and having to get an expensive permit to operate would really hurt our business. I’m worried that once you get the permit, the EPA would then start fining you because they claim you are not doing this or that. My family has been raising animals on our land for 115 years, and I can assure you we take good care of the environment. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t still be in the business.”
The EPA administrator is claiming livestock emissions won’t be regulated, but there is nothing in the statute that grants the administrator power to exempt livestock. Even if livestock are exempt, over-regulation of power companies will hurt agriculture in general.
The Hysham rancher says over-regulation of larger entities, such as coal-fired energy plants, is even a threat to farmers and ranchers. “These plants are already well-regulated. The fact they’d have to comply with yet another set of rules could mean they’ll either pass the outrageous costs on to their customers or simply shut down. Right now, our two energy plants in Colstrip are having this dilemma and are shut down. I understand rates would go up two to three times more than what they are now if the company is to comply with these unnecessary regulations,” Cole explains.
Cole is incredulous about closures. “I’ve lived around power stations, coal mines and coal trains for all of my life and have not been harmed,” he says. “Some of these activist groups want to shut down all natural gas and coal energy production. Farming and ranching is energy intensive. How are we supposed to produce food without abundant, affordable energy?”
“I supposed my greatest irritation with EPA regulating greenhouse gases is carbon-dioxide is not a pollutant. It’s what you exhale every time you breathe out. It galls me other countries that have dirty industries that really do pollute go unregulated while American agriculture and businesses with clean technology are regulated to the point they can’t stay in business. It makes no sense,” Cole concludes.