Efforts to exempt ranchers and concentrated animal feeding operations from air emissions reporting requirements took a step forward Wednesday with the introduction of a bill in the House that boasts 85 co-sponsors.
Representatives Billy Long, R-Mo., and Jim Costa, D-Calif., are the lead co-sponsors on the bill, called the Agricultural Certainty for Reporting Emissions (ACRE) Act. The bill would, like the Senate bill introduced last month, exempt animal operations from reporting manure emissions under the Superfund law – also known as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA).
Industry groups quickly praised the new bill and expressed hope it would be enacted before May 1, when a court decision that could affect hundreds of thousands of producers and companies nationwide is expected to go into effect.
"CERCLA was never intended to regulate cow manure, and Congress should fix this situation as soon as possible," the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Kevin Kester said in a press release. The National Turkey Federation, National Chicken Council, U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, and United Egg Producers also issued a release “applauding” the introduction of the legislation.
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling last year that found that in 2008, EPA illegally exempted all animal feeding operations from CERCLA requirements and all but the largest operations from reporting requirements under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). The court has delayed its ruling from taking effect multiple times, most recently Feb. 1, when it stayed the issuance of its mandate until May 1.
In guidance issued in October, EPA excluded farms engaged in “routine agricultural operations” from reporting under EPCRA. “If a farm only uses substances in ‘routine agricultural operations,’ the farm would not be a facility that produces, uses or stores ‘hazardous chemicals,’ and would therefore not be within the universe of facilities which are subject to EPCRA section 304 release reporting,” EPA said then.
House and Senate members are looking to include the emissions bill in the omnibus spending bill that Congress is looking to pass before March 23, when the latest continuing resolution to fund the government runs out.
NCBA said the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee may mark up its emissions bill, the Fair Agricultural Reporting Method (FARM) Act, S. 2421, “as soon as next week.” EPW Chairman John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said the FARM bill is a prime candidate for inclusion in the omnibus spending bill.
That bill currently has 37 co-sponsors, 23 Republicans and 14 Democrats, the latest of whom was Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., ranking member on the Agriculture Committee. Of the House bill’s 85 co-sponsors, 15 are Democrats.
Barrasso’s comments on the bill came after a hearing at which EPW heard testimony on Barrasso’s own ACRE Act – the Agriculture Creates Real Employment Act, which includes the FARM Act and a number of other bills sought by the agricultural industry, which he said are candidates for inclusion in the farm bill.
In addition to S. 2421, those bills include:
- S. 1206, to ensure fair treatment in licensing requirements for the export of certain echinoderms (sponsored by Sen. Angus King, I-Maine) – 1 co-sponsor;
- S. 478, the Hunter and Farmer Protection Act (sponsored by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.) – 3 bipartisan co-sponsors;
- S. 340, the Sensible Environmental Protection Act (sponsored by Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho) – 18 bipartisan co-sponsors;
- S. 1343 (from the 113th Congress), the Farmer Identity Protection Act (sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa) – 5 bipartisan co-sponsors in the 113th Congress;
- H.R. 5961 (from the 112th Congress), the Farmer’s Privacy Act (sponsored by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V.) – 14 bipartisan co-sponsors in the 112th Congress;
- S. 219, Safeguard Aquaculture Farmers Act (sponsored by Cotton) – 5 co-sponsors; and
- S. 1207, the Farmers Undertake Environmental Land Stewardship (FUELS) Act (sponsored by Fischer) – 8 co-sponsors.
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