Ag groups are pushing back against rumors that the Build Back Better bill being crafted by Democrats on Capitol Hill would impose an emissions tax on livestock that would cost more than some of the animals are worth.

The $3.5 trillion reconciliation package approved by the House Budget Committee last weekend includes a methane tax provision targeted at the oil and gas industry. The text of the bill contains a fee of $1,500 per ton of methane emitted by petroleum and natural gas facilities.

But recent comments by some House Republicans led to a concern among some producers that the provision would result in a tax of $6,500 per dairy cow, $2,600 per beef cow, and $500 per pig.

Last week, Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., used those figures in a column on his website decrying the Democrats' budget reconciliation package, saying the taxes would “run ranchers out of business.” Republicans earlier used the House Energy and Commerce Committee's deliberations on the legislation to push amendments intended to ensure farmers and ranchers would be exempted from such a tax. Mullin is a member of the committee. 

The issue stems from an analysis conducted by the American Farm Bureau Federation that has been used by GOP members of Congress in their opposition to the methane tax. Sam Kieffer, AFBF’s vice president for public affairs, said in a statement the economic analysis was requested by congressional committee staff “to determine the potential impact if agriculture were to be included in legislation imposing such a tax.

“We did so based on the formula set forth in legislative proposals that impose a methane tax on the oil and gas sectors,” he said. “We believe this analysis was informative and helpful in demonstrating that such a tax would have been devastating to agriculture.”

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Kieffer also noted “the current language of the reconciliation bill does not impose a methane tax on agriculture.”

Danielle Beck, a senior executive director of government affairs with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, agreed that the existing language in the bill “would not grant EPA the authority to impose fees on any industry not referenced in that specific provision.”

According to Benjamin Zycher, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, the provision would “impose a ‘fee’ on methane emissions from natural gas and petroleum systems and related process, but not on such emissions from agricultural and other operations.”

Kieffer said AFBF is “grateful to lawmakers for recognizing the thin margins in agriculture and that such a tax would undoubtedly put family farms out of business. We are especially grateful to the Senate for passing an amendment that specifically exempts agriculture.”

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