“FARM” Act Introduced to Help Livestock Farmers and Ranchers

February 13, 2018 04:33 PM
 
The Fair Agricultural Reporting Method, or FARM Act, was introduced on Tuesday by Deb Fischer (R-Neb). It is being supported by other key Senators, including Pat Roberts (R-Kan).

The Fair Agricultural Reporting Method, or FARM Act, was introduced on Tuesday by Deb Fischer (R-Neb). It is co-sponsored by 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans, including Pat Roberts (R-Kan), chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.

The bi-partisan legislation would exempt air emissions from animal waste from being subject to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, commonly known as the Superfund Law) reporting requirements.

“Nothing in this Act or an amendment made by this Act affects, or supersedes or modifies the responsibility or authority of any Federal official or employee to comply with or enforce, any requirement under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (42 U.S.C. 9601 et seq.), other than the hazardous substance notification requirements under section 103 of that Act (42 U.S.C. 9603) with respect to air emissions from animal waste at farms,” the Act states.

Click here to read the legislation.

Recent court action has delayed the reporting requirements from taking effect until May 1, allowing time for Congress to craft a legislative solution to protect farmers and ranchers who were never intended to be subject to this requirement, a release from Senator Roberts stated.

“Without Congressional action, livestock and poultry farms that emit hydrogen sulfide and ammonia emissions from animal waste in excess of 100 pounds per day will be required to report these emissions under CERCLA,” Roberts’ release said. “This threshold translates to farms with roughly 200 head of cattle or a pig farm with two swine finishing barns potentially be subject to the reporting requirement. A recent D.C. Circuit decision involving the CERCLA reporting standards has prompted this requirement that will leave many livestock and poultry producers struggling to comply.”

The CERCLA provisions in question were originally enacted to address accidental hazardous air emission emergencies from toxic waste sites. To make this clear, in 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a rule to clarify that farms were exempt from CERCLA reporting and small farms, in particular, were exempt from EPCRA reporting, given that low-level livestock emissions are not the kind of "releases" that Congress intended to manage with these laws.

However, because of the recent court decision, the CERCLA law soon would require farms to generate reports, which many ag groups believe regulatory agencies do not want and will not use. That’s why a change to the underlying law is necessary.

According to the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), some farmers tried filing reports last November, but the NRC system “was overwhelmed,” the organization said. “In some instances, NRC operators refused to accept reports for more than a single farm per call because they didn’t want phone lines tied up, and in one case, an operator sent notices to more than 20 state and federal response authorities, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a state police agency, after receiving a report.”

“I’ve heard from Kansas farmers and ranchers that, unless Congress acts, they will be subject to another burdensome and unnecessary reporting requirement that costs time, money, and paperwork,” Roberts said in the release from his office. “In fact, more than 100,000 operations across the nation would be forced to abide by this reporting requirement that was never intended to affect agriculture. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to act swiftly on this legislation and to get these producers the help they need.”

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) was pleased with the legislation as well.

“CERCLA was never intended to be applied in this way to dairy farms,” said NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern. “Congress needs to stipulate that this burdensome regulatory overreach serves no legitimate health or safety purpose, and needs to stop.”

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) also applauded the action on Tuesday.

“There’s not a lot of truly bipartisan legislation in Washington these days, but one thing that pretty much everybody can agree on is that a responsibly-run cattle ranch isn’t a toxic Superfund site,” said fifth-generation California rancher and NCBA President Kevin Kester. “On behalf of cattle producers across America, I want to sincerely thank the Senators from both parties who worked together to introduce this bipartisan bill. I also want to encourage other Senators to join the effort and pass this bill as quickly as possible.”

“Routine emissions from hog manure do not constitute a ‘hazardous’ emergency that requires the Coast Guard to activate a national cleanup response,” said NPPC President Ken Maschhoff, a pork producer from Carlyle, Ill., “We’re extremely grateful to the cosponsors of the FARM Act for their leadership and common sense on this issue.

“NPPC calls on Congress to pass the commonsense, bipartisan Fischer-Donnelly bill, FARM Act,” Maschhoff added, “and we thank all the senators who have joined this effort.”

Maschhoff said the pork industry was prepared to comply with the reporting mandate, “but EPA, the Coast Guard and state and local emergency response authorities said they didn’t want or need the information, which could have interfered with their legitimate emergency functions.”

Initial cosponsors of the FARM Act are U.S. Sens. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), and Tina Smith (D-Minn.).

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