Although rumors are circulating that refer to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) attempt to regulate farm dust as a myth, a hearing hosted by Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power cleared up what many call profound misconceptions.
Testifying on behalf of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association was Steve Foglesong, immediate past president of the organization and a rancher from Astoria, Ill. Foglesong said ranchers are pleased EPA has decided not to propose to lower the standard for coarse particulate matter (dust) this year but the issue is far from resolved.
He said EPA does not have a consistent track record of doing what it proposes.
In fact, in 1996 EPA proposed to remove the dust standard altogether, only to bring it back in the final rule. In 2006, EPA proposed to exempt farm dust. That exemption also disappeared in the final rule.
Foglesong said even if EPA retains the current dust standard, the opportunity remains for the agency to tighten it in the future. Unless Congress passes the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act, he said that threat remains. Chairman Whitfield said family farmers and ranchers need flexible, science-based regulations, rather than an EPA guessing game.
“EPA’s unprecedented wave of stringent and inflexible regulations pose a serious threat to the economy,” said Whitfield. “Now, this overly aggressive EPA has discussed focusing their efforts on family farms under the guise of revising the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particulate matter.
“With record high unemployment and deficits, it is beyond understanding as to why EPA would even think about regulating farm dust.”
Foglesong testified that the regulation of dust under the Clean Air Act (CAA) is supposed to be based on a finding by scientists of adverse health effects. Historically, he said there has been no evidence of adverse health effects from farm dust at ambient levels. But EPA has decided to regulate it anyway. In 2006, EPA based its decision on the precautionary principle.
“That’s right, EPA’s dust regulation is not based on science but on caution,” said Foglesong.
“In an effort to bring a little common sense back into the process, cattlemen believe the best solution is for Congress to pass the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act of 2011. That way regulatory decisions regarding dust will be left to state and local government instead of the federal one-size-fits-all approach.”
He cautioned that no one can be sure of the outcome of the rulemaking until it is final.
Foglesong still worries about the future since the CAA requires the standard come under scrutiny every five years. He said the only way to provide certainty to farmers and ranchers is for Congress to pass the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act introduced in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
“The fact is, farmers and ranchers want and need certainty about this issue. Regulatory uncertainty is unnecessary and unproductive,” said Foglesong.
“If EPA follows through and does not revise the dust standard, such an action would only provide us with certainty for five years. It provides no relief to those producers who are spending more than $1,000 per day on dust control measures right now.
“We need immediate, permanent relief from federal dust regulation on farms. And cattlemen believe the best way to achieve that is by passing the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act.”
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