Manure Manager

Features Regional Regulations
Rumored cow tax a hot topic


January 29, 2009
By Marg Land


Topics

The Environmental Protection Agency may be back-pedaling like mad as it
stresses the agency isn’t proposing a cow tax but the issue continues
to be top-of-mind for people within the livestock industry.
The Environmental Protection Agency may be back-pedaling like mad as it stresses the agency isn’t proposing a cow tax but the issue continues to be top-of-mind for people within the livestock industry.

Weeks after the EPA released a prepared statement in early December 2008 denying the government agency is proposing a tax on methane emissions from dairy and beef cattle plus hogs, ag news industry publications, columns and blogs from across North America and the world continue to discuss and debate the issue.

According to a recent article in the Peoria (Illinois) Journal Star, the Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB) is warning its 80,000-plus members to be vigilant of the issue and voice opposition to any possible plans to extend fee and permit systems for greenhouse gas emissions from cattle, hog and poultry operations.

“What we want to do is draw attention to the EPA rulemaking,” Chuck Spenser, director of national legislation and policy development with the IFB is quoted as saying. “Be careful how you set the fee structures and who you impact.”

“This dark cloud of taxation reeks of disrespect for our farmers and has them asking: ‘What kind of ass would do this?’” states Bob Confer, a columnist with the Tonawanda News, in his Dec. 23 article “The cow fart tax really stinks.”

Iowa Congressman Steve King has also weighed in on the issue, stating: “The last thing our federal government needs to address is gas produced by farm animals. Imposing a livestock ‘gas tax’ will increase operating costs for farm producers and drive up prices for consumers. This tax is a cow pie in the face of the livestock industry.”

The New York Farm Bureau (NYFB) recently released calculations of what kind of impact the cow tax might have on U.S. livestock producers: $175 tax per cow for dairy, $87.50 for each head of beef cattle, and $20 per pig.

“Any operation with more than 25 dairy cows, 50 beef cattle or 200 hogs would have to obtain permits,” states a press release from the NYFB, adding these numbers would encompass 99 percent of dairy operations, 90 percent of beef producers and 95 percent of hog operations in New York state alone. “The EPA would force small mom-and-pop dairy operations to seek a permit similar in class to municipal waste incinerators, chemical manufacturers and cement factories.”

“If you place these requirements on … farmers, you will make it virtually impossible to run a viable farm operation,” said NYFB president John Lincoln. “Then, unregulated, large agriculture from China and other countries will step in to fill the void.”

It’s a concern shared by many agriculture officials and farmers who say such a tax will drive most, if not all, U.S. livestock producers out of business without actually doing anything to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Reduction of a ton of greenhouse gases anywhere will make a difference, but if a ton is removed in Iowa and replaced by a ton in China, then no net effect occurred,” said Mark Maslyn, executive director of public policy for the American Farm Bureau Federation. “A livestock tax and regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act will impose restrictions and added costs on the U.S. economy without reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

Time will tell if the EPA goes ahead with its cow tax. With the current stink that’s been raised on this issue, it may be time the agency pops a few Beano tablets and tries to control its own hot air.