Legislation strongly supported by the National Pork Producers Council, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, The National Turkey Federation, National Chicken Council, U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, and United Egg Producers was introduced today to exempt farmers from reporting to the U.S. Coast Guard emissions from the natural breakdown of manure on their farms.
Led by Sens. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., and Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and Ranking Member Tom Carper, D-Del., the bipartisan “Fair Agricultural Reporting Method (FARM) Act” would fix a problem created last April when a U.S. Court of Appeals rejected a 2008 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule that exempted farmers from reporting routine farm emissions under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA).
CERCLA, more commonly known as the “Superfund Law,” is used primarily to clean hazardous waste sites but also includes a mandatory federal reporting component.
The appeals court ruling would have forced more than 100,000 livestock farmers to “guesstimate” and report the emissions from manure on their farms to the Coast Guard’s National Response Center (NRC) and subjected them to abusive and harassing citizen suits from activist groups such as the Humane Society of the United States.
“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 19 cosponsors of the FARM Act for their leadership and common sense on this issue.”
“EPA exempted farms from CERCLA reporting because it knew responses would be unnecessary and impractical. Frankly, the court created a problem where none existed.”
“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.”
“This is significant breakthrough legislation restoring CERCLA reporting to its intended purpose, a united legislative effort that has been nearly 15 years in the making, and we appreciate their swift action on behalf of America’s turkey, chicken and egg farmers,” said the poultry organizations in a joint statement. “Marking a bi-partisan level of cooperation, the bill demonstrates strong support from both Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to clarify Congress’ intent.”
Joining Fischer, Donnelly, Barrasso and Carper as cosponsors of the bill are Sens. Bob Casey, D-Pa., Chris Coons, D-Del., Joni Ernst, R-Iowa., Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., John Hoeven, R-N.D., Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Clair McCaskill, D-Mo., Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Mike Rounds, R-S.D., Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Tina Smith, D-Minn., Mark Warner, D-Va., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss.
The appeals court’s April decision originally set a Nov. 15, 2017, deadline for as many as 200,000 farms to report emissions. After petitions from EPA – supported by NPPC motions – the court twice delayed that deadline, with the most recent postponement until May 1.
Some farmers tried filing reports Nov. 15, but the NRC system was overwhelmed. 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.
“The pork industry was prepared to comply with the reporting mandate,” Maschhoff said,” 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.”
The poultry groups are also hopeful a companion version of the FARM Act will be introduced soon for timely consideration in the U.S. House of Representatives.