Cattlemen Applaud Introduction of Strong Bipartisan Bill in U.S. Senate

Ten Republicans, Ten Democrats Join Together As Initial Co-Sponsors on Fischer-Donnelly FARM Act

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) applauded the introduction of bipartisan legislation in the U.S. Senate that would prevent farms, ranches, and other agricultural operations from having to report livestock manure data under CERCLA, the law that governs toxic Superfund sites. The bipartisan bill was introduced earlier this week with the support of 10 Republican co-sponsors and 10 Democratic cosponsors.

“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.”

Initial bipartisan cosponsors of Fair Agricultural Reporting Method Act (or, 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.).

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) was enacted to provide for cleanup of the worst industrial chemical toxic waste dumps and spills, such as oil spills and chemical tank explosions. CERCLA was never intended to govern agricultural operations, for whom emissions from livestock are a part of everyday life.

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.

Upon being sued in 2009 by environmental advocacy groups, the Obama Administration’s EPA defended the exemption in court on the grounds that CERCLA and EPCRA do not explicitly exempt farms because Congress never believed that agriculture would be covered under these statutes, so a specific statutory exemption was not viewed to be necessary. Unfortunately, in April 2017, the D.C. Circuit Court vacated the EPA’s 2008 exemption, putting nearly 200,000 farms and ranches under the regulatory reporting authorities enshrined in CERCLA and EPCRA. The new reporting requirements could have gone into effect on Jan. 22, but the Court delayed implementation of the requirements until May 1, 2018, which gives Congress time to act.

NCBA in January kicked off a media campaign on the issue with an online video featuring the group’s Chief Environmental Counsel, Scott Yager. In the video, Yager donned a yellow hazmat suit and explained the issue at an actual toxic Superfund site near Fredericksburg, Virginia. He then shows the contrast between the contaminated Superfund site and a cattle farm in nearby Louisa County, Virginia, that would likely have to comply with the new reporting requirements.

“This is most certainly not a toxic Superfund site,” Yager explained from the Virginia cow pasture. “Unfortunately, a recent court decision may force cattle producers and other agricultural operations to report a bunch of information about their cow poop to the federal government under the Superfund laws that were only meant to deal with toxic waste. That is unless Congress acts soon.”

Source: NCBA

Wyoming Rancher testifies before U.S. Senate Committee, calls for less regulation

Today Niels Hansen, Secretary/Treasurer of the Public Lands Council and a member of NCBA, testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works to explain how onerous federal regulations undermine conservation goals.

“Cattle producers pride themselves on being good stewards of our country’s natural resources. We maintain open spaces, healthy rangelands, provide wildlife habitat and feed the world. Despite these critical contributions, our ability to effectively steward these resources is all too often hampered by excessive federal regulations like the ones we are discussing today,” Mr. Hansen said in written testimony.

Ranchers own and manage more land than any other segment of agriculture, implementing proven conservation practices that have sustained the environment for generations. Mr. Hansen highlighted how specific laws and regulations pose challenges to this rich heritage:

  • The 2015 Waters of the United States Rule: “As a livestock producer, the 2015 WOTUS Rule has the potential to negatively affect every aspect of my operation by placing the regulation of every tributary, stream, pond, and dry streambed in the hands of the federal government, rather the states and localities that understand Wyoming’s unique water issues.”
  • CERCLA/EPCRA reporting: “Congress never intended these laws to govern everyday farm and ranch activity. When the mandate issues, nearly 200,000 farmers and ranchers will be on the hook to report low-level livestock manure odors to the government.”
  • Endangered Species Act: “Cattle producers throughout the country continue to suffer the brunt of regulatory and economic uncertainty due to the abuse of the Endangered Species Act…Years of abusive litigation by radical environmental groups have taken a toll, and the result is a system badly in need of modernization.”

Mr. Hansen – a third-generation rancher and industry leader in environmental stewardship – asked Congress to empower ranchers and local land managers by reducing the regulatory burdens they face.

“By freeing our industry from overly burdensome federal regulations and allowing us to provide the kind of stewardship and ecosystem services only we can, you will do more for healthy ecosystems and environments than top down restrictions from Washington ever can,” he said.