Fischer introduces bipartisan livestock proposal

Sen. Deb Fischer's official photo (Sen. Deb Fischer/US Senate)

Sen. Deb Fischer says she wants to bring certainty to farmers and ranchers, as she introduces the FARM Act with bipartisan support.

Fischer is joined by Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), and Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.).

They have titled the bill the Fair Agricultural Reporting Method (FARM) Act. Fischer said it would protect livestock producers "from burdensome EPA reporting requirements for animal waste emissions."

Fischer said the requirements were not intended to affect livestock production, but said the rules instead were designed to deal with dangerous industrial pollution, chemical plant explosions, and the release of hazardous materials into the environment.

“Nebraska agriculture producers should be able to focus on doing their job of feeding the world without unnecessary distractions. These reporting requirements were designed to apply to industrial pollution and toxic chemicals, not animal waste on a farm or a ranch. Our legislation makes it clear that agriculture is exempt from these requirements and ensures producers in this country can continue to operate as they have been since 2008,” said Senator Fischer, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW).

Steve Nelson of Axtell, president of Nebraska Farm Bureau applauded the effort. He said, "Both the Bush and Obama administrations supported a rule exempting farms from these reporting requirements, yet activist groups successfully blocked those rules and their corresponding exemptions through legal action last year. This regulation... was founded in law and intended to address hazardous waste from Superfund sites, not air emissions from farm animals."

“Treating farms, ranches and small livestock operations like Superfund sites is not what Congress intended when it passed CERCLA. These programs were enacted to clean up land that has been identified by the EPA as hazardous or contaminated and make certain America’s communities can safely manage hazardous substances. They were not intended to be imposed on family farming operations, who are working to use the best science in order to produce enough food and fuel for a growing global population. Our bill codifies this intent into law to prevent activist interest groups from attempting to redefine congressional intent related to CERCLA in the future,” said Senator Rounds, a member of the EPW Committee.

“I’ve heard from Kansas farmers and ranchers that, unless Congress acts, they will be subject to another burdensome and unnecessary regulation that costs time, money, and paperwork. 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,” said Senate Roberts, the Chairman of the Agriculture Committee.

“North Dakota’s farmers and ranchers work hard every day to keep our rural communities strong, especially in times of hardship like drought and low commodity prices,” Heitkamp said. “The last thing they need is uncertainty and overly burdensome regulations, so this bipartisan effort would give more clarity to livestock producers and support the men and women who are the backbone of our farm economy,” said Senator Heitkamp, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

The senators say the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) are existing laws that require entities to give notice when they release large quantities of hazardous materials. In 2008, the EPA published a final rule exempting most livestock operations from the laws’ reporting requirements.

In April 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled EPA did not have the authority to create this exemption for agriculture, creating confusion and uncertainty for America’s ag producers.

Steve Nelson of Nebraska Farm Bureau said, "Without a fix to this regulatory problem, as many as 200,000 farms and ranches across America would be required to report their daily emissions, or face fines of up to $54,000 per day, as well as face the threat of activist lawsuits for failure to report. It is critical Congress acts to address this important issue. We thank Sen. Fischer for bringing much needed attention to the matter and for bringing forth legislation that provides a means for Congress to act."

The FARM Act would:

• Maintain the exemption for certain federally registered pesticides from reporting requirements within CERCLA.

• Exempt air emissions from animal waste on a farm from reporting requirements under CERCLA.

• Provide agriculture producers with greater certainty by reinstating the status quo producers have been operating under since EPA’s 2008 final rule.

Click here to read the full text of the FARM Act.

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