Methane emissions: New bill protects producers from EPA overregulation
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Chief Counsel Mary-Thomas Hart discussed the Livestock Regulatory Protection Act on Sept. 10 during a NCBA Beltway Beef podcast. The bill introduced in Congress by Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), John Boozman (R-AR) and Mark Kelly (D-AZ) would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating the naturally occurring emissions from cattle operations.
“These four senators share a common interest in letting the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations and the Senate know they do not believe agriculture and livestock production should be regulated by the Clean Air Act (CAA),” says Hart. “We were really happy with the message being carried to the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.”
Currently, ag producers are not subject to CAA regulation because there are no emissions emitted by agricultural producers subject to CAA regulation.
“Farms and ranches emit ammonia, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and small trace amounts of other air pollutants, not to the extent they are subject to federal regulation, but we know as each administration considers more and more carefully how they use the CAA as a tool to combat climate change, the risk increases when it comes to regulating farmers and ranchers with the CAA,” says Hart.
Hart says there needs to be an approach of finding solutions for a problem before it really impacts producers across the country, and the Livestock Regulatory Protection Act is a good example of this.
“Additionally, the bill sends a signal to the appropriations committees in the Senate and the House that there are two provisions which have been included in every appropriations package since 2009, and maintaining those provisions is key to keeping farmers and ranchers out of the realm of CAA regulation,” she says.
“It also keeps the EPA in line and makes sure they’re not unnecessarily using the CAA to regulate farms and ranches,” Hart says.
Methane and GHG emissions primarily come from the animal themselves – not from management or industrial happenings – especially on a beef cattle operation, says Hart.
“Producers can have cattle on grass or out on pasture emitting the same amount of methane as an animal in a feeding operation,” she says. “Methane emission from livestock is a natural process.”
Other emissions emitted on a farm or ranch include ammonia emissions from animal waste and dust emissions from a feeding operation. Hart says NCBA wants to ensure ag producers are not unnecessarily regulated by the CAA.
“American agricultural producers get pulled into this global conversation about climate change and GHG emissions and producers get blamed for contributing significantly to climate change using global data sets, but those global data sets really don’t apply to American ag production and beef production because producers have truly mastered the art of sustainable beef production,” says Hart.
Producers strive to become more efficient in their production practices and strive to raise the most efficient animals possible, she mentions.
“This not only makes our industry more economically sustainable, but more environmentally sustainable as well,” Hart says.
Hart says NCBA’s goal is to always ensure producers have the freedom and flexibility to innovate.
“We appreciate when there are resources available to assist farmers and producers in implementing those innovative practices,” she says. “Whether it’s for a U.S. Department of Agriculture voluntary conservation program or a state and local conservation program, we appreciate the assistance of those programs, but I think at our core we want to make sure whatever a cattle producer wants to do with their land and animals, they have the freedom to do it effectively.”
She says producers should always be granted access to the tools which can maximize the potential of their operation.
“Innovative grazing practices, innovative feeding practices, the genetics producers choose for their herd – those are all tools in a rancher’s toolbox,” Hart says. “We want to make sure the federal government doesn’t get in the way of a rancher using every tool available.”
Kaitlyn Root is an editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.