Current Edition

current edition

Government

On Oct. 30, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed a proposal to exempt agriculture from reporting under the Emergency Planning Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA).

“This proposed rule is intended to make it clear to the regulated community that animal waste emissions from farms do not need to be reported under EPCRA,” said Andrew Wheeler. “This action provides much-needed certainty and clarity to America’s farmers and ranchers. It also ensures our emergency response officials are focusing their time and resources on hazardous waste emergencies and not routine animal waste.” 

Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, who hosted Wheeler in his home state, noted, “Farmers and ranchers continue to face numerous challenges, and the removal of this unnecessary and burdensome regulation is welcome news for producers across our state.”

Further, Moran said, “It was never the intent of Congress for normal odors from animal waste on farms to fall under our nation’s emergency hazardous waste reporting requirements.”

“Acting Administrator Wheeler announced a new rule proposal that would de-regulate emissions reporting for agriculture,” said National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Environmental Counsel Scott Yager. “This is something we have been fighting for some time.” 

This issue stems back to May 2017, when the D.C. Circuit Court vacated EPA’s 2008 regulatory exemption for livestock reporting under EPCRA. Following that court action, the Trump EPA issued guidance stating reporting still does not need to occur from livestock producers based on EPA’s interpretation of EPCRA.

In March 2018, Congress passed legislation that exempted producers from CERCLA reporting, and the Oct. 31 EPCRA exemption provides relief from an additional reporting. 

CERCLA, or superfund, was enacted by Congress in 1980 to manage hazardous waste in solid waste landfills, explains Yager. Local municipal waste landfills are regulated under CERCLA, and they must report hazardous waste to the Coast Guard. 

“EPCRA is an amendment to the superfund that requires certain reporting to the state and local level,” Yager says. “Under EPCRA, the same information reported to the Coast Guard under CERCLA must be reported to state and local emergency responders under EPCRA.” 

The exemption provides welcome relief for farmers and ranchers across the country. 

Read the proposed rule at epa.gov/sites/production/files/2018-10/documents/proposed_epcra_amendment_signed_10-30-18.pdf. Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Cheyenne – An EPA rule regarding spill prevention control and countermeasures (SPCC) came into effect on Nov. 10, 2011, and Wyoming Ag Business Association and Wyoming Wheat Marketing Commission Executive Director Keith Kennedy urged producers at Wyoming Farm Bureau’s Annual Legislative Meeting to be aware of laws and develop a spill control plan.
    The meeting was held in Cheyenne on Feb. 27 and 28.
    Kennedy said there was some confusion by producers as to when plans were required to be in place.
    “The rule was revised in 2002, and farms were exempted until Nov. 10, 2011,” explained Kennedy. “There is some confusion over compliance, because operations that started after Aug. 17, 2002 were exempted until May 2013.”
Compliance with the rule
    Operations with more than 1,320 gallons of oil products are required by the rule to have a SPCC plan and to perform monthly tank inspections. Kennedy reminded producers to make sure they include all oil products when totaling the number of gallons of product that are subject to the rule on their property.
    “Any product that makes a sheen when dropped on water counts,” said Kennedy. “Crop oil concentrate, diesel tanks and an irrigation well or waste oil all count.”
    While oils that are in equipment don’t count, there is a special provision requiring all mobile refuelers, meaning fuel tanks in the back of trucks, with over 55-gallon capacity count.
    “Anything in a container at or about 55 gallons is counted toward the 10,000-gallon limit,” Kennedy noted. “Any container under 55 gallons doesn’t count.”
    Along with having an SPCC plan, producers are required to document monthly inspections using a checklist, and Kennedy added that regular inspections of tanks are logical.
    “Think about how much you have invested in a 10,000 gallon tank of diesel,” said Kennedy. “It makes sense to check them out monthly, and it’s probably a good idea.”
    Each tank is also required to have a secondary containment system with a capacity of 110 percent of the largest tank to accommodate any potential spills.  
    Kennedy added that if producers do have a spill, it is necessary to report to four entities, including the National Response Center, Regional EPA Office, State Emergency Planning Committee and the Local Emergency Planning Committee.
    “The threshold for reportable spills is 42 gallons three times a year or one spill of 1,000 gallons,” added Kennedy.
Creating a plan
    The type of SPCC plan required by each operation depends on the amount of product subject to the rule that is present on the property.
    Operation with less than 10,001 gallons of oil on their property have the option to self-certify a SPCC plan, and the Asmark Institute provides an online tool at asmark.org/mySPCC to develop a plan.
    In creating an SPCC plan, Kennedy noted that there are two tiers of self-certification. Tier I includes operations that do not have a single tank with 5,000-gallon capacity or more, while Tier II represents producers with one tank over 5,000 gallons.
    “If you have more than 10,000 gallons of product subject to the rule, you must have a plan certified by a professional engineer,” explained Kennedy, who encouraged producers to shop around when looking for an engineer. “Prices range from $1,200 to $8,000 to create a plan.”
    “The only time the rule will be actively enforced is if you actually have a spill,” added Kennedy. “If that spill gets reported, the EPA will ask if you have a plan, and if you don’t, you will be subject to a fine of $37,500 per day. It is worth taking an hour or two to put a plan in place.”
    To create a SPCC plan, visit asmark.org/mySPCC. Saige Albert is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Spill prevention has long history
    According to Wyoming Ag Business Association Executive Director and Wyoming Wheat Marketing Commission Director Keith Kennedy, spill prevention control and countermeasures (SPCC) have been in place for nearly 40 years.
    “SPCC came into being when the Clean Water Act was enacted in 1973,” explains Kennedy. “Petroleum jobbers that have delivered fuel to ag operations have had to comply with SPCC since then.”
    In 2002, the EPA revised the rule. After nearly 10 months of litigation, the rule requiring farms to also comply with spill control measures was published in the Federal Register, though farms were exempted until Nov. 10, 2011.
    “The only operations who got a “get out of jail free” card were those who started after Aug. 17, 2002,” explains Kennedy, adding that they must comply by May 10, 2013. “After the May deadline, it will be very unlikely that you can get a new fuel tank unless you have an SPCC plan.”



The version of the 2018 Farm Bill passed by the House of Representatives and Senate was signed by Pres. Donald Trump on Dec. 20, and the bill removes restrictions on hemp 

In the bill, hemp is removed from the Controlled Substances Act list of Schedule I substances, where it has been for many years. 

“With the passage and signing of the farm bill, hemp is no longer treated the same as marijuana,” explains Wyoming Department of Agriculture Deputy Director Stacia Berry. “Now that the farm bill is signed, hemp will not have the restrictions it has today as far as interstate commerce. The farm bill fundamentally changes how hemp will be handled going forward. 

Next steps

Berry says, “We already have a state law that legalizes hemp, passed by Wyoming’s Legislature two years ago.” 

“Even if states don’t have laws on the books authorizing hemp growth, the farm bill allows for a federal licensing program that will allow producers in all states to utilize that program and grow hemp,” she adds.

Many of the hurdles hemp was facing when the state statute was passed were alleviated when the farm bill is signed, but Berry notes there are still several steps to take before farmers can grow the crop. 

Regulations

The farm bill also lays out a set of stipulations that must be followed in growing hemp. 

“As it comes off the Controlled Substances Act Schedule I list, USDA is tasked with starting a federal hemp program. Hemp farming will have to be done within the provisions the agency sets,” Berry explains. 

Among those provisions, states can opt to apply for primacy, or primary regulatory authority, and run their own hemp program. However, state programs must be approved by the Secretary of Agriculture at USDA. 

“State plans for primary regulatory authority must be submitted through the state Department of Agriculture in consultation with the Governor and the state’s chief  law enforcement officer,” Berry explains. “The plans must include information on the land where hemp is grown, procedures for testing, procedures for disposing of plants grown in violation of the law, enforcement of the plan, random sampling procedures, certification that the state has resources and personnel to carry out the program and procedures to submit data to the federal government.”

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the compound responsible for the psychological effects of marijuana, and by law, THC concentration in hemp must be less than 0.3 percent. 

Additional state-specific procedures can be included in state plans. 

After announcing they are prepared to accept state plans, USDA has 60 days from receipt of a state plan to work with states and approve plans, and over time, USDA also audits state programs. 

“It will require involvement from a number of key stakeholders to get a plan together,” Berry commented. “In Wyoming, we’ll be working with the Legislature and the new administration, and we’ll have a lot of conversations to put the pieces together for our next steps.”

State, federal programs

At the federal level, USDA will begin working to develop rules and regulations to govern hemp farming. 

“USDA still has to stand up a program, which will take some time,” Berry explains. “We do have a state program on the books, but it hasn’t moved forward because of a lack of funding.”

Additionally, Berry emphasizes, “There are still violation provisions in our statutes that say, if producers grow hemp without a license, it will cost a $750 fine and possibly result in a misdemeanor. We have a program in place, and we’re in a holding pattern right now.”

While she also knows that those producers interested in growing hemp are anxious to get started, Berry encourages Wyoming farmers to stay in tune with listening sessions, public comments sessions and other activities to provide input and stay abreast of new developments.

Berry reminds producers, “Here in Wyoming, this spring, we’ll learn a lot as we have conversations with the Gov.-elect Gordon and the Legislature about the future of growing hemp in Wyoming.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

In 2008, a lawsuit was filed against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) targeting a statute that exempted farmers and ranchers from reporting hazardous emissions released from animal waste.

On April 11, 2017, the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled against EPA, eliminating the reporting exemption for farms under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA). 

“Agriculture was exempted from having to report under CERCLA and EPCRA until now,” says National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Chief Environmental Counsel Scott Yager, noting the court’s decision means a mandate will be issued, forcing producers to report. “We’re expecting the mandate to be issued on Jan. 22.”

He continues, “We’ve delayed the mandates for some time, which has been helpful to producers and to help us build momentum, but we’re getting close to our deadlines now.”

Assuming the mandate is issued, any farm or ranch exceeding the reporting threshold is required to estimate and report their emissions to the U.S. Coast Guard and a regional EPA office.

Law origins

Originally, CERCLA and EPCRA were passed by Congress to report situations that create an acute environmental or public health threat, explains Yager, noting situations like factory explosions or overturned tankers transporting chemicals were envisioned when the law was written. 

Farms and ranches were specifically exempt from reporting in the original law.

“Those same requirements are now going to be applied to farmers and ranchers for typical emissions from animals – the manure odor,” Yager explains. “The chemicals we’re talking about are ammonia and hydrogen sulfide. Environmental groups litigated the law to eliminate the ag exemption. They won last April.” 

Reporting requirements

The regulatory thresholds for emissions of ammonia or hydrogen sulfide is 100 pounds per day per facility under CERCLA and EPCRA.

“What that comes down to in terms of head of cattle, looking at Texas A&M’s estimate, is 208 head,” Yager explains. “University of Nebraska estimates are slightly different, but it’s right around that number. EPA has traditionally regulated around 1,000 head.”

He continues, “Anyone who hits a threshold of 208 head, not limited to just those cattle in confinement, would be required to report hazardous emissions. This is a much broader impact than we’ve ever seen. Because of the breadth of requirements in CERCLA, we’re going to see a big impact in agriculture.”

Process

If the mandate is issued, reporting is a three-step process beginning with an initial report within 24 hours after the mandate is issued.

“For the first report, each producer will have to call the U.S. Coast Guard National Response Center (NRC) and tell them their name, the name of their operation and the city and state where they’re located. They will also have to tell the NRC they are emitting hydrogen sulfide and ammonia due to the natural breakdown of manure.” 

Then, within 30 days, ranchers must submit a more detailed and technical written report to EPA, which includes their estimated upper and lower emissions bounds for hydrogen sulfide and ammonia and other technical information. 

“One year after the mandate is issued, producers have to send a follow-up report with the same information from the written report, verifying a continuous and low-level emission,” Yager explains. “All three steps are required to satisfy reporting requirements.”

Questions

To date, Yager also emphasizes there are a lot of unanswered questions that come into play because the statutes were never meant to regulate agriculture.

“We don’t know how all the ins and outs will play out for agriculture,” Yager says. “We know CERCLA applies to more than feedlots, including cow/calf producers and others, but we don’t have direct answers to a lot of our questions.”

Yager poses questions including whether zoos and wildlife refuges, for example, will be required to report emissions, adding there are currently no answers to these questions.

Fixing CERCLA

To reverse the court’s decision, Yager notes Congressional action will be essential.

“A key player in Congress is Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.). He is chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and the engagement of that committee to craft a solution legislatively is the next step. We’re working on that step right now,” he explains. 

“We’re engaging Sen. Barrasso to help him understand Wyoming’s producers will be affected by this change – and we’re not just talking about big feedlots. This is far beyond just feedlots. We’re going to have a number of smaller cow/calf producers who will also have to report,” Yager continues. “These are requirements that have never before impacted farmers and ranchers. It’s really concerning.”

While Yager notes the agriculture community is working fervently to achieve a Congressional fix, he says there are a number of roadblocks. 

“We want to get this fixed, but we’re under a tight timeline,” he says. “Given Congress needs to pass a funding bill by Jan. 19, it’s a lot to get done.”

However, Yager notes the challenge also provides an opportunity to utilize the appropriations process. Currently, a defunding rider is in place that would de-fund EPA’s enforcement of the agriculture piece of the bill. 

“We’ve done a lot of lobbying and grassroots education, and we’ve worked to keep a rider in the final funding bill for Jan. 19,” he says. “While that’s helpful, it won’t solve the problem, so we need Congress to act.” 

Yager further emphasizes, “Wyoming is a critical piece in fixing CERCLA, particularly given Sen. Barrasso’s relationship to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.”

He encourages producers to contact Barrasso, his staff and the rest of their Congressional delegation to urge them to pursue a congressional fix, to prioritize CERCLA reform and to alleviate the regulatory burden on agriculture.

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Washington, D.C. – Following the approval of H.R. 6083, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2012 (FARRM), by the House Agriculture Committee with a 35-11 vote, Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) reflected on the efforts that contributed to passing a Farm Bill.
    “Today marked an important step forward in the development of the next farm bill,” Lucas noted. “I appreciate the efforts of my colleagues and the bipartisan nature in which this legislation was written and approved.”
    He continued, “This is a balanced, reform-minded, fiscally responsible bill that underscores our commitment to production agriculture and rural America, achieves real savings and improves program efficiency.”
    Peterson similarly noted satisfaction with the process and urged Congress to move forward with the Farm Bill, saying, “I’m pleased today’s markup is behind us and we can continue to move the process forward.”
    “The current farm bill expires on September 30, and there are only 13 legislative days before the August recess. Simply put, the House leadership needs to bring the farm bill to the floor for a vote,” added Peterson. “We should not jeopardize the health of our rural economies, which, by and large, have remained strong the last few years.  Our nation’s farmers and ranchers need the certainty of a new five year farm bill and they need it before the current farm bill ends.”
Concerns with the legislation
    Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack commented that the House bill contains deep cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), claiming that the proposed cuts would deny 280,000 low-income children access to school meals and may reduce farm income across rural America.
    “Unfortunately, the bill produced by the House Agriculture Committee contains deep cuts in SNAP, including a provision that will deny much-needed food assistance to 3 million Americans, mostly low-income working families with children as well as seniors,” Vilsack said.
     “These cuts wouldn’t just leave Americans hungry – they would stunt economic growth,” he continued. “The bill also makes misguided reductions to critical energy and conservation program efforts.”
    A summary provided by the House Agriculture Committee said that cuts made to SNAP strengthen the program’s integrity and accountability, but the issue will likely hinder a speedy passage of the full House.
    The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) also expressed dissatisfaction with the bill due to concern with the risk management programs provided.
    “We feel that there needs to be significant changes made to the legislation,” said NCGA President Garry Niemeyer in a statement. “Our farmers will be working with members of the House of Representatives to ensure those changes are included in a final package.”
A look inside
    H.R. 6083 incorporates $35 billion in cuts, with $14 billion coming from the farm safety net, $6 billion coming from conservation programs and $16 billion from nutrition reforms.
    The FARRM Act also cuts billions in discretionary funding and consolidates or repeals over 100 programs. Consolidation of Title II Conservation programs aims to improve the delivery of conservation by simplifying programs, but will also save money.
    Other features of the FARRM Act include the repeal of direct and countercyclical payments, and the legislation provides regulatory relief to mitigate the burdens on agricultural communities.
    When compared to the Senate version of the bill, fundamental differences, as well as a $12 billion spread in cuts taken, may prove to be obstacles in successfully conferencing the bill, according to analysts.
    For more information on the Farm Bill titles, visit agriculture.house.gov. Saige Albert, editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, compiled this article.