The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule exempting livestock farmers from reporting to state and local authorities the routine emissions from their farms.
“The rule announced today is the final piece in the implementation of the FARM Act, which passed Congress earlier this year and which eliminated the need for livestock farmers to estimate and report to the federal government emissions from the natural breakdown of manure,” said Jim Heimerl, president of the National Pork Producers Council, a pork producer from Johnstown, Ohio. “That bipartisan measure was approved because it was unnecessary and impractical for farmers to waste their time and resources alerting government agencies that there are livestock on farms.”
The Fair Agricultural Reporting Method, or FARM, Act fixed a problem created last April when a U.S. Court of Appeals rejected a 2008 EPA rule that exempted farmers from reporting routine farm emissions under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). Commonly known as the “Superfund Law,” CERCLA is used primarily to clean hazardous waste sites but also includes a mandatory federal reporting component.
The appeals court ruling would have forced tens of thousands of livestock farmers to “guesstimate” and report the emissions from manure on their farms to the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Response Center and subjected them to citizen lawsuits from activist groups.
EPA’s latest proposed rule would exempt farmers from reporting to state and local first responders under the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) — an adjunct to CERCLA — that they have “hazardous” emissions on their farms.
“The pork industry wants regulations that are practical and effective, but applying CERCLA and EPCRA to livestock farms would be neither,” Heimerl said. “Pork producers are very strong stewards of the environment and have taken many actions over the years to protect it.”
As evidence: The pork industry and other livestock sectors are working closely with state and local emergency response agencies to ensure they receive information about farms that is useful, and yesterday Smithfield Foods announced new projects to help the company reach its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 25% by 2025.
The world’s largest pork producer and hog processor is expanding its “Smithfield Renewables” platform — its industry-leading carbon reduction and renewable energy efforts — to help meet that goal. It will implement over the next 10 years, for example, manure-to-energy projects at 90% of its hog finishing spaces in North Carolina and Utah and at nearly all finishing spaces in Missouri and convert existing anaerobic lagoons to covered digesters, or construct new covered digesters, to capture biogas.