The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

Business

November 26, 2008

Cow Tax? EPA looking into regulating greenhouse gases

PALESTINE — An effort to possibly regulate greenhouse gases by the Environmental Protection Agency could have far-reaching effects on the bottom line for local cattle producers.

The EPA has issued an “Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” and in so doing is seeking public comment on a plan to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles under the Clean Air Act, though an EPA spokeswoman said the agency is still in the data collection stage.

If the plan goes through, the American Farm Bureau said it would trigger other provisions of the Clean Air Act which would have a direct impact on agriculture through a cow and pig tax on individual animals.

“Anytime the government wants to do something like this everybody should worry,” said Texas Farm Bureau Director of Commodity and Regulatory Activities Ned Meister.

As Meister explained it, if the EPA determines it should regulate greenhouse gases by automobiles, then other activities are going to fall under the agency’s regulatory umbrella.

“If they are going to regulate automobiles, then they are going to regulate all sources (of greenhouse gases,)” Meister explained. “That includes livestock.”

Cattle and other ruminants produce methane as a natural byproduct of the animal’s digestive process. Methane is considered one of the principal culprits of greenhouse gas emissions.

An activity that produces 100 tons or more of greenhouse gases per year would be subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act, Meister explained.

For operations that size, “there is a permit fee, which is in effect a tax,” Meister explained.

Under the guidelines a dairy with 25 or more head of cattle or a beef-catle operation with 50 or more head of cattle would be subject to a “presumptive minimum rate” permit fee.

The fee for dairy cattle would be $175 per dairy cow and $87.50 for every head of beef cattle.

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