The New York Farm Bureau is joining the debate over the federal government’s plans for regulating greenhouse gas emissions.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this summer published an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, typically a precursor to a proposed rule, calling for comments for the agency’s review of how it would regulate greenhouse gas.
Carbon dioxide and methane are among the gases some scientists believe are causing global warming, and attorneys general in several states, including New York, have been filing court actions against the EPA calling for the agency to either allow state regulations or come up with nationwide standards.
After the 490-plus-page EPA notice was published, the EPA received more than 100,000 responses, according to spokesman John Millet.
There is no rule yet, Millet said, and it’s unclear if the federal agency will ultimately devise one or not.
The work began after a 2007 Supreme Court ruling prompted by a Massachusetts lawsuit calling for greenhouse gas regulations on automobile makers. The Supreme Court ruled that greenhouse gases fall under the purview of the Clean Air Act, enforced by the EPA.
Both the American Farm Bureau and the New York Farm Bureau are calling for farmers to fight any proposed regulations if they surface because they believe farms with cattle and pigs would ultimately be required to get a permit.
Farmers estimate the permit, based on the amount of methane animals produce, would cost $175 for a dairy cow or $87.50 for a beef cow.
“We are strongly encouraging all of our members to speak out on this,” New York Farm Bureau spokesman Peter Gregg said this week.
“It’s just a huge impact on agriculture in New York, it’s very, very scary,” Gregg said.
According to one study published online by Iowa State University, a typical dairy cow produces over 156 pounds of methane each year just by burping.
After collecting cow manure samples and putting them in airtight containers, scientists determined each cow also produces just under a half-pound of methane each year from its manure.
There are an estimated 627,000 dairy cows in New York, according to the state Department of Agriculture and Markets.
By those estimates, New York dairy cows produce roughly 303,000 pounds of methane each year from their manure and 98 million pounds from their belches.
If regulated the way the farm bureaus estimate, that would cost the state’s dairy farmers alone nearly $110 million for permits.
For Cobleskill dairy farmer John Radliff, the cost would range about $17,000.
Radliff said he doesn’t believe the state nor the nation could sustain its own food supply if the federal government targets farms in its work to stem the growth of greenhouse gas emissions.
“There’s 9 million cows in the U.S. today. Twenty years ago, there were 25 million cows. The number of cows has declined because we have become more efficient, we have become better producers. With that alone, they should say ‘these guys are on top of it,’” Radliff said.
Radliff said he understands people are working to reduce their impact on the environment, but he said it’s important to draw the line when it comes to choosing between a cleaner environment or a hungrier population because such regulation will put farms out of business.
“People have got to stand up and say to the government, ‘you better get your focus here,’” Radliff said.
Millet from the EPA said the agency will now review more than 100,000 comments received on its publication and then decide the next step. Information on the topic can be found on the EPA Web site at www.epa.gov/climatechange/anpr.html.