Legislation strongly supported by the National Pork Producers Council was introduced in the U.S. Senate yesterday to exempt farmers from reporting emissions from the natural breakdown of manure on their farms to the U.S. Coast Guard.
Led by a bipartisan group of 20 Republicans and Democrats, the “Fair Agricultural Reporting Method (FARM) Act” would fix a problem created last April when a U.S. Court of Appeals rejected a 2008 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule that exempted farmers from reporting routine farm emissions under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA).
CERCLA, more commonly known as the “Superfund Law,” is used primarily to clean hazardous waste sites, but also includes a mandatory federal reporting component.
The appeals court ruling would have forced more than 100,000 livestock farmers to “guesstimate” and report the emissions from manure on their farms to the Coast Guard’s National Response Center (NRC) and subjected them to abusive and harassing citizen suits from activist groups such as the Humane Society of the United States.
“Routine emissions from hog manure do not constitute a ‘hazardous’ emergency that requires the Coast Guard to activate a national cleanup response,” said NPPC President Ken Maschhoff, a pork producer from Carlyle, Ill., “We’re extremely grateful to the 19 cosponsors of the FARM Act for their leadership and common sense on this issue.
Iowa Senator Joni Ernst is one of the cosponsors of the bill.
“EPA exempted farms from CERCLA reporting because it knew responses would be unnecessary and impractical,” Maschhoff said. “Frankly, the court created a problem where none existed.”
NPPC is urging Congress to pass the legislation and believes it will.
The appeals court’s April decision originally set a Nov. 15, 2017, deadline for as many as 200,000 farms to report emissions. After petitions from EPA—supported by NPPC motions—the court twice delayed that deadline, with the most recent postponement until May 1.
Some farmers tried filing reports Nov. 15, but the NRC system was overwhelmed. In some instances, NRC operators refused to accept reports for more than a single farm per call because they didn’t want phone lines tied up, and in one case, an operator sent notices to more than 20 state and federal response authorities, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a state police agency, after receiving a report.
“The pork industry was prepared to comply with the reporting mandate,” Maschhoff said,” but EPA, the Coast Guard and state and local emergency response authorities said they didn’t want or need the information, which could have interfered with their legitimate emergency functions.”