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Our Views

Our Views Columns

Date: 6/11/2019

Title: Needless Paperwork Does Not Protect Rural Communities

Last week, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler waived a regulation that would have required livestock producers to report routine air emissions from the decomposition of livestock manure to state and local government entities under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). Media reports were quick to cast the move as a weakening of environmental regulations, but they failed to acknowledge some key realities on the ground.

First, state and local first responders made clear that they did not want the reports from routine agricultural emissions. Tim Gablehouse, the president of the National Association of SARA Title Three Program Officials (NASTTPO), noted that these type of reports “too often go ignored as they do not represent emergency situations to local communities.”

Instead of filling out needless paperwork, NCBA is encouraging members to talk to their local first responders to identify potential hazards on the farm and to learn how responders will act on an emergency call. Building these relationships can actually save lives and allow first responders to focus their time and resources on real emergencies.

Second, media reports have neglected to mention that the reporting requirements applied to all farms and ranches, not just cattle feedlots and other animal feeding facilities. Because EPCRA reporting is triggered by an emissions threshold rather than a concentration of emissions, many cattle farms and ranches were put in the crosshairs. And notably, there is no federal standard to measure emissions from the decomposition of livestock manure, leaving producers without a way to even fill out the paperwork with any degree of certainty.

Cattlemen and cattlewomen are eager to contribute to the health and well-being of their communities, but needleless paperwork was not the answer. NCBA and our members will continue to look for ways to partner with the EPA and local governments to protect the safety and health of rural communities.