Legislation strongly supported by the National Pork Producers Council was introduced today to exempt farmers from reporting to the U.S. Coast Guard emissions from the natural breakdown of manure on their farms.
Led by Sens. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., and Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and Ranking Member Tom Carper, D-Del., the bipartisan “Fair Agricultural Reporting Method 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, 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 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,” says 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.
“EPA exempted farms from CERCLA reporting because it knew responses would be unnecessary and impractical. Frankly, the court created a problem where none existed.”
Joining Fischer, Donnelly, Barrasso and Carper as cosponsors of the bill are Sens. Bob Casey, D-Pa., Chris Coons, D-Del., Joni Ernst, R-Iowa., Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., John Hoeven, R-N.D., Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Clair McCaskill, D-Mo., Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Mike Rounds, R-S.D., Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Tina Smith, D-Minn., Mark Warner, D-Va., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss.
“NPPC calls on Congress to pass the commonsense, bipartisan Fischer-Donnelly bill, FARM Act,” Maschhoff says, “and we thank all the senators who have joined this effort.”
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 the 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 says, “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.”