“The Clean Air Act (CAA) was written to curb pollution from smokestack industries, not to regulate livestock production in South Dakota or elsewhere," says Sen. John Thune (R-SD). “Livestock producers don’t need another burdensome regulation to worry about, and this legislation would ensure that the cow tax never becomes a reality.”

The tax referred to is an option open to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) via amendments to the CAA. It would allow them to require livestock producers to buy expensive permits in the name of regulating greenhouse gases (GHGs).

Thune says that during the Advance Notice of Rulemaking process last summer – a rule considering the implications of defining GHGs as an air pollutant – USDA commented that defining GHGs as air pollution may require the EPA to issue permits to farmers for their livestock. Currently, permits for other pollutants cost roughly $45/ton, though that level can change. Title V of the CAA requires that permits be obtained by most large and small sources of air pollution.

Furthermore, USDA indicated that if the EPA chose to move forward with regulating farm animals and requiring permits for emitters of methane, farms with more than 25 dairy cows or 50 beef cattle would need to purchase permits for each ton of methane their animals emitted. The American Farm Bureau Federation, assuming a price of approximately $45/ton, calculated that this would cost $87.50/beef cow/year, $175/dairy cow and $20/hog.

Last week, Thune and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) introduced a bill that would prevent EPA from assessing the tax.

“Cattle and dairy production is vital to the economy of South Dakota and our nation, and in these difficult economic times, it would be disastrous to enact policies that would increase food prices for all Americans,” Thune says. “This bipartisan effort reflects our commitment to ensure overbearing proposed rules are never put in place.”

Schumer adds: “Times are hard for families across New York State, and they’re particularly hard for our farmers. The idea of a imposing a cow tax on our farmers and adding one more crushing burden is absurd."