Written by Jeff Poor
December 31, 2008
EPA 'Cow Tax' Could Charge $175 per Dairy Cow to Curb Greenhouse Gases
Farm Bureau warns just this one rule may increase milk production costs up to 8 cents a gallon.
By Jeff Poor
Business & Media Institute
Call this one of the newest and innovative the ways your government has come up with to battle greenhouse gas emissions. Indirectly it could be considered a cheeseburger tax, but one of the suggestions offered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in its Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) for regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act is to levy a tax on livestock.
The ANPR, released early this year, would give the EPA the authority to regulate greenhouse gas for not only greenhouse gas from manmade sources like transportation and industry, but also "stationary" sources which would include livestock.
The New York Farm Bureau assigned a price tag to the cost of greenhouse gas regulation by the EPA in a release last month.
"The tax for dairy cows could be $175 per cow, and $87.50 per head of beef cattle. The tax on hogs would upwards of $20 per hog," the release said. "Any operation with more than 25 dairy cows, 50 beef cattle or 200 hogs would have to obtain permits."
Kate Galbraith, correspondent for The New York Times, noted on the Times' "Green Inc." blog that such a "proposal is far from being enacted" and that the "hysteria may be premature."
But Rick Krause, senior director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau, warned it's certainly feasible - especially based on the rhetoric of President-elect Barack Obama and the use of the EPA to combat global warming. Such action by an Obama administration would take an act of Congress for livestock to be exempt.
"The new president has been on record as saying that he really supports regulating greenhouse gases out of the Clean Air Act," Krause said to the Business & Media Institute. "So, we really have to keep an eye on it. Legislation would really be the only way to exempt it at this point - the cow tax."
Krause said it is difficult to quantify the cost that might be passed directly to the consumer by farmers from the legislation, but predicted it would mean higher costs for dairy production.
"It's hard to figure what it would do to consumer prices since farmers, unlike other industries, really can't pass their cost along directly like utilities and things do," "About the only thing we could realistically come up, in terms of any of this stuff - it would add between 7 and 8 cents per gallon of milk costs to farmers. So it would cost them 7 or 8 cents more to produce a gallon of milk."
Even the Department of Agriculture warned the EPA that smaller farms and ranches would have difficulty with limits as much as 100 tons annually on emissions:
"If GHG emissions from agricultural sources are regulated under the CAA, numerous farming operations that currently are not subject to the costly and time-consuming Title V permitting process would, for the first time, become covered entities. Even very small agricultural operations would meet a 100-tons-per-year emissions threshold.
For example, dairy facilities with over 25 cows, beef cattle operations of over 50 cattle, swine operations with over 200 hogs, and farms with over 500 acres of corn may need to get a Title V permit. It is neither efficient nor practical to require permitting and reporting of GHG emissions from farms of this size. Excluding only the 200,000 largest commercial farms, our agricultural landscape is comprised of 1.9 million farms with an average value of production of $25,589 on 271 acres. These operations simply could not bear the regulatory compliance costs that would be involved.