SPARKS: EPA PROPOSAL MERITS QUICK RESPONSE
MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Agriculture & Industries Commissioner Ron Sparks thanked Alabama farmers and consumers for making their voices heard regarding the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed tax on livestock gas emissions. The proposal announced by the EPA was an advance announcement in anticipation of an actual regulation that would likely be brought up for government approval in 2009.
Without much publicity, the EPA requested comments from those in the agriculture industry with a deadline of the day after the Thanksgiving holiday. Many farmers, consumers and agricultural organizations and state departments were highly critical of the proposal, including harsh comments from United States Department of Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer.
Sparks cited this as a prime example of the lack of communication between federal and state governments that has been an ongoing problem for the agriculture industry.
"It is hard to believe that the EPA would even consider charging farmers for the gas emissions of their animals," said Sparks. "We have had to contend with federal regulations over and over whether it is about food safety, import regulations, livestock regulations, meat shipment issues or many other issues facing our farmers and producers. Now, it is greenhouse emissions. It is early in the proposal process, but this issue will come up again next year if we don't speak up now."
While some people have complained that critics of the proposal overreacted to the advance announcement, Sparks feels that with an issue this volatile it is extremely important to address the matter directly and quickly.
"When the federal government makes such a request, farmers are right to react," said Sparks. "With such ill-conceived ideas coming out of a regulatory agency and with such a small window of opportunity for comments from farmers, someone has to keep their eye on these issues."
Sparks added, "There have been various possible fee amounts listed for this proposed tax plan. I don't care what figures have been floated; I am against one dollar being added to the burden of farmers in Alabama."
Sparks says that he and the Department of Agriculture & Industries' staff will continue to monitor the issue, work closely with other agricultural organizations, and keep farmers abreast of any updates.
More information about this proposed regulation can be found online at www.epa.gov/EPA-AIR/2008/July/Day-30/a16432a.htm.