The American Farm Bureau Federation is urging congressional members to pass H.R. 1633, the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act. It faces a House vote this week.
In a letter to House members, AFBF said the legislation would limit the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to regulate naturally occurring dust, or "nuisance dust." Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman says naturally occurring dust is a fact of life in rural areas. The amount of dust in the air depends on wind and rainfall, two conditions that EPA cannot regulate.
AFBF went further to say that EPA has admitted that it cannot conclusively establish a link between "nuisance dust" and adverse human health effects.
Stallman says EPA admits there are limitations to the studies it cites, which casts doubt on its validity to support additional regulation. However, should such a link be established, the bill would allow EPA to regulate.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., says the bill will provide for a one-year moratorium on the EPA from adding any additional dust regulations on production agriculture and rural America.
The EPA currently has the ability to tighten regulatory standards for dust under the Clean Air Act. Should this happen, farmers, ranchers and rural economies could be devastated. Lucas adds that on dry days, production could come to a standstill as farmers and ranchers focus on controlling dust rather than producing food.
EPA has said it does not intend to propose stricter regulations on dust. However, AFBF says that still does not provide much needed assurance for farmers and ranchers, especially when final rules often differ from proposed rules and lawsuits are a dime a dozen. According to Stallman, legislation is the best way to provide certainty to farmers, ranchers and rural America that their activities will not be unduly regulated by conditions beyond their control.
The U.S. House will consider the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act, H.R. 1633, this week.
Lucas says the bipartisan legislation ensures farmers and ranchers won't be subjected to excessive regulation from the EPA.
Lucas notes members of Congress, particularly those on the ag committee, have pressed EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson on this issue for months. While Jackson has stated the EPA does not intend to change the current standards, Lucas says this legislation is still needed to give farmers and ranchers the certainty to invest in the future without worrying about oppressive regulations.
According to Lucas, the bill is simply saying, "Lisa Jackson, you told us as EPA director you will not add additional dust regulations. By statute, we're going to guarantee that you will not add additional dust regulations for the next year."
Lucas notes, that you can't plant, you can't harvest, you can't till the fields without a little dust.
Michael Wheeler is county extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension in Hall County. You can contact him at 770-535-8293, www.hallcounty.org/extension. His column appears biweekly on Thursday's Business page and at gainesvilletimes.com.