The catch-all federal spending legislation approved by the Senate and House and now on its way to President Trump for his signature restores the exemption for farmers from reporting to the U.S. Coast Guard emissions from the natural breakdown of manure on their farms. The National Pork Producers Council applauded inclusion in the so-called Omnibus bill of the exemption provision, which had strong bipartisan support in both legislative chambers.
“This is fantastic news for hog farmers,” said NPPC President Jim Heimerl, a pork producer from Johnstown, Ohio. “NPPC thanks the more than 100 members of both houses of Congress who supported restoring the farm emissions exemption through legislation and by voting in favor of the provision in the Omnibus bill.”
Companion bills were introduced earlier this year in the Senate by 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., and in the House by Reps. Billy Long, R-Mo., and Jim Costa, D-Calif. The Senate legislation had 20 original cosponsors – 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats – while the House measure had 85 cosponsors. Both bills sought to 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).
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 tens of thousands of livestock farmers to “guesstimate” and report the emissions from manure on their farms to the Coast Guard’s National Response Center (NRC) and subject them to citizen lawsuits from activist groups such as the Humane Society of the United States.
“America’s pork producers are grateful to Sens. Fischer, Donnelly, Barrasso and Carper and Congressmen Long and Costa for their efforts to fix this problem,” Heimerl said. “EPA exempted farms from emissions reporting because it was unnecessary and impractical, and we’re pleased so many members of Congress recognized that and voted to restore the exemption.”
As many as 200,000 farmers were facing a May 1 deadline for reporting emissions. Some farmers tried filing reports on the initial court-ordered Nov. 15 deadline, but the Coast Guard’s 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. (Given the confusion, the appeals court twice delayed the reporting deadline.)
“The pork industry was prepared to comply with the reporting mandate,” Heimerl said, “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.”
Original release March 23, NPPC