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Tucked inside the $1.3 trillion spending bill that President Donald Trump signed on Friday were provisions that reverse emission reporting requirements for livestock producers and extend the deadline for truckers to begin using electronic logging devices to record work hours.

Shortly after the bill was passed, national groups representing the poultry, pork and beef industries praised the changes -- especially the rollback on emission reporting.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association said in a news release Friday: "We were able to kill the notion that our farms and ranches will be regulated like toxic Superfund sites."

A federal court ruling last April required farmers and ranchers to report emissions of notable traces of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, among others to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Title XI of the spending bill, called the "Fair Agricultural Reporting Method Act," exempts producers from reporting "emissions from animal waste at a farm." Language in the new law means farms will remain exempt from the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act if a mandate is approved that voids the EPA's 2008 final rule -- which could be as soon as May 1, according to the EPA.

Travis Justice, chief economist with the Arkansas Farm Bureau, said language in Friday's bill "clarified" that farmers are not required to report emissions and face the same scrutiny as industrial factories.

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, established in 1980, was enacted to hold chemical and petroleum industries accountable for chemical releases that may endanger the environment or public. The law taxed companies if emissions became a health concern.

A joint statement from the National Chicken Council, National Turkey Federation, U.S. Poultry & Egg Association and United Egg Producers, said the language in the spending bill provides "farmers relief from federal emergency response laws that were never intended to apply to routine, non-emergency farming and ranching activities."

Without this rollback, an estimated quarter-million farmers and ranchers would have been affected, they said in a news release.

Emissions from feedlots are reported to the EPA under a separate law, the "Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act."

Another section of the spending law extended the latest electronic logging device requirement for livestock haulers. After agricultural groups lobbied that the Department of Transportation's hours of service rules endangered the welfare of animals being towed long distances, a 90-day extension for agriculture carriers was granted in December 2017.

A 90-day extension was approved March 13 for agriculture carriers, but Trump's signature on Friday delayed compliance until September 30.

"Bottom line: We're kicking the can down the road, but calling for more information to get everyone up to speed," Justice said.

While some are seeking exemptions for livestock haulers from the electronic logging device requirement, Cody Burkham, executive vice president of the Arkansas Cattlemen's Association, said, "We'll take this extension and continue to work on it."

Business on 03/27/2018

Print Headline: Farmers praise part of spending bill

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