EPA set to crack down on farm dust

As if fickle weather and a sluggish economy weren’t enough to worry about down on the farm, America’s farmers may soon be facing a new threat to their livelihood: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

EPA’s regulatory machine is moving ever closer to imposing more stringent limitations on the amount of dust farmers will be allowed to kick up while plying their trade.  Specifically, EPA is proposing a new standard for particulate matter (PM) that will be twice as stringent as the current one.  The Clean Air Act requires EPA every five years to review its regulations that fall under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). 

Never one to miss an opportunity to tighten the screws, regardless of the consequences, the agency it’s time to crack down on farmers and ranchers. And that pending decision has set off alarm bells across the country and on Capitol Hill.

In a July 23 letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, 21 senators from both parties expressed their anger over EPA’s plans.  “The current standards have been difficult if not impossible for industries in the Western portion of the countries to attain, including agricultural operations,” they wrote.  “We respect efforts for a clean and healthy environment, but not at the expense of common sense.”

 “Whether it’s livestock kicking up dust, soybeans being combined on a dry day in the fall, or driving a car down the gravel road, dust is a naturally occurring event,” they added.

Farmers are fond of referring to themselves as “sod busters,” but few of them likely ever expected that the activities necessary for Americans to put food on the table would incur EPA’s wrath.  Curtis Roberts is a fourth-generation farmer and rancher in Arcadia, Oklahoma, who is used to dealing with dust.  “If the dust is detrimental to us, it’s going to be to everybody else,” he told KWTV in Oklahoma City (July 30).  “We’re not going to do anything to hurt ourselves or our farm.”

“Anytime you work ground, you’re going to have dust,” Roberts told the television station.  “The regulations are going to put us down and keep us from doing things we need to keep doing because of the EPA.”

EPA’s proposal, which was released on July 8 in the Federal Register, has kicked up a dust storm in its own right.

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About the Author: Bonner Cohen, Ph. D.

Bonner Cohen, Ph. D.

Bonner R. Cohen, Ph. D., is a senior policy analyst with CFACT.