Senator John ThuneSouth Dakota's agriculture industry is central to our state's economy, and livestock production is a major part of agriculture in our state. As a Senator, I am committed to helping shape federal policies that support a healthy, dynamic agriculture sector, and that includes fighting bad ideas that would hurt our farmers and ranchers. The potential cow tax from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is one such example of a proposal that should be defeated.
In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA could regulate carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gasses as pollutants under the Clean Air Act. The EPA subsequently proposed a plan that could result in many South Dakota livestock operations having to pay fines, estimated by the American Farm Bureau Federation to cost $175 per dairy cow, $87.50 per head of beef cattle, and $20 per hog annually for naturally occurring livestock emissions. These costs would devastate large and small operations in South Dakota, and fines would force price increases on American consumers.
Despite these consequences, the Obama Administration pushed forward with an Endangerment Finding earlier this year that would pave the way for EPA regulation, including livestock emissions. Earlier this year, I introduced a bill with Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) that would permanently prohibit the EPA from creating a permit system for livestock emissions.
The Senate recently passed the Fiscal Year 2010 Interior and Environment appropriations bill. This measure, along with the version passed by the House of Representatives, includes a provision that prohibits the EPA from creating a livestock emissions permit system for one year. While this is an important short-term success, a permanent ban is necessary to protect South Dakota producers.
I would have much preferred that the Senate take up my bipartisan bill to address this issue instead of inserting a temporary measure into an annual spending bill. This year's Interior and Environment appropriations bill is roughly 15 percent larger than last year's, which doesn't even include the billions of dollars in funding from the stimulus bill. Even if bills such as this result in good policy like prohibiting a cow tax, South Dakotans know that Washington's spending is out of control.
A strong and secure agriculture sector is critical to South Dakota's future. Livestock production has always been important to South Dakota, and I will continue working to see that it remains strong. Permanent protection from a cow tax is important to protecting the livestock industry in South Dakota and across rural America.