EPA Pushing to Impose a Flatulence Tax on Cows and Hogs

AP-FoxNews | Bob Johnson | Dec. 5, 2008

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – For farmers, this stinks: Belching and gaseous cows and hogs could start costing them money if a federal proposal to charge fees for air-polluting animals becomes law.

Farmers so far are turning their noses up at the notion, which is one of several put forward by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that greenhouse gases emitted by belching and flatulence amounts to air pollution.

“This is one of the most ridiculous things the federal government has tried to do,” said Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, an outspoken opponent of the proposal. It would require farms or ranches with more than 25 dairy cows, 50 beef cattle or 200 hogs to pay an annual fee of about $175 for each dairy cow, $87.50 per head of beef cattle and $20 for each hog.

The executive vice president of the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation, Ken Hamilton, estimated the fee would cost owners of a modest-sized cattle ranch $30,000 to $40,000 a year. He said he has talked to a number of livestock owners about the proposals, and “all have said if the fees were carried out, it would bankrupt them.”

Sparks said Wednesday he’s worried the fee could be extended to chickens and other farm animals and cause more meat to be imported.

“We’ll let other countries put food on our tables like they are putting gas in our cars. Other countries don’t have the health standards we have,” Sparks said.

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The EPA has done things just as silly before. They regulated domestic oxidized coal (necessary for steel production) out of existence back in the 1980s. Admittedly, the production of oxidized coal (“coke”) is a dirty process. Domestic steel production declined a great deal since then for many reasons, but what little oxidized coal the U.S. needs is imported, mainly from China, where it is produced in beehive ovens with no environmental controls at all. This resulted in a net increase in worldwide pollution.

I expect we’ll see similar foolishness out of the EPA, although doing this to farmers and ranchers could spell the loss of many Democrat seats in the House and Senate in the Upper Midwest and the Rockies. Obama may look at the consequences and rein in the EPA.

OK Here’s a thought about cows to chew on. They are an incredibly inefficient poorly designed flatulating machine. It takes about 1000 gallons of water to reproduce one gallon of milk. Then they consume a wide variety of food quite suitable for humans, such as fish meal, much imported from countries that can ill afford to send it overseas. They produce excessive amounts of manure. In the old days of small farms (eg: 25 cows or less) that manure was recycled into the fields where the crops were sensibly rotated. The milk produced is far too high in protein anyway for human use. In fact goat’s milk would be healthier to drink it you must drink milk. I could go on……anti-biotics, the problems of red meat in one’s diet etc.

Ron, fascinating point of view there, but regulating gas emissions from cattle will do nothing to solve your concerns. In fact, it will make things worse.

If we shift livestock production overseas, it will still be a large-scale industry with antibiotics, fish meal, etc. Domestic producers will have to become more efficient to cope with the higher fees. This will result in consolidation of the smaller ranches (most of which have well over 50 head of livestock) into large operations. It will also result in trying to pack as much meat as possible onto every animal, so you will see increased reliance on antibiotics, fish meal, etc.

Given that most people reject trading meat and milk for tofu and seaweed, and that regulating flatulence would be counterproductive to your cause, I think your concerns would be better addressed by reforming the system of agricultural subsidies that currently favors large agricultural enterprises over small ones.

D. George
I agree strongly with reforming the agricultural subsidies in such a manner that small scale farming on a localized basis is encouraged. the average meal travels 2000 miles to the dinner table today, a totally wasteful process. I don’t understand your suggestion that livestock production would go overseas.
Here is a SNIP from SIC 0291—-“factory farms themselves have come under fire, even from the Department of Agriculture, for the perception that they inherently lend themselves to pollution and food contamination. While the trend in all agricultural sectors has been toward larger, more centralized farming, such farms have been found to be fertile ground for manure spills that contaminate water and kill fish, as well as for high levels of nitrogen- and phosphorous-based water contamination. This has focused attention on the comparative benefits of small-scale farming, which has been gradually displaced by factory farms. After years of protests from small farmers and environmentalists, the prominence of food-born illnesses and contamination have lead the Department of Agriculture to investigate the possibilities of reversing the long shift toward factory farming.”
With government incentives that is the direction in which we should move.
Of course as far as I am concerned they could eliminate cows altogether – the net result would probably be a lot healthier population but I doubt that will happen as you indicate!

“I don’t understand your suggestion that livestock production would go overseas.”

Let’s assume we penalize American ranchers for emissions from livestock, and other countries (like Argentina) do not. The cost of importing livestock raised without the fees, given the fees that are proposed, would likely be less than the cost of raising livestock here. So we would essentially break traditional ranching methods here, and export that work to foreign producers. The only chance ranchers would have to survive here would be to adopt more efficient methods of production and realize economies of scale (i.e., larger, more industrial operations).

This is why I believe a ham-fisted approach of regulating livestock in general as an environmental problem would create more environmental damage while damaging the domestic agricultural economy.

I saw the same thing happen with “coke” (oxidized coal) production back in the 1990s. It was dirty, but it was cleaner here than it was overseas. And now it is all done overseas due to draconian regulations enforced here. Economic damage here, and an overall net increase in global pollution, thanks to ham-fisted environmental regulation.

Actually I live in and around “cow country” and what I’m interested in is how the folks at the EPA are going to go about measuring all this “gas”. I have this picture in my head of cows with plastic bags attached to you know where.