FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 28, 2005
Schumer Goes To Bat For Farmers And Demands Explanation From EPA On Air Quality Compliance Agreement
New Rule Asks Farmers To Pay Fine Now Or Risk Future Penalty, But No Guidance Offered On Who Is Targeted
Schumer Urges EPA to Suspend Rule until Clarification is Provided
Schumer: Farmers Are The Backbone Of This Country and Deserve Answers
US Senator Charles Schumer today urged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide an explanation to farmers on a new plan that encourages farmers to pay a fine or risk future penalties if their animal feeding operations are proven to pollute the air. Any funds collected now would be used to contribute toward the federal government’s cost of determining whether or not their farms are indeed polluting the air. In a personal letter to acting EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson, Schumer demanded that he suspend the agreement until answers are provided to farmers with clear guidance.
“Farmers are the backbone of this country and should not be presumed guilty,” Schumer said. “There are many concerns here, including is this policy going to exempt huge agri-businesses who can pollute the air and water and only pay a small fine, or is it going to help small farmers who are in a pickle? The EPA needs to step up to the plate, and reveal the details so that New York’s farmers can make informed decisions on the best way to move forward.”
Schumer’s letter to Johnson questions the EPA’s Air Quality Compliance Agreement for animal feeding operations, announced January 25, 2005. Under this voluntary agreement, U.S. farmers will supply the EPA with data on emissions from animal feeding operations. In return for the data, the EPA agrees not to sue for past violations of the Clean Air Act and other environmental regulations.
Farms that sign up will have to pay a penalty ranging from $200 to $100,000, depending on the size of the farm and the number of entities that sign up. Farms will also pay up to $2,500 to a fund for an emissions monitoring program. The purpose of the agreement is to ensure that animal feeding operations comply with environmental requirements and to gather scientific data that EPA needs to make informed regulatory and policy decisions. The agreement will establish a nationwide monitoring program that will provide data on pollution from animal feeding operations. Right now, the deadline for signing on to the agreement is July 1, 2005.
The purpose of the agreement is to ensure that animal feeding operations comply with environmental requirements and to gather scientific data that EPA needs to make informed regulatory and policy decisions. The agreement will establish a nationwide monitoring program that will provide data on pollution from animal feeding operations.
While current air quality problems related to livestock are could be caused by large animal operations, there is no indication of what size operation would be affected by the agreement or what regulations and fines that could result from the agreement. Because of this, New York’s smaller farms are troubled by the potential impact of the agreement. The average size of a New York dairy is 130 head. The farmers generally feel that they are too small to fall under purview of the agreement. Yet they are also concerned that if they do not sign on, they may be faced with fines down the road, so they are feeling pressure to sign on in order to avoid an uncertain future regulatory environment.
In his letter, Schumer wrote, “The agreement needs to be restructured so that it does not discriminate against small farmers, while letting larger operations off the hook. Farms that might be affected need better guidance as to how the agreement could affect them so that they can make an informed decision as to whether to sign on to the agreement or not.”