SCHUMER: NYS FARMERS COULD GET PLOWED UNDER BY INANE POTENTIAL EPA PROPOSAL; "COW TAX" COULD COST NYS FARMERS ESTIMATED $120 MILLION AND PUT FAMILY FARMS AT RISK OF GOING OUT OF BUSINESS
Farmers Worry that EPA Advance Proposal to Regulate Greenhouse Gas Will Include Potential Tax of an Estimated $175 per Dairy Cow or $87.50 per Beef Cow for Farm Animals' Emissions
Financial Impact Would Be Devastating to the Thousands of Family-Owned Dairy and Livestock Producers in Upstate New York - Senator Details County-By-County Impact
In Personal Letter, Schumer Pushes EPA to Put the Kibosh on Potential Cow Tax - Ensure Burden Is Never Imposed on NYS Farmers
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today revealed that a little-known “cow tax” with onerous fees could be imposed on farmers across New YorkState if the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decides to move forward with a new regulation discussed in its Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking under the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act. The “tax” could cost New YorkState farmers an estimated $120 million -- or $175 per dairy cow and $87.50 per beef cow -- fees that could put already struggling family farms on the brink of closure.
In a preemptive move to ensure a “cow tax” is never proposed, Senator Schumer called on the EPA to immediately quash the any existing plans to move forward with the rule.
“The idea of a imposing a cow tax on our farmers is absurd. New YorkState farmers are the backbone of our local economy and slapping charges on them would be devastating to their businesses,” Schumer said. “We must put the kibosh on any and all potential cow taxes, or risk seeing our family farms get plowed under. I will fight tooth and nail to put an end to this idea once and for all.”
In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled in Massachusetts, et al v EPA that the EPA cannot categorically refuse to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. On July 30, 2008, in response to this, the EPA began the process of considering regulations by issuing an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. This is typically a precursor to a proposed rule and the first in several steps in creating a new regulation. Included in the advanced notice was a discussion of potentially requiring farmers to purchase permits for the methane released by dairy cows, beef cattle, and other livestock.
Following its review of the notice, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) indicated that if the EPA chooses to move forward with regulating farm animals and requires permits for emitters of methane, farms with more than 25 dairy cows or 50 beef cattle would need to purchase permits for each ton of methane their animals emit. The American Farm Bureau Federation, assuming a price of approximately $45 per ton, calculated that this would cost $175 per dairy cow or $87.50 per beef cow. This regulation would cost a medium sized dairy farm with 75 to 125 cows between $13,000 and $22,000 a year. It would cost a medium size cattle farm with 200 to 300 cows between $17,000 and $27,000.
If enacted, the cow tax would be devastating to Upstate New York farmers and could put family farms at risk of going out of business. Beef and dairy products are part of a highly competitive global market, meaning American farmers cannot significantly raise prices when the cost of doing business in the United States rises. If forced to pay a “cow tax” or other additional fees, farmers could face a competitive disadvantage, which could close farms and lead to more imported food products.
Importation of dairy and beef products carries an increased set of risks for consumers. Overseas livestock and dairy farms are often not regulated as stringently as U.S. farms, and cases of tainted agricultural and food products making their way into U.S. markets have abounded in the last year. Most recently, baby formula from China containing dangerous levels of melamine and a salmonella outbreak resulting from contaminated jalapeños from Mexico have rocked American consumers and put the U.S. imported food safety apparatus to the test.
New York is the nation’s third leading milk producer, with 6,400 dairy farms producing approximately 12 billion pounds of milk each year. Milk sales account for one-third of New York’s total agricultural receipts, and dairy farms can be found from one corner of the state to the other. Sales of cattle and calves by New York’s 14,200 livestock producers bring over $150 million in cash receipts to the New York state economy each year. With a new cow tax, New YorkState farmers would pay approximately $120 million in new fees each year to continue operating at current levels. Here is how the numbers break down across the state:
There are 63,800 dairy cows and 13,800 beef cattle in the Capital Region, which would result in $12,372,500 in fees for Cap Region farmers.
There are 77,200 dairy cows and 8,300 beef cattle in Central New York, which would result in $14,236,250 in fees for Central New York farmers
There are 24,300 dairy cows and 8,899 beef cattle in the HudsonValley, which would result in $5,031,093 in fees for HudsonValley farmers.
There are 146,600 dairy cows and 14,900 beef cattle in the North Country, which would result in $26,958,750 in fees for North Country farmers.
There are 99,500 dairy cows and 16,000 beef cattle in the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region, which would result in $18,891,250 in fees for Rochester-Finger Lakes Region farmers.
There are 90,000 dairy cows and 30,000 beef cattle in the Southern Tier, which would result in $18,375,000 in fees for Southern Tier farmers.
There are 126,600 dairy cows and 19,100 beef cattle farms in Western New York, which would result in $23,826,250 in fees for Western New York farmers.
Eric Ooms, owner of A. Ooms and Sons, a dairy farm in Chatham, said that his farm, with about 400 cows, would be hit with an estimated $70,000 in fees if a cow tax was ever implemented.
“Any family farm, regardless of size, is going to be hammered by this - it doesn’t matter if you are milking 50 cows or 500, because it is based on numbers of cows so it is all relative. I don’t know too many family farms who would be able to stay in business if this were enacted - even if it were half that amount, it would be a real stretch. Although we have methane emissions we can engage in a lot of practices that can offset these things. I think there needs to be more of a dialogue with this rather than going with a blunt approach,” Chairman of the State Farm Bureau Dairy Committee Eric Ooms said.
To ensure a cow tax burden is never placed on New YorkState farmers, Schumer wrote a personal letter to EPA Administrator Steve Johnson, demanding the agency immediately drop any plans to move forward with a proposed rule mandating onerous cow taxes and other fees.
“I am strongly urging the EPA to immediately cease any plans to propose a rule implementing a cow tax. We cannot allow for even a baby step forward to be taken on this idea,” Schumer said.
In his letter to EPA Administrator Steve Johnson, Schumer wrote: “As you know, I am a strong supporter of regulating the country’s greenhouse gas emissions and controlling climate change. However, I believe that our commitment to stopping climate change should not come at the expense of our food security or the viability of family farms. I understand that you will be considering many different options for controlling greenhouse-gas emissions; please do not consider this one.”
See below for a full copy of the letter:
Dear Mr. Johnson:
I write to ask that you ensure that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not propose any regulations to assess a per-animal fee on livestock farmers, as you consider options for regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act (CAA),
On July 30, 2008, and in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Massachusetts, et al v. EPA, the EPA issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to regulate greenhouse gases under the CAA. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) commented that if emitters of greenhouse gases were required to obtain permits under Title V, nearly all medium- to large-scale animal-agriculture ventures would exceed the statute’s 100-ton limit for methane. The American Farm Bureau Federation, using the Fiscal Year 2008 presumptive minimum rate of $43.75, calculated that Title V permits for methane would cost farmers approximately $175 per dairy cow; $87.50 per beef cow; and $20 per hog.
If EPA were to require livestock farmers to purchase permits, there is a serious risk that many farms in Upstate New York and around the country would not survive. Livestock farmers are already facing skyrocketing feed costs, and with the recent spike in fuel prices and difficulty securing credit, the cost of producing food in America is higher than ever. Adding yet another financial disadvantage for our farmers could close farms and force production overseas. These potentially massive fees on our farmers will be devastating, both to the farming families and communities, and also to the American consumer, who would be forced to buy milk, eggs, and meat from foreign—and potentially less safe—farms.
As you know, I am a strong supporter of regulating the country’s greenhouse gas emissions and controlling climate change. However, I believe that our commitment to stopping climate change should not come at the expense our food security or the viability of family farms. I understand that you will be considering many different options for controlling greenhouse-gas emissions; please do not consider this one.
Thank you very much for your attention to this issue.