Skip to content


Bill Will End Farmers' Fears About Potential for EPA to Regulate Greenhouse Gas Through Fees 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

Schumer introduces bipartisan bill w John Thune(R-SD); Follows Letter To EPA With Legislation

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator John R. Thune today introduced a bill that will once and for all prevent the government from imposing an onerous "cow tax"  on farmers across the country and across New York State.  Late last year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) discussed regulating greenhouse gases in its Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking under the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act, which could include requiring farmers to purchase expensive permits. Although the EPA did not propose moving forward with the permits, Schumer and Thune are taking preventive action to protect America's farmers. The "tax" would have cost New York State 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 move to alleviate farmers' fears and ensure that such a proposal is never implemented, Schumer and Thune introduced legislation to prevent the EPA or any other governmental agency from imposing this fee on farmers. 
"Times are hard for families across New York State, and they are particularly hard for our farmers.  The idea of a imposing a cow tax on our farmers and adding one more crushing burden is absurd," Schumer said. "This bill will put an end to this inane "cow tax" once and for all."
"The Clean Air Act was written to curb pollution from smokestack industries, not to regulate livestock production in South Dakota or elsewhere," said Thune.  "Livestock producers do not need another burdensome regulation to worry about, and this legislation would ensure that the 'cow tax' never becomes a reality.
In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled in Massachusetts , et al v EPA that the EPA cannot categorically refuse to regulate greenhousegas emissions under the Clean Air Act, a law that defines EPA's responsibilities for protecting and improving the nation's air quality. On July 30, 2008, in response to this, the EPA began to consider the implications of defining greenhouse gases as an air pollutant 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.  As a part of this process, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) responded to the Notice with a comment that defining greenhouse gases as air pollution may require the EPA to issue permits to farmers for their livestock.  Currently, permits for other pollutants cost roughly $45 per ton, though that level can change. Title V of the Clean Air Act requires that permits be obtained by most large and small sources of air pollution.
The USDA indicated that if the EPA chose to move forward with regulating farm animals and requiring 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 emitted.  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, these permits would be devastating to American's 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 its own 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 proliferated in the last year. Most recently, baby formula in 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 in the nation with 6,400 dairy farms producing approximately 12 billion pounds of milk each year.
Milk sales account for onethird 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 fee, New York State 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 Hudson Valley, which would result in $5,031,093 in fees for Hudson Valley 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 RochesterFinger Lakes Region, which would result in $18,891,250 in fees for RochesterFinger 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 in Western New York, which would result in $23,826,250 in fees for Western New York farmers.
To ensure the burden of a cow tax is never placed on New York State farmers, Schumer introduced a bill that will prevent the government from imposing the fee, by ensuring that Title V of the clean air act will not apply to methane emissions from livestock agriculture.
Schumer added, "There are clearly other ways to curb greenhouse gasses other than charging for animal emissions. This bill will force the EPA to work with Upstate New York farmers to find a solution that is mutually beneficial for both parties."
"The Clean Air Act was written to curb pollution from smokestack industries, not to regulate livestock production in South Dakota or elsewhere," said Thune.  "Livestock producers do not need another burdensome regulation to worry about, and this legislation would ensure that the 'cow tax' never becomes a reality.
"Cattle and dairy production is vital to the economy of South Dakota and to our nation, and in these difficult economic times, it would be disastrous to enact policies that would increase food prices for all Americans. This bipartisan effort reflects our commitment to ensure overbearing proposed rules are never put in place."