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Regulatory reforms sought by livestock industry

Cattle and poultry groups outline areas for regulatory reform, including WOTUS and environmental reporting requirements.

In response to President Donald Trump’s request for comments on the impact of regulations, livestock groups provided insight on what they view as burdensome regulations put forward under the previous Administration, including adjustments to environmental regulations and how to address the Environmental Protection Agency's "waters of the U.S." (WOTUS) rule.

In comments filed this week, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn. (NCBA) and the Public Lands Council (PLC) said the regulations “inhibit job creation, are ineffective, are unnecessary or impose costs that exceed the environmental benefits. Often, these regulations impose federal requirements on cattle producers that discourage innovation and impose rigid requirements that do not work on cattle operations and, moreover, defy common sense.”

In separate comments filed by the U.S. Poultry & Egg Assn., National Turkey Federation and National Chicken Council, representing the poultry industry, they, too, outlined specific regulatory areas in need of review.

The poultry groups recommended that each task force review the numerous reporting regulations for duplication. “For instance, data required to be submitted with discharge monitoring reports overlaps with wastewater discharge data ... required under the Toxic Release Inventory Program. Data submission efforts that report the same information create thousands of man-hours for poultry and egg industry personnel. Coordination between EPA offices to share this information inside the agency would certainly reduce burden on our industry,” they wrote.

All of the groups are calling on EPA to replace the WOTUS rule with a rule that will clarify the extent of federal jurisdiction without overreaching.

NCBA and PLC said the replacement rule must work for cattle producers, follow the rule of law and replace each instance of WOTUS in the Code of Federal Regulations so there is one single definition across the federal government.

The poultry groups said if EPA feels that it is necessary to define WOTUS, they recommended starting over. “A new rule-making process should be based on accurate science and provide the agricultural industry with a meaningful opportunity to participate in the development of the proposed rule,” they said.

NCBA and PLC also called on the agency to repeal the Mandatory Reporting of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) rule for manure management.

“According to the EPA, beef cattle production was responsible for 1.9% of total U.S. GHG emissions in 2014,” the comments, signed by NCBA president Craig Uden and PLC president Dave Eliason, read. “By comparison, GHG emissions from transportation and electricity accounted for 25.8% and 30.6% of total U.S. GHG emissions in the same year. The GHG Mandatory Reporting Rule places an undue burden on animal agricultural producers, significantly increasing production costs with negligible environmental benefit.”

In April 2017, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals issued a ruling that vacated a full exemption from Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation & Liability Act reporting requirements and a partial exemption from Emergency Planning & Community Right-to-Know Act reporting requirements. The reporting exemption applied only to the low-level emission of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide into the air that results from the natural breakdown of manure on farms that raise animals.

“The EPA recognized these reports will do little meet the goal of providing them in the first place, which is to assist emergency personnel with responding to an emergency. Additionally, the agricultural community is highly skeptical that Congress meant to include the reporting of substances that occur from the natural breakdown of manure,” the poultry groups wrote. “We recommend that EPA consider developing a rule that relieves farms from the burden caused by their obligation to file these ineffective reports.”

NCBA and PLC also targeted the Spill Prevention Control & Counters rule for farms, which has been an ongoing regulatory burden for producers. While EPA attempted to address the farming community’s concerns related to the rule, the program presents many unnecessary challenges for agricultural producers. NCBA and PLC asked EPA to modify the rule so it is easier for farms to implement.

NCBA and PLC called on EPA to protect the privacy of farmers and ranchers in implementing the agency’s regulations. Many farmers and ranchers maintain a personal residence on their operations, and this information may be protected under privacy protections of the law.

“The U.S. cattle industry is proud of its history as stewards of our nation’s natural resources. The industry takes very seriously its obligation to protect the environment while providing the nation with a safe and affordable food supply,” they said.

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