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Senators Introduce Bill to Provide Certainty for Farmers and Ranchers

U.S. Senator Ernst (R-Iowa) joined Senators Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), and Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) in introducing the Fair Agricultural Reporting Method (FARM) Act. The bill, which has a number of other bipartisan cosponsors, would protect farmers, ranchers, and livestock markets from burdensome EPA reporting requirements for animal waste emissions. These requirements were not intended to affect animal agriculture and instead were meant to address dangerous industrial pollution, chemical plant explosions, and the release of hazardous materials into the environment.

“Today, I joined a bipartisan group of colleagues in a commonsense approach to protect livestock producers from burdensome EPA reporting requirements. Agriculture is driving Iowa’s expanding economy, and by exempting agricultural operations from these requirements, the FARM Act provides the relief Iowa’s farmers and ranchers deserve while promoting continued growth across the state,” said Senator Ernst, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW).   

“Nebraska agriculture producers should be able to focus on doing their job of feeding the world without unnecessary distractions. These reporting requirements were designed to apply to industrial pollution and toxic chemicals, not animal waste on a farm or a ranch. Our legislation makes it clear that agriculture is exempt from these requirements and ensures producers in this country can continue to operate as they have been since 2008,”said Senator Fischer, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and the EPW Committee .    

“Hoosier farmers who live and work on the land every day know firsthand the importance of protecting the environment. Requiring farmers to spend their time and money on reports that will go unused by EPA would be burdensome and needless. I’m proud to work with my colleagues on this bipartisan legislation to restore the common sense approach to regulating our livestock farmers,” said Senator Donnelly, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.  

“Ranchers and farmers in Wyoming, and across the country, need clarity from Washington. The FARM Act is a commonsense bill to protect our farmers and ranchers from burdensome and unnecessary regulations. These reporting requirements were never intended to be applied to agricultural operations. Even the Obama administration agreed that air emissions from farms shouldn’t be regulated as pollution. I am thankful to Senator Fischer for partnering with me to help get America’s ranchers and farmers some much needed relief,” said Senator Barrasso, the Chairman of the EPW Committee.

“Treating farms, ranches and small livestock operations like Superfund sites is not what Congress intended when it passed CERCLA. These programs were enacted to clean up land that has been identified by the EPA as hazardous or contaminated and make certain America’s communities can safely manage hazardous substances.  They were not intended to be imposed on family farming operations, who are working to use the best science in order to produce enough food and fuel for a growing global population. Our bill codifies this intent into law to prevent activist interest groups from attempting to redefine congressional intent related to CERCLA in the future,” said Senator Rounds, a member of the EPW Committee.

“I’ve heard from Kansas farmers and ranchers that, unless Congress acts, they will be subject to another burdensome and unnecessary regulation that costs time, money, and paperwork. In fact, more than 100,000 operations across the nation would be forced to abide by this reporting requirement that was never intended to affect agriculture. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to act swiftly on this legislation and to get these producers the help they need,” said Senate Roberts, the Chairman of the Agriculture Committee.

“North Dakota’s farmers and ranchers work hard every day to keep our rural communities strong, especially in times of hardship like drought and low commodity prices,” Heitkamp said. “The last thing they need is uncertainty and overly burdensome regulations, so this bipartisan effort would give more clarity to livestock producers and support the men and women who are the backbone of our farm economy,” said Senator Heitkamp, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

“I am honored to support this common-sense fix for our poultry farmers in Delaware. I believe that strong environmental protections must be balanced with an approach that makes sense for farmers who live and work on the land.  I have heard from many farmers in my state about this issue, and I am pleased this will provide them relief,” said Senator Coons, co-chair of the Senate Chicken Caucus.

“Farmers in Delaware and across the country, who work hard to comply with reporting requirements, deserve certainty for their businesses that support our local economies and to clearly know what is expected of them. I am pleased to join this bipartisan group of senators as we work together toward a solution that provides both needed clarity for our hardworking farmers, as well as the necessary data to protect our environment and keep the public informed. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to move the FARM Act through Congress,” said Senator Carper, top Democrat on the EPW Committee. 

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) are laws on the books that require entities to notify authorities when they release large quantities of hazardous materials. In 2008, the EPA published a final rule exempting most livestock operations from the laws’ reporting requirements.

In April 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled EPA did not have the authority to create this exemption for agriculture, creating confusion and uncertainty for America’s ag producers. 

The FARM Act would:

  • Maintain the exemption for certain federally registered pesticides from reporting requirements within CERCLA.
  • Exempt air emissions from animal waste on a farm from reporting requirements under CERCLA.
  • Provide agriculture producers with greater certainty by reinstating the status quo producers have been operating under since EPA’s 2008 final rule.