Beef and dairy cattle and hogs are part of the cycle of life. They breathe in oxygen and breathe out CO2, and their digestion of food produces methane as well. Living animals, at least domestic ones, from the perspective of environmentalists, thus constitute a major source of greenhouse gas air pollution, and consequently need to be taxed in order to discourage bovine respiration and porcine flatulence.
The EPA’s proposed addition of “greenhouse gases” under the Clean Air Act would amount to the imposition of major new taxes on domestic agriculture and on American consumers.
The American Farm Bureau offers some figures and notes that taxing US beef and pork production will only move that production outside US borders.
Most livestock and dairy farmers would not be able to pass along the costs incurred under this plan,â€ said Mark Maslyn, AFBF executive director of public policy. â€œSteep fees associated with this action would force many producers out of business. The net result would likely be higher consumer costs for milk, beef and pork,â€ said Maslyn, in comments submitted to EPA.
According to Agriculture Department figures, any farm or ranch with more than 25 dairy cows, 50 beef cattle or 200 hogs emits more than 100 tons of carbon equivalent per year, and thus would need to obtain a permit under the proposed rules. More than 90 percent of U.S. dairy, beef and pork production would be affected by the proposal, Maslyn noted.
Permit fees vary from state to state but EPA sets a â€œpresumptive minimum rateâ€ for fees. For 2008-2009, the rate is $43.75 per ton of emitted greenhouse gases. According to Maslyn, the proposed fee would mean annual assessments of $175 for each dairy cow, $87.50 for each head of beef cattle and $20 for each hog.
In addition, Maslyn said the proposed rules would be ineffective because of the global nature of greenhouse gases. â€œReduction of a ton of greenhouse gases anywhere will make a difference, but if a ton is removed in Iowa and replaced by a ton in China, then no net effect occurred,â€ he said. â€œA livestock tax and regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act will impose restrictions and added costs on the U.S. economy without reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.