This Week’s Column: The Cow Tax

The Environmental Protection Agency is about to step in it again, figuratively speaking. Long considered an adversary of agriculture and industry, the EPA is charged with regulating the environmental impact of various portions of commerce in this country. In recent weeks the agency has announced a proposed rule that would allow the government to regulate greenhouse gas emissions as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. This rule would most likely lead the agency to require permits for any entity that emits a certain amount of carbon into the atmosphere, including farmers and ranchers.


The war on carbon hasn’t yet attacked agriculture directly, and for their part, farmers have been largely proactive on the issue of greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sequestration. A significant number of grain producers implement no-till or controlled tillage practices on their farms, allowing their fields to sequester carbon from the atmosphere into the soil where it can be reprocessed into useful plant nutrients. At the same time, those producers may also bundle their “carbon credits” and sell them through trading houses like the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) to industrial entities who are unable to further reduce their own “carbon footprint.”


In a number of European nations governments have taken the oppressive and growth killing step of mandating levels of carbon emission reduction, virtually stifling industrial production. These regulations have spawned so-called cap and trade systems like the CCX, and while such carbon credit trading is voluntary in this country, it is a fact of life for many industries around the world.


When discussing major emitters of carbon, the obvious entities to consider are manufacturing operations, the transportation energy, coal-fired power plants, and similar engines of commerce and productivity. While agriculture might not be top of mind in terms of carbon generation, consider that the United States Department of Agriculture has stated that under the terms of the proposed EPA rule, any livestock operation with at least 25 dairy cows, 50 beef cows, or 200 hogs would meet the threshold for regulation. Think about farms in your neighborhood… how many of them meet this criteria, and would thereby be subjected to permitting requirements?


What effect then would this EPA rule have on these livestock operations? The most direct impact would be the permitting requirements incumbent in the rule. EPA has proposed that any entity that emits the set amount of carbon annually must be permitted under the Clean Air Act. By using prevailing permit rates, the American Farm Bureau Federation has estimated that these new permits would cost affected farmers $175 per dairy cow, $87.50 per beef cow, and $20 per hog. Those figures, it should be noted, are PER each individual animal, so a dairy farm with the minimum 25 head would be assessed a permit fee of $4,375, each beef operation would be charged a similar amount, and each hog farm would be billed over $4,000. In times of economic uncertainty, how much sense does this “cow tax” make for our nation?


The underlying question taxpayers should be asking isn’t limited to the question of the Cow Tax, but to the Al Gore-driven agenda of global warming hysteria. For every global warming alarmist who claims the Earth is melting due to SUV’s, plasma screen TV’s, and climate controlled air conditioning, there are an equal number who have either debunked the dubious science behind global warming or who have been silenced by the activists pushing the man-made heating hype. Again, in terms of the United States economy, which should be Concern #1 of the American taxpayer, what sense does it make for the government to hand down even heavier regulatory burden on the manufacturers who employ our friends and neighbors? Jobs will be lost if the EPA is allowed to designate carbon as a pollutant and require additional regulatory fees and permits costs of American industry. If the average livestock farm in our state will be charged over $4,000, think of your place of business or employment; could your job be on the line due to the rising cost of doing business? Think too of the global marketplace; many Americans are concerned about jobs being shipped overseas. If the EPA drives up the cost of producing an automobile in this country, wouldn’t it make sense for those manufacturers to explore producing a lower cost car in another country? Such a move would certainly not be a good thing for the American worker or consumer.


The Founders of our nation built this country on the concept of limited government. By allowing activists to control the agenda and set the tone in Washington, bureaucrats eager to increase their own influence and budgets impose ever-increasing burdens on the US businessman at the expense of the consumer, the worker, and the taxpayer. If the EPA is allowed to expand their own authority under the clean air act, our friends and neighbors will lose jobs, the cost we pay for manufactured goods will rise, and most importantly, our nation’s food security and independence will suffer. The Cow Tax is an unacceptable incursion into the American countryside, and must not be tolerated by the American taxpayer.