Farmers may pay a stiff price for contributions to global warming.

PHILIP BRASHER | Tucson Citizen

Farmers are being warned they could pay a stiff price for their contributions to global warming.

That could happen if the Environmental Protection Agency goes forward with regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the federal Clean Air Act, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department.  Under the law, livestock operations of all sizes and farms with as few as 500 acres of corn could exceed emissions thresholds and would be required to pay for permits, USDA says.

These fees could amount to as much as $20 for every hog and $175 per dairy cow, says Rick Krause, who follows climate policy for the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Ron Sparks, a Democrat who is Alabama’s agriculture commissioner and president of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, says the fees would drive livestock farmers out of business.

“At a time when we are becoming more and more reliant on other countries for our food, we should be looking for ways to help farmers, not punish them for producing the food we put on the table for our families,” he said.

To farmers, it may sound outlandish that they would have to get permits for greenhouse gas emissions, or even that they are contributing to global warming, but here is the logic:

The Supreme Court ordered the Bush administration to declare whether greenhouse gas emissions harm the public, and if so to regulate them as a dangerous pollutant. The Bush administration hasn’t taken action, but President-elect Barack Obama’s advisers have indicated his EPA will move forward.

Advocates of EPA regulation want to target the largest sources of emissions, such as automobiles and coal-fired power plants.

But USDA says that using the Clean Air Act to control greenhouse gases would trigger regulations on farms under rules that require businesses to obtain permits to emit more than 100 tons of a pollutant in a year.

Read on here.

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