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FARM Act Necessary to Prevent Farmers and Ranchers from Being Subject to Needless EPA Regulations

Farmers and ranchers in South Dakota work hard to grow and raise quality products for consumers. They also take great pride in caring for our natural resources and making sure they are available for future generations to use. The federal government should not needlessly get in the way of the work they do to help feed and fuel a growing population.

I recently co-sponsored the Fair Agricultural Reporting Method (FARM) Act, a bipartisan bill to protect farmers and ranchers from EPA reporting requirements for animal waste emissions. This legislation, which was introduced by Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and now has 33 bipartisan cosponsors, also prevents activist interest groups from attempting to redefine congressional intent related to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) in the future. Our bill would provide producers with greater certainty by reinstating the status quo producers have been operating under since EPA’s 2008 final rule exempting them from this reporting rule.

Let me take a moment to explain why our bill is necessary. In 1980, CERCLA was established to manage hazardous waste and respond to environmental emergencies and natural disasters. It was meant to be used to clean up land that was identified by the EPA as hazardous or contaminated, and make sure that local communities are able to safely manage hazardous waste. Animal waste contains ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, which are both considered hazardous substances under CERCLA, so in 2008, the EPA amended the rule to exempt animal waste at agricultural operations from CERCLA reporting requirements.

However, in 2017, a court case against the EPA initiated by an environmental activist group resulted in a decision that reversed the animal waste exemption, leaving approximately 200,000 ag producers subject to burdensome, time-consuming and costly reporting requirements for animal waste emissions. Congress never intended these be imposed on family farming operations, who are already responsibly and safely working to produce enough food and fuel for a growing global population.

As the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste Management and Regulatory Oversight, I recently held a legislative hearing on the FARM Act. We were able to hear from witnesses involved in farming and ranching about how EPA reporting requirements on animal waste have impacted their businesses, including Todd Mortenson who runs a ranch in Stanley County. Todd explained to the committee that the FARM Act will help make sure farmers and ranchers are able to focus on doing their jobs, rather than complying with unnecessary paperwork requirements.  

South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers are some of the hardest working people I know. The FARM Act prevents them from being subject to needless regulations that have no environmental benefit – so they can focus on working on their land and feeding the world. I look forward to working with my colleagues to get it across the finish line in a timely manner.