It’s a stinky notion for farmers.
Belching and gaseous cows and hogs could end up costing them money if the federal government decides to charge fees for animals that pollute the air.
The suggestion has some Douglas County farmers turning up their noses.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Joyce Williams, of MJ Ranch, 3105 Wild Horse Road. “That would eliminate agriculture in our country almost, if all animals were taxed. We can’t do that; it’s just almost unthinkable.”
The cow tax is a possible consequence of an Environmental Protection Agency report following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2008 that greenhouse gases from motor vehicles amount to air pollution, the American Farm Bureau Federation said.
According to the agricultural organization, the provisions of the EPA’s Clean Air Act report would require farms and ranches to pay an annual fee of about $175 for every dairy cow, $87.50 for every head of beef cattle and $20 for every hog.
“That’s quite hefty,” said Debbie Yarnell, of Homespun Hill Farm, 137 East 1400 Road in Baldwin City. “It would sure make me think twice about getting out of the business.”
The fee would apply to farms with livestock operations that emit more than 100 tons of carbon emissions in a year, which, based on federal agriculture department figures, would include those with more than 25 dairy cows, 50 beef cattle or 200 hogs, the AFBF said.
While cows can convert otherwise unusable plant materials into fiber and food, their digestive system also produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas that can contribute to global warming, the EPA said.
“That’s just a process of nature,” said Melvin Williams from his pasture northeast of Lawrence.
His wife, Joyce, said there’s no way to objectively measure cow flatulence.
“I bet if you walk over there behind our cows you’ll see some poop, but you’re not going to hear a lot of gas,” Joyce Williams said with a laugh.
The EPA briefly mentions “raising livestock” in its report on ways to regulate greenhouse gases. But EPA officials insist the lengthy, highly technical report, which mostly focuses on other sources of air pollution, does not include a proposal to tax livestock.
In a statement to the Journal-World, Catherine Milbourn, senior press officer for the federal organization, said the EPA doesn’t have a time frame for taking action.