Archive for Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Kansas farmers worried about EPA review of dust rules

October 12, 2010


— A federal review of dirt particles has some Kansas farmers wondering how they would be expected to produce without kicking up the dust that is a normal byproduct of working the land.

The Environmental Protection Agency is required to review its airborne pollutant standards every five years under the Clean Air Act. That includes “coarse particulate matter,” which includes dust. A draft report issued by the EPA in July would tighten air particle standards from 150 micrograms per cubic meter to between 65 and 85 micrograms.

Mark Smith, president of the Kansas Livestock Association, tells The Hutchinson News that it would be nearly impossible for farmers to meet such low levels.

“I don’t think there is a day in the western United States that at that level, it would be attainable,” he said.

Supporters of reducing the standards cite health problems caused by the dust particles. A 2005 EPA report found that agriculture tilling and confined animal feeding operations are the largest contributors to ag-related dust in the central United States. Kansas leads the region in both those areas.

The particles that the EPA is considering regulating include diesel exhaust from tractors and trucks, animal manure, insecticides, pesticides and soil, said Diane Tinker, development director for the American Lung Association in Kansas.

She said research has shown the particles can cause early death, heart attacks, strokes and asthma attacks, and have been linked to lung cancer. She estimates 2,000 people in Kansas have lung cancer.

“Once the EPA determines what that level should be, then state and local folks will be able to come together — including farmers — to decide how best to move forward,” she said. “Bottom line, this standard will help protect the health of people in farms and farm communities.”

A bipartisan group of 75 lawmakers, including Kansas Reps. Jerry Moran, Todd Tiahrt and Lynn Jenkins, wrote to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in late September expressing concern about the impact the draft proposal would have on rural America.

The same issue was discussed five years ago, but the EPA curtailed the effort after the previous EPA director visited a farm and said the rule wasn’t designed for agriculture settings, said Steve Swaffer, director of natural resources for the Kansas Farm Bureau.

“Go out to plant or spray or harvest, you generate dust, period,” Swaffer said. “I don’t know how you could control it.”

And he said lowering the standards wouldn’t just affect farmers and ranchers.

“You regulate the dust off county roads, how does a county tax base pay for that?” he questioned.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 5 months ago

Industrial agriculture is precisely that-- industrial. As a large-scale industry, it produces large quantities of pollution. We either limit it to safe levels, or we suffer the consequences.

Ken Lassman 7 years, 5 months ago

Come on, Bozo, Dust is unavoidable to a large extent on a farm. If there is a cheap, easy way to avoid creating dust, then by all means, go for it, but you can't expect a farmer to haul water to spray a feedlot several times a day, or in front of the tractor as it plants wheat.

The consequences cut both ways, don't you think?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 5 months ago

As I stated in the previous post, either the problem is dealt with, or we all suffer the consequences. Stating that there is no solution doesn't change that fact.

gccs14r 7 years, 5 months ago

No-till farming. It's better for the soil, anyway. Industrial feedlots shouldn't exist.

gr 7 years, 5 months ago

"She estimates 2,000 people in Kansas have lung cancer."

Ok, so smoking is legal, but raising food will be banned?

But if we go with the mercury injectors of children, who say that rates way above EPA allowed rates are ok if they are given at one time, we can say that 65 micrograms of dust is ok if it's only during planting or harvest season.

240 7 years, 5 months ago

The Ag industry has a lot of exemptions from environmental regulations. If all other industries have to comply they should too.

Everyone else has to keep water trucks around to keep fugitive emissions down, why shouldn't they? If we are going to be an environmentally friendly country all industries have to pay the price.

Maybe if they took better care of their land it wouldn't be so dusty...

gr 7 years, 5 months ago

By "fugitive emissions" do you mean dirt?

Do you suggest the EPA next keeps air down, too?

Ken Lassman 7 years, 5 months ago

240, Have you ever spent time on a farm? If you're from around here, I'll bet you have farmers in your past. Dust dampening is uneconomical because water takes so much energy to pull out of the ground and haul and spread around that it would cost more than the crop would be to grow it. Furthermore you get in the fields when it's dry enough to plant and harvest, and if you spread enough water around to stop the dust then you can't plant/harvest. Like I said, you come up with an economical, environmentally way to stop dust and get back with us, and we'll be happy to hear about it.

gccs14r 7 years, 5 months ago

The technology for no-till farming has been around for decades. "Traditionalist" farmers don't want to use it because it's not what their fathers and grandfathers used.

Ken Lassman 7 years, 5 months ago

gc, Have you ever seen no till without dust? Or harvesting crops? I sure haven't. If that's all that they are going to require, then most farms have nothing to worry about.

HW 7 years, 5 months ago

gc, No-till is a great practice, but it has it's own set of environmental concerns, mainly the use of more chemicals. I am not picking sides on the till/no-till issue (as I think it depends on location as to which one is better), just pointing out a fact.

240 7 years, 5 months ago

"Fugitive emissions" is the technical jargon for any dust emission that you can't control. Like dust coming off a field, road, dumping ect.

I'm looking at this problem from the point of view of my job which is enviromental consulting. Every business struggles to keep up with the constantly changing regulations.

Yes, I grew up in a very small town. Most people I knew were farmers and I know it's expensive to haul and spray water (and I know you can't harvest when it's wet), but that's the current method that all other industries use to keep dust down. Hopefully EPA will come up with a different solution for farmers.

I'm not really for more regulation from the EPA. They are creating rules like crazy, and leaving it up to the states to figure out how to enforce them (Kansas and Missouri have cut auditing staff and permit writing staff). They need to slow down if they are going to create anything fair.

labmonkey 7 years, 5 months ago

Take away EPA regulatory power now!!! Before this nation is unable to produce electricity or food.

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