EPA tries to tamp down dust-rule ‘myth’

The Associated Press

by Mary Clare Jalonick

WASHINGTON — The EPA is trying to put to rest what it calls a “myth” that it is going to crack down on farm dust.

In letters to two senators last week, Administrator Lisa Jackson said the agency won’t expand its current air-quality standards to include dust created by agriculture.

Republicans and some farmstate Democrats have used the issue on the campaign trail, arguing that the EPA is set to penalize farmers for everyday activities. Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain said in a recent debate that the agency is “out of control” and was preparing to regulate dust. Republicans in Congress have used the hypothetical dust rule as an argument against government regulations they say could eliminate jobs. Nebraska Sen. Mike Johanns and South Dakota Rep. Kristi Noem, both Republicans, have pushed legislation that would block the rule if it had been proposed.

Obama administration officials have tried to deflect talk of a dust rule for months, to little avail. A statement released by the agency Monday said “EPA hopes that this action finally puts an end to the myth that the agency is planning to expand regulations of farm dust.”

National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson said there has been considerable anxiety in farm country about the possibility of increased regulation on agriculture.

“We hope this action finally puts to rest the misinformation regarding dust regulation and eases the minds of farmers and ranchers across the country,” Johnson said.

“My equipment kicks up dust almost every time I’m in the fields,” said Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. “But I also know that while I’m working my fields, I’m contributing to Montana’s top industry and growing food that feeds this country. The EPA has to recognize the unique role family farm agriculture plays in this country.”

“Agriculture is the heart of our economy, and the last thing our family farmers and ranchers need in this economy is more red tape and burdensome rules,” said Sen Max Baucus, D-Mont.

In addition, Baucus said he received a commitment from Jackson that the deadline to implement new fuel-storage regulations on rural farms and ranches will be extended from November to May 10, 2013. Baucus said he was told public comments on the proposal also will be taken. “While it’s important to ensure stewardship of our resources, we cannot allow unnecessary regulations to cripple Montana’s farmers and ranchers,” Baucus said. “I’m pleased administrator Jackson has listened to our bipartisan calls for common sense and is working with us to ensure family farms in Montana are given a reasonable opportunity to comply with the new Oil Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure regulations and can be certain they won’t face unnecessary dust regulations.”