Tester wants to dump animal waste regulation

by Great Falls Tribune, Phil Drake

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester said Wednesday he is cosponsoring bipartisan legislation that will stop the federal government from regulating animal waste, or, as he referred to it in a news release peppered with puns: “cow pies.”

The Fair Agriculture Reporting Method (FARM) Act permanently dumps a regulation that would require small family farmers and ranchers to report air emissions from animal waste to federal officials.

The action will be attached to the Omnibus Bill expected to be heard Thursday by the House and Friday by the Senate, said Dave Kuntz, press secretary for Tester. The proposal by Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., has several co-sponsors and provides an exemption from some notice requirements and penalties for releases of hazardous substances from animal waste at farms.

Tester said a recent court decision in Waterkeeper Alliance v. Environmental Protection Agency would require farmers and ranchers to report to the federal government how much cow manure is on their land.

The law was written for large animal feeding operations outside of Montana, he said, adding that Montana’s farmers and ranchers have been exempt from the law since 1980.

“Farmers and ranchers have plenty of work to do, trust me, counting cow pies is nothing short of ridiculous,” Tester said.

“It’s not just the smell coming out of Washington, this regulation is total crap,” the Montana Democrat said.

The Waterkeeper Alliance declined to comment Wednesday.

The Montana Stockgrowers Association thanked Tester for cosponsoring the FARM Act, calling it “a commonsense piece of legislation that works to eliminate an unnecessary and unrealistic burden on ranchers.”

Tester said a Washington, D.C., Circuit Court threw out the ranch exemption, which would now force Montana producers to start reporting air emissions from their animal waste by May 1.

Tester said his bill frees Montana producers from following the regulation by clarifying that the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act was never intended to apply to agriculture operations.

The headline on Tester’s news release announcing this latest action was “Tester to Washington: Cut the crap.”