The Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to stop exempting farmers and ranchers from dust and coarse particulate matter regulations could force thousands of them out of business, the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee says.

Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said outside experts have said that from 35 to 80 percent of the nation’s cattle producers would be unable to comply with the daily coarse particulate matter standard that farmers and ranchers must comply with under the final rule issued by EPA last month.

“I am deeply concerned and troubled by the direction the EPA is taking to regulate dust and coarse particulate matter,” Rep. Goodlatte said. “What we are talking about here is dust, and despite the best efforts of farmers to minimize the impact of their operations on the environment the reality is: dust happens!”

Goodlatte’s office issued a statement on the final rule after the issue was raised during a Subcommittee on Conservation, Credit and Rural Development hearing to review EPA pesticide programs.

“Air quality regulation was developed by the Congress to rein in harmful practices that scientifically resulted in negative health consequences; however, the new regulations imposed by the EPA are not based on any scientific evidence of adverse health effects and appear to be capriciously derived,” he said.

The EPA’s initial proposed standard, published in December 2005, included an exemption for agricultural and mining sources of fugitive dust. At the time, the EPA explained that the data were at best inconclusive regarding the potential health affects of coarse particulate matter in rural communities.

“The agricultural and mining exemptions were removed from the final regulation announced last week,” said Goodlatte. “If the data is inconclusive about a possible health affect, then why the need to regulate it?

“These new standards have significant ramifications in the agriculture sector. By reducing the fine particle emission levels by nearly 50 percent, the EPA has made it virtually impossible for many sectors of agriculture to be able to comply even when implementing all available best management practices. The cattle industry alone could not operate under such stringent regulations.”

Referring to comments submitted by experts that an estimated 35 percent to 80 percent of total cattle production would be unable to comply with the daily coarse particulate matter standard, Goodlatte said: “This is just simply unacceptable. It is my hope that the EPA will reconsider its decision and let the science guide the process.”

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