Changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would impede the growth of the U.S. biofuels industry, limit opportunity for American farmers and ranchers to grow their businesses and hinder American energy independence, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

In comments submitted on proposed changes to the renewable fuels standard program, AFBF pointed out that EPA’s definition of “agricultural land” in the proposed regulations creates onerous land-use rules and record-keeping requirements that would bar many farmers from growing crops used for biofuel production, and in so doing, would reduce the value of a great deal of American farmland. The regulations could potentially prohibit farmers from converting pastureland or forestland to cropland to produce ethanol.

“This could allow the EPA to dictate how a farmer manages his or her land,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “This is unprecedented because it could give EPA the authority to regulate and redefine the uses of agricultural land. EPA clearly does not have this authority in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA). This increased authority for EPA greatly worries Farm Bureau members.

“It is important to point out that EPA’s proposal redefines the land-use provisions set forth by law and imposes onerous record-keeping requirements for farmers who grow renewable fuel feed stocks. This clearly goes against the intent of Congress because these record-keeping provisions were not required by law.” Stallman said.

In the comments, AFBF strongly objected to the EPA proposal regarding indirect land use provisions, which claim that ethanol production in the United States indirectly leads to deforestation in tropical countries.

“There is no reliable way to measure or accurately predict how the production of biofuels will affect land use change in other countries,” AFBF stressed in its comments. “EPA’s reliance on new and uncertain science to predict international land use change is irresponsible and will seriously impair American agriculture’s participation in the biofuels industry.”