Farmers, State officials concerned over EPA proposal

Montgomery, Ala. (WSFA) -- A proposal from the Environmental Protection Agency could mean tougher times for farmers across the state.

State agriculture officials are now worried a plan to clean the air may put farmers in jeopardy.

The Federal Government wants to require permits for livestock producers and dairy farmers who raise large numbers of hogs and cattle, setting fees that would cost thousands of dollars for some farmers each year.

Here is a breakdown of the fees, according to ALFA Farmers:

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture figures, any farm or ranch with more than 25 dairy cows, 50 beef cattle or 200 hogs emits more than 100 tons of carbon equivalent per year, and thus would need to obtain a permit under the proposed rules. More than 90 percent of U.S. dairy, beef and pork production would be affected by the proposal. Mobley said the figure could be even higher for Alabama.

Permit fees would vary from state to state, but EPA sets a "presumptive minimum rate" for fees. For 2008-2009, the rate is $43.75 per ton of emitted greenhouse gases. According to AFBF, the proposed fee would mean annual assessments of $175 for each dairy cow, $87.50 for each head of beef cattle and $20 for each hog.

"I can tell you if they're successful in putting this policy in place it'll put our farms out of business," said Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks.

Local farmers advocates say the proposal doesn't make any sense.

"There's no conclusive evidence that eliminating livestock in this country would have any effect, and this proposal, in effect, would eliminate livestock," said Perry Mobley of the Alabama Farmers Federation.

With the economy the way it is, many producers could barely find the money and roll a profit.

"There isn't $4200 worth of margin in a 100 cow beef herd," Mobley said.

If you add to that financial stress over time, Mobley says an annual fee may be dried up in the first year.

"It would just put them out of business, so the next year, they wouldn't be around to pay it."

That's yet another reason, leaders say, to take action.

"This is one time the consumers of Alabama need to step up to the plate and fight for the farmers that we have in Alabama," Sparks explained.