In comments on the U.S. EPA's proposed revisions to existing National Ambient Air Quality Standards, the American Farm Bureau this week urged the agency to avoid these changes for the benefit of rural communities and the agriculture industry.
Farm Bureau said EPA's proposal tightens ozone standards that are already strict, and would impose significant cost to farmers and ranchers "without delivering a guaranteed benefit to the public."
If implemented, the group says agriculture would be impacted by the regulation changes because they affect animal feeding, pesticide application and waste management activities.
These activities "would be further restricted even as proposed limits are at or near naturally occurring levels in some areas," AFBF explained. "Higher costs to meet special requirements for vehicles and fuel would be passed on to farmers and ranchers who depend on affordable energy to stay competitive in the global economy."
According to the group's statement, EPA changes could also create a trickle-down effect by limiting business expansion, resulting in fewer jobs.
According to Dale Moore, AFBF executive director of public policy, "The hardship to farmers, ranchers and rural America will be real and immediate, while the benefits are unverified and uncertain."
Under EPA's proposed changes, the primary standard (health-based) would be altered to a level within the range of 0.065 to 0.070 parts per million, and the secondary standard (welfare-based) would be revised to within the range of 0.065 to 0.070 ppm.
According to AFBF comments, this would bring some rural regions into nonattainment, as the proposed range is at or near the level of background ozone that is already occurring.
Farm Bureau said its main concern of the proposal is about the difficulty regulating volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides and other potential ozone precursors from agriculture.
Such restrictions could, according to AFBF in detail: "curtail production activities; restrict pesticide applications; designate/limit pesticide application times; eliminate pesticide availability; restrict animal agricultural feeding operations due to emissions from animal waste handling and storage; prescribe costly control measures for animal agriculture; and prescribe costly and wasteful control measures for certain food and agricultural processing industries."
Read AFBF's full comments on EPA's proposed changes to National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Ozone and EPA - HQ - OAR - 2008 – 0699 on the Federal Register.