The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) has voiced its opposition to an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposal to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Water Act, alleging it would basically mean new taxes on livestock operations.

“Most livestock and dairy farmers would not be able to pass along the costs incurred under this plan,” says Mark Maslyn, AFBF executive director of public policy. “Steep fees associated with this action would force many producers out of business. The net result would likely be higher consumer costs for milk, beef and pork,” Maslyn says in comments submitted to EPA.

Based on Agriculture Department data, 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, requiring a permit under the proposed rules. More than 90% of U.S. dairy, beef and pork production would be affected.

The current rate of $43.75/ton of emitted greenhouse gases would translate into annual assessments of $175 for each dairy cow, $87.50 for each head of beef cattle and $20 for each hog.

Maslyn says the proposed rules wouldn’t be effective because of the global nature of greenhouse gases. “Reduction of a ton of greenhouse gases anywhere will make a difference, but if a ton is removed in Iowa and replaced by a ton in China, then no net effect occurred,” he explains. “A livestock tax and regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Water Act will impose restrictions and added costs on the U.S. economy without reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”