March 13, 2018 by Laurie Ristino

Kneecapping CERCLA Won't Get Rid of Air Pollution from Ag

Who doesn't want to breathe clean air?

Unfortunately, a "bipartisan" bill now working its way through the Senate would undermine our ability to address a growing source of air pollution – livestock operations. The so-called Fair Agriculture Reporting Method Act (S. 2421), or the "FARM Act," would amend the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), better known as the Superfund law, to exempt agricultural producers from reporting toxic air emissions. The bill's clever name is a misnomer: it lets livestock producers stop reporting emissions altogether. Its passage would seriously undermine our ability to address a growing pollution problem that disproportionately impacts rural communities and socially disadvantaged Americans.

To understand how the FARM Act came about, we have to go back 20 years. That's when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) realized that it had insufficient emissions data from animal feeding operations (AFOs) – industrial-style farming facilities in which animals are kept in confined spaces – to determine when Clean Air Act (CAA) permit requirements or CERCLA and Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) requirements were being triggered. Such facilities produce large quantities of manure with related harmful air emissions. After several years of negotiation, EPA entered …

Feb. 8, 2018 by Laurie Ristino

This blog post is part of a series on the 2018 Farm Bill.

Since the 1930s, Congress has tried to formulate an effective farm “safety net,” oscillating among different schemes in order to protect farmers from the severe economic impacts of the Depression and the Dust Bowl. What started as a New Deal emergency intervention has become an entrenched legislative ritual. Indeed, this perennial Farm Bill debate remains a relic of 20th century policy. It’s designed to perpetuate, not to innovate.

The farm safety net incentivizes commodity producers to maintain a business-as-usual approach because farmers are guaranteed a rate of return by the federal government. In particular, under the current Farm Bill, adopted in 2014, producers are eligible for crop insurance supported by taxpayer-subsidized premiums of 62 percent on average. In addition, corn, soybean, and other commodity producers can receive price and income supports when prices …

Jan. 17, 2018 by Laurie Ristino

This blog post is the first in a forthcoming series on the 2018 Farm Bill.

As Congress begins the complex task of crafting the next Farm Bill, much is at stake – from conservation to "food stamps" to rural economies. This blog post is the first in a series addressing important policy considerations with an eye toward making the Farm Bill more effective, rather than backsliding on these and other important issues.

President Obama once referred to the current (2014) Farm Bill as a "Swiss Army knife" because of the many areas of American life that it touches. Another way to think of the omnibus legislation, passed roughly every four to five years, is as a food security bill.

Food security is a helpful framework to foster improved policy coherence in the next Farm Bill across a breadth of policy areas. A food-secure Farm Bill is one that …

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