The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) made clear its position on any attempt by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to lower the coarse particulate matter (PM) standard as part of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) during one of two public hearings hosted by EPA.
“NCBA represents tens of thousands of America’s cattlemen and women who provide much of the nation’s supply of food. Our members are proud of their tradition as stewards and conservators of America’s lands and waters,” says Ashley McDonald, NCBA deputy environmental counsel, during the hearing. “Cattle producers across the country would be adversely affected if EPA lowers the dust standard, especially those in the West, Southwest and Midwest, and we urge the agency to retain the current standard as proposed.”
Every five years, the EPA is required to review scientific studies associated with “criteria pollutants” regulated under the NAAQS of the Clean Air Act to determine if the pollutant is regulated appropriately. One of the criteria pollutants is particulate matter (PM), which includes dust. PM in arid western regions is made up primarily of mechanically generated crustal material, including fugitive dust. The coarse PM emitted from cattle operations is fugitive PM or fugitive dust, which is the result of windblown dust and cattle movements. Because rural coarse PM is largely a natural phenomenon, it is extremely difficult to ensure compliance with the standard in dry, arid regions where coarse PM predominates despite use of best management practices.
During Tuesday’s hearing, McDonald made it clear that if the PM NAAQS is further reduced, it will be virtually impossible for current agricultural facilities, including feedlot operations, to demonstrate compliance.
“NCBA believes regulations designed to protect the public health can only achieve that goal when they are based on a solid scientific foundation,” says McDonald. “Over the past 30 plus years, many experienced medical and public health experts in respiratory diseases, epidemiology, toxicology and clinical treatment have noted that coarse PM has never been demonstrated to have adverse health effects at ambient levels.”
NCBA supports the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act, proposed by U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE) and U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD). The legislation essentially would exempt farmers and ranchers from federal dust regulations if it is regulated at the state or local level.