090110 The "Fart" Tax? Proposed Livestock Tax to Combat Methane

(New Jersey Herald) -- It may evoke a smile or even a laugh, but the possibility of a flatulence tax for cows and other livestock has local farmers raising a stink.

"Cows have been crapping on God's green earth since he created them. I don't think it's going to ruin the ozone layer," said Jeff Vander Groef, owner of Vander Groef Farm in Wantage.

Farmer Phil Brodhecker of Brodhecker Farm in Hampton thinks a gas tax is equally ridiculous.

"Why don't they tax people, elephants, giraffe and deer? It's not like we can produce a lower emission cow," Brodhecker said.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, all the hot air surrounding the issue is premature.

"The EPA is not proposing a cow tax," said EPA spokesman Dale Kemery.

In July, the agency started soliciting public comments on a number of options to be considered for greenhouse gas regulations under the Clean Air Act, he said. The comment session ended on Nov. 28.

"The EPA is currently reviewing the public comments and does not yet have a time frame for next steps," Kemery said.

If the EPA did decide to move forward with the new regulations, they would also impact other sectors, like the building and automobile industries.

A methane tax, however, could be detrimental to the dairy industry.

According to Liz Thompson, a research associate with the New Jersey Farm Bureau, farmers would be required to get permits for their animals, which could cost up to $175 per dairy cow, $87.50 a head for beef cattle and $20 per hog.

For Brodhecker, who keeps between 70 and 150 beef cattle at a time, that could mean a cost of up to $13,125.

"It would be horrendous," Brodhecker said. "Some of the animals are only on our property for a short term, so how are they going to regulate it?"

Former State Secretary of Agriculture Charles Kuperus said he was also alarmed by the possible tax.

"If we are going to keep agriculture going, it needs to be economically viable, and once it's undermined, you'll have farmers throw up their hands," Kuperus said.

Roger DeGroat of Plumbsock Farm in Sussex is one of those farmers.

"If they do that, I'll just sell the cows and find a job," he said.

In the business for 22 years, DeGroat said he usually keeps about 54 cows at a time.

"Are they going to come in and count your cows? I really don't know. It's ridiculous because the number fluctuates a lot."

All the methane and carbon dioxide that cows belch and toot during the day only accounts for about three percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, said American Farm Bureau Senior Director of Congressional Relations, Richard Krause.

He estimates the EPA will make a decision on whether to move forward with the proposal by spring.

"The next administration has said they want to regulate green house gasses under the clean air act and this is one of the things that would result," Krause said. "I don't think they really thought about this. I'm hoping they will think twice before moving forward because there are so many implications with this."