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Published May 15, 2009, 07:52 AM

Our View: Threats to ag industry frustrating

Once again, the Environmental Protection Agency has its nose in the agriculture industry.
In recent weeks, we’ve heard about the possibility that the EPA would require producers to pay taxes on the natural emissions that come from livestock such as cattle and hogs. Although it’s just a remote chance that it could happen — our two U.S. senators even disagree on the possibility — it’s still a case of the EPA’s eagerness to make rules that could entirely hinder ag producers’ ability to make a living.

By: Staff, The Daily Republic

Once again, the Environmental Protection Agency has its nose in the agriculture industry.

In recent weeks, we’ve heard about the possibility that the EPA would require producers to pay taxes on the natural emissions that come from livestock such as cattle and hogs. Although it’s just a remote chance that it could happen — our two U.S. senators even disagree on the possibility — it’s still a case of the EPA’s eagerness to make rules that could entirely hinder ag producers’ ability to make a living.

Now, the EPA is considering totally unrealistic standards to measure the carbon footprint of the biofuels industry. It’s a proposal that if implemented would be devastating to the biofuels industry and rural South Dakota.

The EPA’s idea is to not only count the harmful greenhouse emissions that come from actual production of ethanol and other biofuels, but also many indirect land uses that to us seem quite a stretch.

U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D., both derided the proposal earlier this week. Both also say that if the EPA’s land-use model is adopted, there’s trouble for the ethanol industry, which has become a major player in South Dakota agriculture.

According to the South Dakota Corn Utilization Council, more than 14,000 South Dakotans have invested in some way in the ethanol industry. The organization also says the 12 ethanol plants in operation in the state have produced some $400 million in capital investment in South Dakota.

Impressive numbers, considering how far the industry has come since it was little more than a dream in the 1990s.

Herseth Sandlin and Thune quote various sources that show ethanol is much cleaner than gasoline, yet if the EPA has its way, ethanol is actually dirtier than gas. The EPA comes to that conclusion through an odd reckoning process.

For instance, as more American corn is consumed by ethanol facilities, there is less corn to export. In response, farmers in other parts of the world may be planting more corn to be used as a food source. The work of those farmers in other parts of the world may then be counted toward ethanol’s overall carbon footprint, according to EPA proposals.

The EPA needs to provide proof that the indirect land uses it cites can indeed be linked to biofuels production.

We just don’t see it.

This is frustrating. Just as we’re trying to become more independent of foreign energy, an American agency comes in with ideas that could essentially wreck an American fuel source.

Of course, recent EPA ideas also could wreck agriculture in the Midwest, and that’s just unacceptable.

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